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During Clearing, school counsellors play an important role in supporting students, so we’re providing you with some effective strategies for supporting your stressed students.
Clearing can be an overwhelming time for students and even has the potential to impact their mental wellbeing. So as well as giving your students objective advice on their next steps, you might find yourself having to give them emotional and moral support too.
But don’t worry, by preparing students in advance and encouraging a strong support system, you can empower them to handle any challenges they face. Remember, supporting students through Clearing goes beyond academic guidance; it involves ensuring their wellbeing as they make important decisions about their future.
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Student stress during Clearing
It’s normal for some students to experience anxiety during application season, but you need to keep an eye out for any students who are dealing with a significant amount of stress, especially during Clearing.
Because the window to secure a place during Clearing can feel quite short, students may feel pressure to make a decision fast. They might worry that the wrong decision could drastically affect the rest of their lives.
Our solution? Remind them that Clearing is a positive opportunity even if they didn’t get the results they wanted.
If your students feel overwhelmed, have them write down the things they’re currently struggling with so you help them work through any problems, and devise solutions.
What causes stress during Clearing?
When the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence surveyed students in the United Kingdom, they found that 80% reported feeling stressed out and struggling with their mental health.
Many aspects of applying to university through Clearing can put students out, such as the pressure to secure a spot quickly or feelings of indecisiveness over which course they want to pursue.
It’s important to remember that every student is different and might become stressed about different things than their peers. During applications, anxiety can be a common feeling for most students, especially international students with additional factors, like visas, to worry about.
Luckily, as a school counsellor, you have the tools and resources to help combat some of the anxiety your students are feeling around Clearing. Keep reading to see how to help prepare your students and reduce their stress through activities and exercises.
How can helping students prepare for Clearing reduce anxiety
Being prepared can help students feel less stressed in the weeks and days leading up to Clearing. As a counsellor, you can let them know that if they’re feeling the strain, they’re not alone, and there are others out there who understand what they’re going through.
Anxiety and stress are common feelings for some students during Clearing and can create a feeling of being powerless. So a way to try and help students is to focus on what’s in their control and what they can prepare for before receiving their results.
According to HelpGuide, “burnout” is when a person reaches a level of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion brought on by excessive and prolonged stress.
For so many students, high levels of stress can lead to procrastination. During Clearing, procrastination isn’t an option, though, because it moves so quickly.
Other students may find themselves feeling a lack of control over their situation and future.
As a counsellor, preparing as much as possible before Clearing begins is a great way to help your students combat anxiety and prevent future stress.
If your student knows they’ll be entering Clearing, you can start preparing early through research and taking care of any admin tasks, such as creating a shortlist and organising finances. This can help your students avoid any burnout they may experience if they have to complete everything in a short amount of time.
A good way to prevent burnout while preparing is to remind students to work in small sections when filling out applications. Plus, make sure they take breaks if needed between phone calls to universities.
How to practically help students with Clearing
There are many ways to help students get ready for Clearing, like creating their own personal tracking system on a spreadsheet so they can customise it with the courses they’re interested in.
Students with phone anxiety will benefit from practising phone calls so that when they finally get to the real thing, they know what they’re doing. Phone anxiety is defined as the fear or avoidance of phone conversations and is common among people with social anxiety.
Don’t forget to encourage students to take advantage of their school’s resources, like BridgeU, or talk to any available staff members to advise them.
Counsellors can also use mindfulness activities to help students manage expectations they have for themselves as well as those their family and friends may have. One example is using an activity called mindfulness of seeing combined with the BridgeU Strategy Advisor. Students can combine the two to make well-informed decisions on what they want to study instead of applying where others think they should.
A mindfulness activity recommended by Dr. Rachael Gerbic from Rabat American School is using mindfulness of thought to help students ask themselves important questions about what they want to study at university. In our latest webinar, she described how these exercises have helped her students increase their clarity and focus, resulting in improved test-taking skills and school performance.
Managing student expectations
A study by Student Mind found that, unsurprisingly, academic performance is one of the biggest worries for students, leading them to put a lot of pressure on themselves to be the best. So it’s always a good idea to help students manage their expectations wherever you can, so they can worry less during Clearing.
Helping them differentiate between their dream school and a more realistic one can help you keep their expectations reasonable. This allows students to fully prepare if they don’t get into their first-choice school. It can also help them with their stress levels if they understand that it’s not the end of the world if they don’t get into their first choice. Real-life examples can be a great way to ease the stress of your current students. So, if you have any stories of past students who didn’t get their first choice but went on to be happy and successful, feel free to share them.
Comparisons can lead to disappointment
It can be disheartening for students who constantly compare themselves to their peers when they aren’t doing as well, or didn’t get into the same school their friends did. In a survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 49% of students who reported high stress levels felt that comparing themselves to others was a factor in this stress.
If your students are struggling with constantly comparing themselves to their peers, it can be a good idea for them to take a social media break during Clearing. Constantly being updated on how other students are doing during this time can cause them to feel discouraged about their progress, which may harm their self-esteem.
Students aren’t guaranteed a spot during Clearing. If this becomes a reality for your student, it’s important they have a backup plan ready.
While it may represent a fairly significant change for students, it’s worth exploring the idea of taking a gap year and reapplying to university next year with the relevant students. If they take a gap year, they can be productive by planning to do something they can add to their CV, like volunteering or working for a year.
A fantastic way for students to build skills and experience during their gap year is to participate in work experience. Working or volunteering during a student’s time off is a great way to gain skills and participate in extracurricular activities, which can be used in university applications.
Additionally, you can help them broaden their search for higher education. Many universities around the world have later application deadlines; for example, some European universities. If they don’t get the choice they want through Clearing, students still have a chance to apply somewhere else.
The benefits of a support system
For most students, their families are their biggest supporters. It’s important for them to be able to lean on family members when experiencing a lot of stress. Even if they can’t help with the application process, it’s beneficial for students to take breaks and spend time with people to help them refresh.
Parents can help students by remaining positive during Clearing and making sure they take regular breaks to avoid overworking themselves. In addition, they can help them write down important details and grades to prepare for phone calls.
Since some families won’t have gone through clearing, they can also rely on their friends who are in a similar situation. Talking and spending time with people who understand what they’re going through can release some of the pressure building up. They can also share tips to help each other through the process.
If your student doesn’t have a reliable support system or someone they feel comfortable talking with, don’t worry. There are still options for them; for example, the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) is a resource for international students that provides phone advice. Their university will also have an international office with support members who specialise in helping international students. These resources will be able to help with anything from paperwork to resources for helping students’ mental health.
Counsellors can set up support groups for their students going through Clearing as a way for them to connect with peers who are going through similar situations.