Missing your exam results happens to most people. Without trying to sound trite, just view this setback as an opportunity to test your character and as a new challenge. Plus, if you remain calm, you'll have a more rational outlook to choosing your next step.
Don't feel like a failure!
Many of your friends will be in the same boat! And many, many famous and successful people went to University through clearing. Can't think of any offhand, but I'm sure there are. And don't just sit there and watch daytime TV either! You'll have plenty of time for that when you get to University.
Don't worry about not getting in to the University you wanted to go to!
Even if you haven't got the grades that your first choice University asked for, you may still be offered the place. Get straight on the phone to their admissions department and ask - you may well have to wait a day or two, however remember that the Universities get your A-level results before you do, so they should have a good idea about availability of places.
If you can't get on the course you want at your first choice university you may still be able to get to the same university doing a different course. For instance you may have wanted to do BA Geography, but how about seeing if there are places on the BSc Geography course. In the first year many of the core courses will be shared and you can always look into the possibility of transferring whilst your there.
If you can't get into the university that you wanted (after reading all the info below) in any course that appeals, start looking at other universities. There are loads of good ones out there, and you'll have a great time wherever you decide to go.
Don't think that no one wants you!
If you're clever enough to get A-Levels, no matter what the grades, you're clever enough to get into University.
Talk to people! Get close to information overload!
Ask your friends, your family, your uncles and aunts, the landlord of your local, a Japanese tourist - ask anyone and everyone about their opinion on what you should do. Don't be embarrassed to, as everyone likes to give his or her opinion! Just make sure they have no ulterior motive. Check out the Internet, student websites or the websites of the institutions themselves - even the student union websites. They'll all give you a good insight.
Call the University!
If you really, really wanted to get into that particular University, then call them and let them know, and then ask if they'll let you in. I'm sure that if you're convincing enough (or grovelling enough) then they'll try and help you. Remember, they want you too and wish they could have you, otherwise they wouldn't have offered to you in the first place! So make it easy for them. After all, Universities get paid by the government, according to how many students they have.
Get you tutors or teachers to speak up on your behalf!
Nothing works better than personal recommendation, so get someone in authority to phone up the university on your behalf and spend ages talking about how great you are. A little good press can't hurt, and may swing the balance in your favour.
Check the Papers!
Most of the quality Broadsheets will have lists of available clearing places within 24 hrs of the results coming out (the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent are all good). Make sure that you pick up each days copy of the clearing guide when it comes out, and then trawl through it, places can go fast so make sure you make an effort to get up early and get to the local newsagents. Maybe work through it by a process of elimination if you're not sure what to do. After all, American Studies isn't everyone's cup of tea.
Don't give up!
Just because you couldn't get in to your "first-choice" university or course, that doesn't mean you should abandon the idea of tertiary education. Think of the benefits - you now have more options than you did before you got your results. The so called 'New Universities' often do a wide range of more unusual courses (as well as the more popular), so if you've always had a hankering about learning home brewing check them out. If nothing tickles your fancy - you can always take a gap year while you mull things over.
The Dreaded Clearing Interview
When you do go into clearing, one of the main things that they ask you to do (not all of the time, but most of the time) is to either do a phone interview or (god forbid) a face-to-face interview.
The most important thing to do in an interview is to be calm. Easy to say, I know, but just remember that the interviewer is just a person, like yourself, and may even be more nervous than you. If you still feel you need to relax more, do the Homer Simpson trick, and visualise the interviewer in his or her underwear. If nothing else, that should make you smile and you smiling is the best way to put you and the interviewer at ease. (And yes - you CAN hear a smile over the phone).
So what shouldn't you do?
Don't just list your hobbies and interests, especially seeing as the majority of them will have no relevance to the course of University you want to attend. After all, 90% of the hobbies of prospective students include, music, hanging out with friends, pubs, and sport. That's not going to differentiate you from the competition. Instead, try and list hobbies that are close to the course you want to do - for instance, for a music course, playing the flute; for a film studies course, making home movies; or for a Media Studies course, keeping up with current affairs.
Don't say "I want to study here because I've heard that this University is has the longest bar in the UK in the student's union." Yes - student's party all the time, No - you shouldn't tell the interviewer that that's the reason you chose the University.
Don't say, "Well, my first choice rejected me, so I thought I'd try this University… what's it like?" Instead say, "I've heard little about this University, but all I have heard has been positive, and from what I've seen here already today, I know I would be happy both academically and socially here". Or something to that effect - just common sense really.
Don't succumb to using clichés. Explain why you think like you do. Don't just say - "I like working with people", try and flesh it out a bit, by explaining how you think working with people would give you an insight into the course that you want to be doing.
Don't come up with a glib reason for choosing a course, and by the same token, don't exaggerate either. Saying "I've got no idea why I want to study 14th Century Philosophy, but it sounds good", or "It's been my life-long dream to study Crop Rotation in Classical Civilisations!" Keep it realistic, but do try to have some knowledge of the course you want to study. Try something like, "Well, I'm not an expert yet, but I am interested in Sociology and particularly the effect of crime on society."
Finally, remember that whoever is interviewing you, will have interviewed countless other people as well. So try and stand out! By which I don't mean wearing your favourite black eyeliner and Indian headdress - try and shine though being enthusiastic, confident and relaxed. And above all, be (or pretend to be) interested in what the interviewer has to say.