The Clearing period can be a time fraught with anxiety. Many students feel like it is a last resort option – but in reality, it is a huge opportunity. An opportunity to explore new universities, consider different courses, and to have your perceptions changed.
We’re running a series of Clearing stories to highlight the reality of applying to universities through Clearing – and to showcase what great things it could lead to.
We chatted to Tehzeeb-Fatima Bukhari, who studied Law at SOAS, and who is preparing to start her training contract with a magic circle commercial law firm.
Tell us your Clearing story – what/where were you originally going to study?
My clearing story is quite unique and began when my secondary school omitted to send/submit part of my A-Level results.
It was results day, 2017. I had chosen to read Law (Single Honours), designating Queen Mary University of London as my firm choice and SOAS University of London as my insurance, I woke up in the morning to see that my firm choice was pending and my insurance choice rejected me outright.
It turned out, the partial submission of my results was confusing as I had sat four A-Levels, not three. SOAS upon seeing three A-Levels results; reasonably concluded that I had not obtained the grades needed. I spent the best part of that day calling other universities and explaining my situation. I had to contact my secondary school too – who were not aware of their failings – to rectify the situation. Upon rectification, the next day, my full results came through and I was devastated. My firm choice had rejected me because I just did not get the grades I needed.
I did manage to get offers to study law across the country but I did not want to settle for anything less than London, and if it were London; it had to be SOAS. In the space of two days, I had called SOAS repeatedly – there was a lot of confusion due to my situation being so unique, and I was getting conflicting information.
I was giving up, Royal Holloway had given me an offer to study Law which I was about to accept but not until I tried one more time for SOAS, I knew I had the grades and UCAS points. I had contacted the relevant teams of admission explaining everything and sent the email. I had a good cry and started to prepare for a new life in Egham. I checked my phone, saw four missed calls and rang back. It was the SOAS clearing line, offering me a place to study Law commencing that October. I was super delighted but the irony is not lost on me, I really went through the stress of clearing just to end up at my insurance choice.
How did you find the Clearing process?
Although stressful, I was well prepared so I found it quite easy. Before results day – quite a bit in advance – I had prepared a word document with my UCAS ID and relevant identification details in the header and a table of universities outlining their: entry requirements, course code, location and clearing hotline number. Separated by region. I assorted the list on the tenets of how their law courses were structured, available electives and the general curriculum.
I found that clearing hotlines were very easy to talk to, very friendly and seldom did I feel like I was too nervous or scared to talk about my circumstances. After a while, I found that in my circumstances, you end up with a list of places that are offering you a place. It becomes like clockwork after the first few calls, what I will say is start your calls early and do not leave it last minute.
Why did you choose SOAS?
It was the decolonised curriculum for me. As a woman of colour, I needed somewhere that would nurture my intellect from a perspective that was multi-faceted and holistic. SOAS gave me a space where I could learn about how law operates in a global setting. In my second year, we had a compulsory module called Legal Systems of Asia and Africa, my mind was absolutely blown. I was not aware of how many legal systems operating in those continents of the world are legal hybrids, legal transplants from those who were colonial forces there.
Even to this day, those post-colonial legacies have deeply entrenched the legal systems in operation and has a subsequent effect on how those countries govern their people and essentially, define their collective morality. It was this approach to law, that I was looking for. It does not operate in a contextless vacuum.
What did you study at SOAS, and what did you enjoy most about your experience?
I studied Law! The thing I most enjoyed about my experience was the chilled vibe. I feel like there are people for everyone, every bit of you is welcomed in SOAS. It was the people who made the experience for me, found my life-long best friends there, I played so much netball and sports which I never thought I would do. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
What is your current role? Describe what you do in your job.
I am currently a Future Trainee Solicitor at a Magic Circle Commercial Law Firm, waiting to begin my training contract next year. I am doing my Masters – Commercial Legal Practice Course (LLM CLP) at BPP Law School. This replaced the LPC (Legal Practice Course), although it is similar, it differs as it is now a qualifying Masters course in business and law. It is an accelerated sixth-month course, most if not all of my time is dedicated to studying.
When the training contract begins, I will be doing four sixth-month rotations (seats) in departments of my choosing. The future is pointing towards private M&A or private equity for me, at the moment but as I am studying I really do enjoy litigation too.
How did your time at SOAS help you get where you are today? Are there any transferable skills that you will use in your job?
Absolutely. SOAS is an international university – you have so many people studying here and then going to the UN or ending up in the big four (finance) or even magic circle firms (law). So many people think just because it is a non-Russell group university that your career prospects are perhaps not as good – but I saw the contrary! Quite a few people in my law cohort are now at law firms whether it be for commercial practice or something else. Others are going up to the bar, some have obtained pupillage and many others have gone to practice law in their home countries.
SOAS gave such a wide array of electives to choose from, many that you would not find elsewhere in other law schools. For example, I took an elective called the Art of Advocacy and this helped with my public speaking. A QC barrister would teach us for a term and then test us via a moot (mock trial). Through the confidence I had built through this, I was able to be a panellist for many panel discussions hosted by my law firm, my G work and other fantastic initiatives and networks.
I am finding that a lot of the electives that I had taken – Introduction to Commercial Arbitration, Commercial law, Company law, Introduction to Global Commodities law and the Art of Advocacy have actually better prepared me to undertake the next leg of my journey to become a commercial solicitor. It is that well-rounded approach on an academic, professional and personal level which has really helped my career.
What advice would you give to students thinking about applying to SOAS through Clearing?
If you have not been successful in gaining a place for your initial course of study; consider one of many unique ones SOAS has to offer. It is an international university, with good opportunities and you may be surprised if you study the course you want to here. There is so much room for growth and personal development, give it a try and you may surprise yourself.
Discover more about Clearing at SOAS.