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How to navigate the Clearing process

Are you worried you might not get the results you need for university? Don’t panic and read our handy guide on everything you need to know about the Clearing process…

What is Clearing?

Clearing is essentially a second chance for students who didn’t get the results they needed for their first choice or insurance universities to find another course or even another university. It’s also how universities fill any vacant places they still have on their courses. To go through Clearing you’ll need to be aware of the following:

  • You must have applied already through UCAS. If you haven’t already done so then you’ll need to register and make an application and wait for your welcome email with tracking access and your unique Clearing Number.
  • Clearing applies if you didn’t receive any offers; you didn’t meet the conditions of your offers; you have declined any offers you received; OR you applied to UCAS after 30th June 2019.

Why go through Clearing?

  • Last year over 60,000 students won places through Clearing so don’t despair – you definitely have options!
  • Despite not necessarily winning a place at your first choice, a study by Which? University last year showed that 83% of students who went through Clearing were happy with their choice.

Be prepared before Clearing starts

First things first – it’s really important to understand that even if you didn’t meet the exact grade requirements there’s still a chance that your university will accept you. So remember to check the UCAS Track website first thing on results day to check the status of your offer! You can also phone the university directly.

Results day this year is 15th August 2019 and whilst Clearing has technically already begun, the majority of places will be made available from this date. Remember though that most places will go by the end of the first week following results day so don’t delay in calling!

Top tips for being prepared:

  1. Be organised – research and make a list of all the info you’ll need should you have to go through Clearing. This should include the names and phone numbers of universities you’d be interested in going to plus the relevant course names and requirements, along with your UCAS number, Clearing number and GCSE and A level grades. Make sure also to have a spare pen and paper!
  2. Revisit your personal statement as often you will have a ‘mini interview’ over the phone and this should help prepare you when answering questions. Also make a note of any additional achievements that you may have completed since your statement was written. See FAQs below for more tips.

How the Clearing process works

So you didn’t get the course or uni you wanted – well don’t worry, here’s what to do next:

  1. Visit your UCAS Track account and if you’re eligible to use Clearing an ‘Add Clearing Choice’ option will be displayed on your Track Choice screen along with your Clearing number.
  2. Find a full list of Clearing places available on the UCAS website – they will display live updates of all courses throughout the Clearing window.
  3. Start phoning universities and make sure that you do this personally – do not ask someone to phone on your behalf. You can call as many as you wish (calling is preferential but if you can’t get through then email is fine).
  4. Most universities will tell you over the phone whether they will accept you by the end of your phone call – you will usually then have 24 hours to decide whether to accept.
  5. You may receive offers from more than one university – if this happens then great, but don’t feel obliged to give an immediate answer. Remember you will be spending at least three years there so you’ll want to make sure you’re making the right choice first.
  6. Once you’ve decided on which offer to accept, visit your UCAS Track and click on ‘Add Clearing Choice’ – this is where you can formally enter the course and uni you wish to apply to. You can only enter details though for ONE choice so wait until you’re sure. Remember that additional fees may apply – all of which will be stated on the UCAS website.

FAQs and Useful Resources

How long does Clearing last?

Clearing fully kicks off on A level results day, so Thursday 15th August 2019, and officially runs until 22nd October 2019. Although Scottish students will have received their results earlier this month so could have started on the 6th August.

Can I reject a firm offer?

Yes – this year a new feature allows students to reject their first choice or insurance offers even if they meet the grades. Once signed in to your Track account on UCAS there is now a new self-release option called ‘Decline my place’ on your profile page. Once you’ve confirmed your choice you will receive an email saying you are now in Clearing.

What if I actually get better results than predicted?

Adjustment is the name given to the process where students can actually ‘upgrade’ their course if they did better than predicted. So if you did exceedingly well you may wish to apply to another course or university with higher grade requirements – the opposite of Clearing. Remember though that unlike Clearing there’s no list so you’ll need to check individual websites and call their admissions offices. You also only have FIVE days from results day so you’ll need to act fast.

Will the universities interview me for a place through Clearing?

In some cases the admissions office will offer you a place based purely on your results,  but in many cases you will have a telephone interview there and then so be prepared! Revisit your personal statement as mentioned above, and prepare answers to common Clearing questions such as:

  • Why didn’t you get the grades you were hoping for?
  • Why are you interested in this particular university and course?
  • What other qualifications do you have?
  •  Do you have any extra curricular interests or achievements?

Remember this is a chance for you to ask them questions too, such as what accommodation is still available, is it on campus, is there an open day coming up etc?

Useful websites and numbers:

UCAS Clearing

UCAS Track sign in

UCAS Exam Results Helpline – 0800 100 900 for the UK except Scotland, 0808 100 8000 for Scotland only – lines open until 29th August

NB it’s useful to note that these numbers are available for students AND parents to call


Read our top tips for parents on how to deal with exam results day if things don’t go quite according to plan

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