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UCAS Clearing

In 2014, 55,000 students found a university place through clearing. The clearing service opens during July and August. If you’ve missed the UCAS application deadline and applied after 30 June, then you’ll automatically be put into clearing. Otherwise, most people enter clearing after receiving their exam results in August. It gives those who have missed out on a university or college place another chance to bag a place on a course. Always wait until you have your exam results to approach a university or college during clearing.

Why would you use clearing?

You would use clearing if your grades fail to meet the conditional offers of your firm and insurance university choices. Otherwise, you might use it if you haven’t had any offers, declined them all or not responded to your offers in time. Some people find that they have done better than expected in their exams and enter clearing via adjustment, which is a chance to try to find a place on a higher ranking course.

How to apply for clearing vacancies

So you’ve got your exam results and you haven’t made the conditional offer of your firm and insurance choices. It’s definitely worth calling up those universities and seeing if they’ll let you in anyway. If not, there’s no harm in asking if there are vacancies on other related courses. Universities are there to help, so don’t be scared to ask!

If the answer is no, then it’s time to hit clearing. Scour the official clearing vacancy lists on UCAS and in the national media. Be proactive, leap feet first into clearing and keep looking for those vacancies. Clearing lists will be constantly changing with new vacancies becoming available or places on courses filling up, so keep checking. Remember you can apply for a different subject or course than your original choice. There is no limit to the number of universities you can contact. But remember, make sure you want to do the course, don’t desperately accept whatever random course is thrown your way.

Draw up a list of the courses you want to do and start phoning the universities. You might want to briefly research the course before you apply; make sure you know what some of the modules are and have a mini list of questions prepared. You want to impress the admissions tutor on the phone, and showing an interest in the course and university is definitely a start. Be prepared to talk about your results, background and experience. They’ll probably call you back, so make sure you are near a phone at all times.

This is why it’s vital you aren’t on holiday around your exam results. You need to be the person phoning, not your mum, dad, friend or grandparent. Man up! Don’t make your mum deal with it. You need to be the person speaking to admission tutors and the one making the decisions. Don’t panic! Clearing is very stressful, but if you knuckle down and get on with it, you’ll come out with a place at university and an immense feeling of relief and satisfaction.

How to accept your offer

Provisional offers from universities over the phone don’t have to be accepted straight away. You should ask when the deadline for your decision is. If you can, try and visit the university or, at least, do some more research into it before you accept. Our university profiles are a good starting point. It’s important that the choice you make is right for you.

You formally apply for a course through UCAS’s ‘Track’. If you are eligible for clearing, then an ‘Add Clearing Choice’ button will appear and you’ll be able to apply for courses through that. But always call a university first before you apply through Track. You should only apply formally through UCAS once a university or college has provisionally offered you a place and you want to accept it.

Once your application is accepted, it will appear on Track and you’ll receive a confirmation letter. Et voila: you’ve bagged yourself a place at university. If you aren’t successful, the ‘Add Clearing Choice’ button will appear again and you’ll be able to apply for another clearing choice. So dust off your shoulders Jay-Z style and get stuck back into it. It isn’t over until the fat lady (a.k.a. UCAS) sings.

If you aren’t successful through clearing, or decide not to go through the process, then there are other options. You might want to reapply next year, retaking your A-Levels in the process; take a gap year; or pursue an alternative route like an apprenticeship, school leaver programme or part-time course.

Throughout the whole process, you can call the National Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000 for advice.