University clearing guide 2016
Didn’t get the grades for your chosen uni? Clearing is your second bite at the cherry – and could leave you with a sweeter deal to boot.
Last year a record 61,300 students found a place through Clearing, with an increasing number using the service to bag a better uni. Stick with us and we’ll show you how it works – and how to work it to your advantage!
What’s on this page?
What is ‘Clearing’?
Credit: Lauren Mitchell – FlickrClearing is a UCAS service that matches students without a course with universities that have spaces to fill.
Clearing runs between July and September, but some universities wait until A-Level results day to start listing vacancies while others (Oxford and Cambridge, or those with very popular courses, such as Medicine) may not play ball at all.
Still, if you’re willing to be flexible, you’ll be able to shop around for a decent course. You’re better placed to make uni choices once you’ve got your results in-hand, and there’s no stigma to applying through Clearing: you won’t be treated differently to other students once you hit your course, so you’ve nothing to lose by having a go.
Who can apply through Clearing?
You’re eligible if your UCAS Track status says You are in Clearing or Clearing has started. If you’ve missed your grades but don’t see this message then give your universities a call – they may still be considering you.
Some universities may still offer you a place even if you miss your grades, so always ring up your choices to check first before you dive headfirst into Clearing.
You should be up for Clearing if any of these are true for you:
- You declined all your offers or didn’t respond by the deadline
- You didn’t get the grades needed for your offered places
- You declined a changed course, a changed date of entry and/or a changed point of entry offer
- UCAS received your application after 30th June. If you sent your application after this date, it won’t have been sent to any universities or colleges.
If you did better than expected, our advice about choosing and finding a better match still stands – the only difference is that you’ll use something called Adjustment between August 13-31st instead.
You sign-up for Adjustment through UCAS Track (either when your conditional offer becomes unconditional, or on results day), and get a five-day window to scope out better offers. You won’t lose your unconditional offer, but have a bit of wiggle room to see what else is out there.
There’s no separate vacancies list, so it’s up to you to sniff out the spaces and get in touch with the unis – read on for how to find and pitch for a place.
Finding and choosing courses
Clearing may seem like a flash sale, but it’s still worth taking time to research which universities or courses to apply for. Talking through your options with your school or college’s adviser is no bad thing, either.
- Check out course specifics: entry requirements, placements, the type of degree you’ll get, and any extra course costs or supplies you’ll need
- Tip a nod to uni features: location, accommodation, teaching, facilities, social aspects – and how costs stack up against your money plan
- Get a handle on the local area, too – we’ve got guides to some of the big university cities here.
Universities will also list any spaces going on their websites and in the local press.
How to apply through Clearing or Adjustment
Credit: Chris Brown – FlickrClearingThe post-results day scrum can be brutal: get prepped so you can grab what you need and get out.
- If you haven’t already paid the full fee (i.e., only made a single course application), you’ll need to stump up £11 to use Clearing or Adjustment
- Keep your UCAS ID/Clearing number to hand – grab them from your UCAS account
- Save any vacancy phone numbers for universities you’re interested in to your mobile
- Be aware they’ll be incredibly busy on results day, so keep an eye on the uni’s Facebook/Twitter feeds for live updates
- Treat it like a job application: expect to sell your best bits to universities still filling spaces (and be prepared for phone interviews)
- Don’t think you’ve got to take the first place you’re offered. Three years (or more) is a long time to give to a course or city you feel no love for.
Step-by-step to applying
- Results day: Check your UCAS account to see if you made the grades for any conditional offers, and any status updates.
- If you didn’t make the grade: contact the uni first – they may still be able to offer you something.
- Take action if you’ve changed your mind: did better than expected? Consider using Adjustment – you won’t lose any unconditional offers you already have. Otherwise, if you have a place but still fancy having a go at Clearing, you’ll need to ask the uni to release your existing offer first.
- Choose your ideal unis/courses: Once you’ve identified subject areas which suit you, get searching for vacancies. Places may go quickly so if don’t hang around if you see something you like the look of – get in touch with the uni.
- Contact your new choices: Some universities will have help lines open from 8am on results day (heads-up: they may be jammed, so don’t give up if you don’t get through first time).
- Stay alert: An additional Clearing service for 2016 will let institutions contact students directly to offer spare places – UCAS will let you know if you’re eligible. If you are, keep your phone with you!
- Pass on your deets: Universities will want your results and your Clearing number or ID. You might need to do a quick telephone interview, so be ready to talk about why you think this uni’s a good choice for you, what you can contribute and why you like the subject.
- Get your offer:If it all goes to plan, you should find yourself with a provisional offer. You then need to add the university’s details into your Clearing choices on your UCAS account. Wait for official confirmation of your new place by letter/online alert. If you’re going through Adjustment, don’t verbally accept an offer unless you’re sure you want the place – once you do, the uni will update your account online.
- Do your victory dance: Off to uni? Get the score on what’s to come: what to take to uni, surviving freshers’ week and getting your head around uni life.
Tips on calling universities
- This is your chance to shine: treat it like a job interview and prepare your best bits before you hit the phones (and keep the paperwork handy in case you need a prompt!)
- Stay calm and smile: tutors want to fill their spare places. They’re looking for well-matched students – they’re not out to trip you up or catch you out
- Know your stuff: Show that you’re interested in this particular uni (and haven’t just picked any old course with space!)
- Sell yourself: Make a list of why you’re a good match for this course and your future ambitions. Talk up your best bits and try to sound positive.
- Don’t give up: You might not get your first, second or even third choices, but stick with it if you don’t nail it on the first go.
Alternatives to Clearing
Going to uni isn’t a one-size-fits-all route – you’ve got options whatever you decide.
If you still want to go to uni
Missed your grades, but not keen on Clearing?
- Ring the university that declined your offer and ask if there’s any way that you could still attend- i.e., by accepting a foundation year or joint course instead. It’s rare to get in this way but could be worth a go.
- Ask for an A-Level remark. If you think you were unfairly graded then talk to your school or college about whether a remark is a good idea. Once again, though, this won’t guarantee you a place.
Alternatives to university
If you missed out on your top university and back-up choice then you might decide that university isn’t for you right now – and that’s OK, too. You’ve got tons of options – try one, try ’em all, or do something completely different. Your call.
- Get a head start by going straight into employment
- Re-take your A-Levels
- Have a gap year
- Start a business
Got questions, or want to share your insider tips and triumphs? Let us know below. Good luck!