Guide to Clearing and Adjustment


August has arrived and disappointment seems to be the order of the day as you look around at your family's faces.  You see sympathy in their eyes and they are all making the right, soothing noises. However, the pass marks on your finals exams were just not quite 'up there' which has resulted in being passed over by the powers that be with regard to both the subjects you wanted to read and the university you wanted to attend.


The flip side of the coin is the word 'Adjustment'.  This refers to the steps you could take if you have exceeded the minimum marks required for your CF (conditional firm) choice and that the required monies have been paid on time. From the 17th August 2023, or from the period when your CF changes to UF (unconditional firm) choice, you will have 5 calendar days to seek out and register for an alternative course, if this is what you would like to do.  The 'choices' segment of your 'Track' page will display the date that the Adjustment period ends.

In order to make use of this option, you have to register on 'Track' and click on 'Register for Adjustment' on the 'choices' screen. Review universities or colleges that you would like to apply to and they will, in turn, check that you are eligible. They will then make an offer which you can accept if you would like to. Your 'Track' screen will be updated with that information and UCAS will send you out a confirmation letter.

It is very exciting to know that you have done so well in your exams and you will be feeling understandably optimistic at this point. However, please make an informed choice when deciding on alternative institutions in which to study. Each campus will have its own financial structures in place for tuition and accommodation and the university you choose may cost a lot more money as opposed to your original choice.


Clearing = hope

Getting back to those sad faces, there is light at the end of the tunnel as you consider you (a) not alone in having your dreams seemingly shattered and (b) there is something called 'Clearing' on the horizon. This gem of a concept can help one apply for higher education courses if university is no longer an option or, if the student's results are moderate and he or she is adaptable to change and willing to try another route.  Chaucer once said, in 1391, 'All roads lead to Rome'. Three wonderful nuggets of wisdom can be gleaned from the Live your Life Well website: practice gratitude, foster optimism and avoid negative thinking. They suggest that we search for the silver lining instead of dwelling on what might have been. Their other advice is for you to get together with other like-minded peers and form a support group.  Why just help yourself if you can assist others along the way.  Once you are in a more positive frame of mind, gather all your thoughts together and begin the step-by-step process to recovery.  If all of this is sounding a bit dramatic, believe me when I say it can feel like the end of the world at the time.

Apply for 'Clearing' if:

  • You still have a genuine interest in university and further education.
  • You did not attain the standard required for your course options
  • You turned down all the offers
  • No offers were made
  • The application fee was received after the cut-off date of 30th

An important factor to note here:  if you initially only applied for a single choice, you can then pay a further £11 and apply to other learning institutions through this system. 

First Steps

Head to the UCAS website and check the tracking system.  This will advise whether you are entitled to apply for Clearing.  Once you have established this, have a chat to a previous teacher or careers advisor about courses that perhaps you dismissed earlier and now, may well be useful to your future.  Check on the places available on a daily basis; you will find these on UCAS and in The Telegraph newspaper.

Once you have made your decision, approach the various colleges or universities either by phone, or even better, arrange for an appointment to visit the campus. The registry office will ask for your Clearing number (this is displayed on the' Welcome' page and 'choices' page on 'Track').  They will then review your application online. You can really get a feel of what studying here may be like as you wander around the halls, lecture rooms and grounds.

Onwards and Upwards

If things go your way, you should now be receiving a few offers on an informal basis from the relevant offices and you can then mull over them for a bit. Once you have made your decision, you should add the details of your course on 'Track' by the due date you are given.

UCAS will then advise your chosen campus that you have entered their details on their system and if you are accepted, this will be displayed in the 'choices' segment of 'Track' and they will send you a confirmation letter which will explain everything you need to do next. There are some lovely quotes on the internet that may serve to lighten the mood at this stage.

"The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one's mind a pleasant place in which to spend one's leisure" ~ Sydney J. Harris

"I learned three important things in college - to use a library, to memorise quickly and visually, to drop asleep at any time given a horizontal surface and fifteen minutes"  ~ Agnes DeMille, Dance to the Piper, 1952

"The quality of a university is measured more by the kind of student it turns out than the kind it takes in".    ~ Robert J. Kibbee

You may now give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back and be glad that you were motivated enough to try again.  Yes, admittedly, this has been a bit of a steep learning curve for you but the fact that you were methodical and logical about the whole thing, and left out the drama queen act, shows a certain amount of maturity.  I can almost hear your parents or guardians breathing a sigh of relief as they see that sunny smile on your dial again.


Let's say you were fortunate enough to have been accepted the first time round, but have decided to take a year off.  You may then approach the registration office at the university and ask if they may defer your application. Your place will be held if they accept this proposal. 

You could also apply for a place in university the following year if you feel you would be ready to try again then. Re-register with UCAS at the specified time and check the correct year of study as there are 2 links to choose from.

Handy hints

Here are a few pointers for the process of 'Clearing' which you may want to share with your peers who are perhaps also struggling with a reality check:

Be prepared.  As you think about the all the emotions revolving around collecting your results, you may want to begin exploring other options ahead of time, just in case your first choices are negated.  As hard as it sounds, try to ignore the pressures of your peers and family members; sometimes they, unintentionally, would like to live vicariously through you and, more than likely, your dreams and aspirations will be a lot different to theirs

Ring the National Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000 for really sound advice in going forward.  These lines open for 10 days each year around A level results time and all of their advisors are fully qualified with at least 5 years valuable experience in careers' guidance.

The UCAS website ( is an amazing tool and can work for you if you are vigilant about taking their advice and adding all the correct information at the right time in the correct order.  They have very strict deadlines in place for good reason.  Imagine the thousands of school-leavers all clamouring for a place in university each year and all the administration that goes hand-in-hand with this. If you adhere to their time schedules for all the various stages involved in the process of registering, your chances of winning at this game are good.  They also have a student panel through which you can make your voice heard and be in the running for some really cool rewards in the form of gift vouchers and other prizes.  It is important to be as inter-active as you can at this early stage in your transition from school-leaver to undergrad status.

Be informed in your new choices if you have go down the 'Clearing' road; don't just take any old subjects in any institution just because you feel you have to.

Attend as many Open Days as you can in order to choose another suitable campus. Chat to students and don't be afraid to initiate conversations with the lecturers who mill about at these events.  That is what they are there for.   Many campuses have the same programme of events; perhaps beginning at 10 am and ending around 3pm. There will be a mix of topical lectures on courses, finance, accommodation, student bodies and parent talks. Don't try to fit everything in that is on offer as you mind will turn to custard by the end of the day. It may be a good idea to go along with a friend who is in the same boat as you or even one or both of your parents.  A little objectivity can go a long way in helping to make up your mind.

You are not alone in the big scary world that is life after school.  So many other talented, successful people have been down the same path and, if you act in a positive and grown-up manner, the world is yours to conquer.

Last but not least

It goes without saying that a tertiary education can be attained in many forms besides university.  Government-funded apprenticeships, corporate-sponsored degrees ('earn while you learn' scenarios), gap years - taking the form of more of an assisting nature than a bohemian one - and filler courses which could lead to the attainment of a diploma.

An article in The Guardian, edition Friday 10th February 2012, by Graham Snowdon, mentions the Ernst & Young survey of graduate employability skills.  The Centre of Applied Positive Psychology did a study of 1000 graduates and the summation of this was that although excellent problem-solving and relationship-building skills were apparent, resilience, risk-taking and time optimisation skills were lacking.

Studying at university and getting a degree is a great opportunity but don't forget that you need to build other skills too. As Stephen Isherwood, Head of Graduate Recruitment at Ernst & Young has said, "A good degree from a respected university no longer guarantees a job." He stressed that only 25% of the graduates they interview have the full set of skills they are looking for - risk-taking, resilience and time management skills are often in short supply. The experiences will be character-forming and bode you well in the adult work-place.  He also warned about complacency and said that the process of career-building needs to begin at secondary school stage. Build up your CV with a good variety of practical experience out of the classroom or lecture halls and you will make your entrance into the working world with a bang.