Clearing: The Complete Guide

A Level results day and finding out whether or not you’ve made it into university is a really exciting day, but it can also be really daunting, especially if you find out you’ve been entered into Clearing.

Don’t despair if you find yourself entered into Clearing, it could be the chance you need to get onto your dream course and go to a top university. The best way to be successful during Clearing is to get organised and know as much about it as possible.

That’s where we come in! At ApplytoUni we know everything there is to know about Clearing and applying to university. Just read through our handy guide to Clearing so you can put your best foot forward when you call the admissions team.

What is Clearing?

For those of you that don’t know Clearing is the UCAS process of matching students without university places to universities with course vacancies.

How do I check whether I’ve got a university place?

If you’ve just missed your grades your chosen university might still accept you so check on the UCAS website before you assume you haven’t made it.

Look on your UCAS Track page – if an “Add Clearing choice” button has appeared then you haven’t been successful and you’ve been entered into Clearing. You’ll also find your Clearing Number on this page – make a note of it as you’ll need it when you’re applying to universities.

Am I eligible for Clearing?

You’ll automatically be entered into Clearing if you meet the following criteria:

  • You applied for university after the final deadline
  • You haven’t yet applied for university – you’ll need to use UCAS to apply for university before using Clearing
  • You weren’t made any offers by the universities you applied to
  • You didn’t meet the requirements of your offers

You’ll need to make sure that you’ve paid the full UCAS application fee to be eligible for ClearingThe 2024 application fee is £27.50 for up to five choices.

How long does Clearing last?

The Clearing period usually lasts for a month after A Level results day but bear in mind that course vacancies fill quickly, especially for popular courses.

Vacancies can fill on results day or within the first week afterwards so you’ll need to be prepared and move quickly if you want to secure a place at your ideal university. See Clearing dates for more information.

How do I prepare for Clearing?

If you think you might not get the grades for your firm or insurance choice universities it’s worth making a Clearing plan before the day so that you can get on the phone as soon as you have your results.

Here are our top tips for preparing for Clearing:

  • Research alternative universities or courses – you might want to consider looking at different locations or slightly changing your degree subject
  • Make a list of 5-10 options – put them in order starting with the one you’re most interested in
  • Collect important telephone numbers and email addresses for the university admissions team
  • Know why you’re interested in each university on your list – the admissions team will want to know
  • Write a list of questions to ask potential universities to show you’re interested

Where can I find course vacancies?

University course vacancies aren’t released until A Level results day and you can find a full list in the following places:

  • UCAS website
  • The Daily Telegraph – they run a “Clearing special” on results day
  • The Telegraph Clearing App

How many universities can I apply to during Clearing?

You can phone as many universities as you like during Clearing but you’ll only be able to apply for one at a time on the UCAS Track page. This means it’s important not to just accept the first offer that is made to you – make sure you’re making the right choice.

What do I need to apply during Clearing?

It’s vital to get everything together before you pick up the phone to admissions. They’ll be really busy during Clearing so don’t waste their time by scrabbling around looking for the important things.

You’ll need:

  • Your UCAS Clearing number
  • Your UCAS personal ID
  • Your A Level results
  • Your personal statement
  • A list of important questions to ask the admissions team
  • A pen and paper
  • A good reason to want to go to each university

You might also want to have your GCSE results handy in case the admissions team get down to the nitty gritty.

How do I choose a course during Clearing?

It’s worth keeping an open mind during Clearing as you might find yourself having to consider a university or course you haven’t thought about before. Here are some things to consider when you’re deciding courses during Clearing:

  • Look at different locations – whether you wanted to be local or go to the other end of the country, think about doing the opposite.
  • Think about a joint degree – if a university doesn’t offer the course you want consider taking a joint degree, for example, English and History instead of straight English.
  • Why did you choose your original university? You might find that another university offers exactly the same things.
  • Be open minded – didn’t get the grades for a Russell Group uni? There are still plenty of great universities and their degrees aren’t worth any less.
  • Compromise – so what if an alternative university is an extra 10 minutes away, if the course is great the extra travel time is worth it.

What do I say when I phone universities during Clearing?

The biggest tip we can give you when phoning universities is to keep calm and be polite. Here are some other tips for contacting universities during Clearing:

  • Get on your mobile at your college or get on the phone as soon as you get home.
  • Phone yourself – this is obvious but universities need to see independence and getting your parents to phone for you doesn’t demonstrate that!
  • If you don’t get through the first time then keep phoning throughout the day.
  • Send an email – if you’re really worried that you won’t get through then send a short, polite email to the admissions department with your grades and contact details.
  • Note the names of people you’ve spoken to – you might need to know if you have to call them back.
  • Accept their decision is final – it’s disappointing if you don’t get an offer but don’t argue with them. Be polite, thank them for their time, and move on to phoning the next university on your list.

How do I add a Clearing choice on UCAS Track?

Once you’ve decided which university offer you want to accept you’ll need to add it on your Track page. This counts as you definitely accepting the offer.

You can only add one Clearing choice at a time but if the university doesn’t confirm your choice then you’ll be able to add another one.

Here’s how to add a Clearing choice on UCAS Track:

  • Click “Add Clearing choice” on your UCAS Track page
  • Fill in the course details by the date the university gave you on the phone
  • Wait for the university to confirm your application – when this happens it will show as “accepted” on your Track page
  • Wait for your confirmation letter from UCAS

What do I do if I don’t find a place during Clearing?

Unfortunately there are so many students that apply during Clearing there isn’t a place for everyone, but don’t panic, there are plenty of options if you don’t get a place.

  • Gap years– use this time to build your CV and add amazing skills and experience to your personal statement.
  • Retake your exams– getting better grades gives you the opportunity to reapply to your original university next year.
  • Choose a vocational course– an academic degree might not be the right option for you and if you were looking at taking a vocational subject there are many practical courses available (HND, HNC, Foundation degrees, Access courses, and Apprenticeships)