How to Call Universities During Clearing

Ben Maples  · Jun 6th 2023  · 7 min

As the academic year draws to a close, countless students across the globe find themselves eagerly anticipating the next chapter of their journey. For many aspiring students, this pivotal moment arrives with Clearing.


Clearing is the process of changing your university choices. While navigating Clearing can be overwhelming, one of the most effective ways to seize the opportunity is by directly contacting universities through phone calls.

UCAS phone number

What to expect from a Clearing call

Some calls are just about confirming grades. If you have not applied to the university before, you may need to give your grades over the phone and answer some quick questions.

Other Clearing calls may feel like a university interview. This is not always the case, and you may still be summoned to an interview with the university before they confirm your place anyway. However, prepare for your call as if it were an interview. That way, you are prepared if you are questioned and relieved if it’s less. You may still be summoned to a university interview, even if you used the Clearing Plus service.

How to prepare for a Clearing call

You must prepare for any Clearing call, which does not necessarily need in-depth preparation. Ensure you have all the relevant documents you need (your ID, grades etc.) and know enough about the university and the course. Have the UCAS helpline number and the UCAS email available, too, in case you have any questions the university may be unable to answer.

UCAS contact

Do your research

Research the university and its course before you start. This doesn’t mean knowing every single detail about the university’s history by heart, but you will need to know what modules your course has and what kind of career you want to have by the end of it.

Research is vital for any call. The more you know, the better it will be for you moving forward. You can prepare some questions of your own, but try and pull down any information you can find from other sources. Uni Compare’s university profiles and course pages should provide you with ample information for your call.

Be enthusiastic on the call

Enthusiasm can get you further than you think. Enthusiasm for a course can often factor into a university’s decision to take you on.

Enthusiasm shows interest. The more interest you show, the more attractive you are to a university. Universities are sometimes picky about who they will allow to attend their courses, but they would prefer it if the students showed an interest in the course. If you are applying for a course with a very high application rate, then your enthusiasm for the course could turn the tide in your favour.

Where to find UCAS number

Make notes

These notes can help you if you find yourself a little tongue-tied. If you struggle to find any questions you want to ask, or wish to reference key dates etc., then notes will help you more than simply trying to guess.

The university will tell you things that you need to know too. This could be important information about your start date, where you will be staying, what the payments may look like for your first term and what equipment you may need to pick up. Most of this information will be sent to you before you start, but it always helps to be organised and it gives you an idea of what things to look for when you go to university.

Make sure you practice your answers

Think about the questions you might be asked and then practice your responses. Practising your answers makes you feel more natural and will give you the safety blanket of having something prepared beforehand.

If you don’t want to practice, keep some bullet points handy. We all lose the thread of what we’re saying sometimes, so keeping a small bullet-pointed list nearby will give you some important points to touch on when answering questions.

What questions will I be asked on a Clearing call? You may be asked a range of questions on your Clearing call. Universities tend to use these opportunities as a “soft interview” for prospective students.

Why do you want to study with us?

What is it that the university offers that makes you so interested? This is your chance to flatter the university and speak about the facilities and equipment or lecturers they have that interest you so much.

Contact UCAS

What makes you want to study this course?

What attracts you to the course? Speak about the course in-depth and what makes you so interested in it. For example, if you are studying a film course, was there a film, actor or director that interested you in the medium? If you are studying a psychology course, did you perhaps read a book that prompted your interest in the subject?

How do you motivate yourself?

This tells the university what kind of worker you are. Universities like to know what it is that makes you work as hard as possible. That way, lecturers can tailor their own teaching approach to you. This also gives the university insight into what kind of student you will be with regard to completing tasks on time.

How do you deal with stress?

Stress is a natural part of the process at university and some do not handle it as well as others. The university may offer you the opportunity to use its in-house counselling or mental health services. This is also a chance for them to see how you may cope with the amount of coursework you will have.

What would you say is your biggest weakness?

This is not a trick question. This question is usually something that people applying to university or for a job struggle with. Universities (and employers) are not looking for you to give strengths that are disguised as weaknesses (for example: “I feel I’m too nice”). Give an actual weakness you have and talk about what steps you are taking to improve them.

What is your school like?

Be respectful. It’s important to be honest, but you don’t want to be too colourful in your descriptions. Universities are looking to see what background you had in order to achieve the grades you've achieved and also to see whether you can recognise the part the school will have played in your education.

Why did you take a gap year?

If you didn’t take a gap year then this question will not apply to you. Did you perhaps take a gap year in order to retake exams? Did you fancy a year out to discover the planet? Did you decide to earn some extra money ahead of going to university? Universities want to know what the reasons are and they want to know what you learned when on the gap year.

Can you give an example of when you have demonstrated leadership skills?

This is another chance for the university to gauge what kind of person you are. Not all universities will ask this, but it is best to prepare for it all the same.

What is a UCAS number

What are your plans after you graduate?

How will the course help you in your career? This is a question designed to see why the course is so useful to you moving forward, how you plan to use what you've learned and how you plan to make a career for yourself in this field.

Most of the questions you will be asked will be contextual. For example, students who missed out on the top grade at A-Level or T-Level or for their BTEC may be asked what held them back. Prepare for personal questions and have your answers ready.

Clearing checklist

A checklist is an excellent way to prepare for your Clearing call. It’s best to set your checklist into three sections “before the call”, “during the call” and “after the call”. This will give you a sense of structure and rhythm.

Before the call:

  • UCAS number.
  • UCAS application number.
  • Clearing number from UCAS Hub.
  • Pen.
  • UCAS contact number (just in case).
  • Any previous offer letters.
  • Computer or laptop.
  • Paper.
  • Your results.
  • Your personal statement.
  • A charged mobile phone.

The call:

  • Move onto the next option if you can’t get through.
  • Take down the names, email addresses and contact information of anyone you speak to.
  • Keep a note of all accommodation and student finance information.
  • If you don’t like the sound of the course or university, then move on.
  • Find out what your next steps are.

After the call:

  • Create action points.
  • Sort out accommodation and student finance.
  • Tell your student finance body where you will be studying.

A checklist is an excellent way of getting yourself into the right mindset for your call. Ensure you keep some good notes from your call and create action points on what to do next. This will differ for each student, so pay attention to what the university tells you to do and go from there.

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