Exploring UCAS Clearing: Debunking Common Myths and Misconceptions

Ben Maples  · Aug 4th 2023  · 8 min

University admissions can be a daunting and complex process, filled with anticipation, excitement, and a fair share of uncertainty. There are also a fair few fibs doing the rounds.


A lot of misconceptions exist about UCAS Clearing and just how it works. We want to make sure that you have all the information you need. In this article, we will debunk some of the more common myths and misconceptions around Clearing.

UCAS Clearing Myths and misconceptions

1.) There are no good universities available during Clearing

This is very far from the truth. Many top universities enter into Clearing, including many members of the Russell Groups of Universities.

The universities that enter into Clearing change every year. Of course, universities such as the University of Cambridge or the University of Oxford will not enter into Clearing. However, you will sometimes find other, very highly-ranked universities such as the University of Bath or Loughborough University that enter into Clearing with new courses.

2.) You must accept your firm offer if they make you an offer

You don’t have to accept any offer that you don’t want. If you have changed your mind about your firm choice, then there is no reason to blindly accept it, especially if you want to study something else entirely.

You will need to either have no offers at all or you will need to have rejected all made to you before youc an enter Clearing

Do not feel bad. You can always find different universities or courses that will better suit you and your plans moving forward, so don’t feel you have to accept if you don’t want to.

3.) If you need to use Clearing, then you have failed

The Clearing process has changed. Previously, Clearing was a process that allowed students who had achieved lower grades than expected to find a different course more suited to their overall results. Adjustment was the opposite of this, allowing students with better results than expected to find different courses to apply for.

Now, Clearing is the process of finding any course different from your first choice. Whether you received lower or higher grades than anticipated - if you are looking for a new course, you will now enter Clearing regardless.

You have not failed by entering into Clearing. Remember that your firm and insurance choices are made long before you receive your results, so having a change of heart is perfectly natural (in fact, it’s the most common reason students enter Clearing anyway).

Clearing does not mean failure. It means that you want to explore another path, and there will be plenty for you to learn along the way.

Clearing Myths and misconceptions

4.) You can only apply for the same subject you originally applied for

Again, not true. It must be said that this isn’t always advisable, but you can change to any subject you like in Clearing.

This is not typically advised because of your UCAS application and personal statement. Your personal statement, in particular, will have been written with the other subject in mind. So if, for example, you initially were interested in history courses, but then changed your mind and decided you wanted to look into the possibility of business management courses, then you will likely have to re-submit your personal statement to reflect the change.

You can change subjects as long as you have the grades for the course you are interested in. However, you will probably need to justify the change when on a Clearing call.

5.) Clearing is a very time-consuming process

Clearing is no more or less time-consuming than it needs to be. That may sound a little vague, but the speed of Clearing will change from applicant to applicant.

any top universities enter into Clearing, including many members of the Russell Groups of Universities.

Some students find Clearing is over within an hour of getting their results. Others may take a little longer.

A lot of this will also depend on you. If you want to be very thorough and attend a Clearing university open day, this will take a little longer than simply agreeing to a place on the phone.

It is also easy to sort out student finance for Clearing. In this process, the Student Finance Company will ensure that you have the minimum amount of money to start your course, and will then supply you with the rest of your loan when they have finished collating all of your details.

6.) You will be immediately accepted onto a course

This is not true either. Universities still want to make decisions and take their time over them like students do.

Some universities may take a few days to get back to you. You may need to attend (in-person or over-the-phone) a Clearing interview for some universities.

The courses you qualify for are not automatic acceptances. Otherwise, everyone would apply for them. Clearing is not a quick-fix strategy for finding a university place.

UCAS Clearing misconceptions and myths

7.) You need to have applied before the end of June to have access to Clearing

You don’t necessarily need to have applied before June. It's typically recommended that you do, purely as you will have all of your details on your UCAS application sorted, as well as an uploaded version of your personal statement and will have sorted out your student finance.

However, people’s minds change. Many students enter their final year thinking they will never go to university and don’t want to bother. Then, as the academic year goes by, they change their mind and decide that they would like to go.

This is perfectly fine. All it means is that if you have applied after June, your application is considered to have entered Clearing, as it is after the deadline has passed.

You can change subjects as long as you have the grades for the course you are interested in.

8.) People will think less of me for going through Clearing

They will not. Going to university through Clearing is no different than going to university with your first choice. They both have the same outcome.

As for universities, they don’t think anything of it. Remember, their course was available in Clearing, too, so they advertised their course specifically so a student like you would see it and want to apply for it, the same as you entered into the process hoping to find a university that would take you.

No student will know you’ve gone through Clearing. When you go to university on the first day, you don’t walk around with a big blue badge that says, “I Am A Clearing Student”. No one will know unless you tell them, and, let’s be fair, who needs to know, anyway?

9.) You won’t fit in on your course

This is a common worry for university students, even if they didn’t go through Clearing. You would be surprised at how easy it is to fit in on your course.

Remember, everyone else is just as nervous as you. Quite apart from that, everyone on your course shares at least one interest with you already: the course itself. So don’t worry about fitting in - you can talk to people very easily.

Clearing misconceptions and myths

10.) You’ll be bottom of the class at uni

All students start the same. Remember that everyone on your course will likely have the same results you had, barring the odd exception here and there.

No one will be ahead of you when you start. The material is new and won’t have been taught at either school or college level so that you won’t be behind anyone.

You don’t necessarily need to have applied before June.

11. )Hardly anyone goes through Clearing

You would be surprised just how many students enter Clearing every year. In fact, according to a 2022 UCAS Clearing report, over 40,000 students entered Clearing in some capacity.

12.)Clearing is complicated

Clearing is no more complicated than the normal application process. It is actually fairly easy, if you don’t do your research beforehand.

You have a breadth of resources available to you. Uni Compare’s UCAS advice articles talk about the Clearing process and how to apply. You also have parents and teachers you can turn to for any help.

University Clearing misconceptions and myths

13.) You’re stupid if you go through Clearing

That is not even remotely close to being true. Anyone can enter into Clearing, and they all enter for totally different reasons.

Some students may enter because they had lower results than expected. This does not make them “stupid”. You will also see that mature students need to enter into Clearing as they look to return to education.

14.) Clearing is for students who didn’t get any uni offers

It is, but it isn’t just for these people. Sometimes, students just change their minds and want to apply elsewhere instead. The Clearing process isn’t for either one type of person or another. Anyone can enter for any reason.

emember that everyone on your course will likely have the same results you had, barring the odd exception here and there.

15.) Clearing courses are rubbish

Again, not true. From a university perspective, Clearing is simply the process of filling more spaces on their courses.

Universities will offer courses that still need to be filled, and then students apply for them. You can find any type of course in Clearing. Even hugely popular ones like dentistry courses, for which you need to apply months before the other UCAS deadlines, can enter Clearing.

Also, just because a university hasn’t filled its spots, doesn’t mean it’s a bad course. Sometimes, the intake for that subject is just not that high that year. Courses go through peaks and troughs in popularity, so even highly desirable courses may suddenly find they are not in vogue for that academic year.

University Clearing myths and misconceptions

16.) You can apply through Clearing while still holding offers

No, you cannot. You will need to either have no offers at all or you will need to have rejected all made to you before youc an enter Clearing.

17.) You can't apply to universities that rejected you

Yes, you can. Just because you were rejected doesn’t mean that you can’t still apply at a later date.

You may find that you cannot apply for the same course. This shouldn’t be that surprising. However, you may find another course the university offers that takes your fancy.

Anyone can enter into Clearing, and they all enter for totally different reasons.

You may even be able to apply for the course you want. If application levels are low, then a university may lower their entry requirements and you can get in that way. If you were rejected on the strength of your interview or because of your personal statement, you can try again. Who knows what may happen?

18.) You won’t get accommodation

Students who go through university will be offered accommodation of some kind. It is true that you may not be front of the queue for the “good accommodation”, but you will still find some accommodation in Clearing.

This depends on the university you are applying to. Universities will do their level best to get you into the accommodation you want, but it depends on what they have available when you apply.

Don’t worry if these were some of your concerns. There are a lot of misconceptions around Clearing even at the best of times, so don’t worry if you found yourself believing some of the above. Remember that applying to university may seem stressful, but if you take things slowly and really research where you're applying, then you will have a much easier time of things.

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