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What is Clearing and Adjustment?

What is Clearing and Adjustment?

What is Clearing and Adjustment?

Results day is a stressful time for any sixth form or college student. After an entire summer of uncertainty they arrive with a hopeful heart ready to open that envelope that will determine their educational future, but what happens if they don’t receive the grades they were hoping for?
Once the tears have dried and the parents have been informed, most students will turn to you, their careers advisor, for advice on what to do next. Where do they go from here? Will they ever be able to go to university? Should they give it all up and follow their dream of possibly getting scouted as a professional footballer? You will have a host of questions fired at you at this confusing time, so it’s important to be prepared.

We’ve put together everything you need to know about Clearing and Adjustment so if you find yourself faced with puffy-eyed teenagers ready to throw in the educational towel come results day, you’ll be able to steer them in the right direction…


Clearing is the part of the UCAS application process which allows unis and colleges to fill empty spaces they may have after results day. Every year tens of thousands of students find a university place through Clearing; one in eight of all university places were found through this process, (source: UCAS).

Clearing technically starts on the 1st July and continues up until the 22nd October; however, students will need to wait until they receive their exam results to be able to apply. Most Clearing places are published and filled within a two or three days following results day, but some degree courses and universities will be available for much longer.
Is your student eligible?

Students who have applied in the current application year, have not withdrawn their application and fit into one of the following criteria will be eligible to apply through Clearing:

    • Applied before June 30th and did not receive any offers
    • Applied before June 30th and declined all received offers
    • Applied after June 30th and therefore the application was not sent to any universities or colleges
    • Did not meet the conditions for their firm and insurance choices and they declined any alternative offers

If your student is eligible for Clearing once results day arrives, a Clearing number will clearly be displayed on their UCAS Track. Ensure they have this number when speaking to universities as they cannot apply without it.


Encourage your students to thoroughly research which uni they want to go to and the sort, of course, they are interested in as a back-up to their original choices. Clearing lists will be available on the UCAS website from July, but assure them more will be added on results day if they are worried they cannot find a suitable degree course.

Most universities publish vacancies on their own websites, including information on which grades are suitable and how your student can apply. As well as UCAS and the individual university’s websites, The Daily Telegraph has a live Clearing finder tool which will allow them to search for available places by university or subject, alternatively, they can download the handy mobile app also provided by The Daily Telegraph.

Once they’ve made a list of backup universities and degree courses that interest them, it’s time to pick up the phone.

Calling Universities

Before calling their chosen university, each student must have on them their UCAS Clearing number, course code and the name of the degree course they are enquiring about. It will help for them to revisit their personal statement and have their A-Level results fresh in their mind as the university may want to discuss these with them.

Some universities may only require the student to confirm their grades and they will make a decision based on this, however others may want to determine the student’s suitability for the course by asking a series of questions such as ‘’why didn’t you achieve the grades you were expecting?’’ or, ‘’why do you want to study English Literature at this level?’’.

The student may be offered a place straight away or they may be put on a reserve list or turned down. Most universities give 24 hours for the student to make a decision if they have been offered a place, in which case they will need to enter the institution as a choice on UCAS Track before the 24 hours is up.

Remember: students can only put in a Clearing choice on UCAS Track if they have discussed it previously with the university. Inputting a choice without first talking to them will slow the process down and may result in them missing out on their chosen course.

Once the student has inputted their Clearing choice on UCAS Track they will be accepted quickly, they will not have to wait as long as they did for other offers during the original application process. Once the university has accepted the Clearing application the student will be sent an AS12 email and a letter confirming their place.

Top Tips to Remember:

    • Make sure your students don’t book any holidays over results day if they’re not able to call universities once Clearing starts they may miss out
    • Tell them to be flexible; will they be happy to combine their course with another? The more flexible they are the greater chance they have of finding a course to suit them.
    • UCAS Track will automatically show an ‘Add Clearing Choice’ button if your student is eligible, it may not be necessary to wait until they’ve opened their results to find out
    • Ensure the parents or guardians aren’t ringing the universities for them. Potential institutions will be less than impressed if the student cannot call themselves and they’ll be unlikely to make an offer without speaking to the student directly
    • The student must have paid the full £22 UCAS application fee, if they have only made a single choice and therefore paid £11, they will need to pay the extra £11 before they can go through Clearing


If your students are pleasantly surprised at their results and find they’ve done better than expected, UCAS Adjustment allows them to change their choice to a higher ranked university. For example, if a student is offered a place under the condition they get ABB, and they actually receive an AAA, they can use UCAS Adjustment to find a place at a different university.
The process works in the same way as Clearing. The student in question will need to call up any universities they are thinking of swapping their firm choice for and ask if they have any places available via Adjustment.

If they are offered a place, their UCAS Track screen will automatically show that they have swapped courses. Remember: once the student has an accepted an offer at another university their firm choice will automatically be cancelled, this is an important decision to ensure they are certain of their new choice.

Top Tips for Adjustment:

    • Just because the student is able to attend a more prestigious university, it doesn’t mean it’s right for them. Sit down with them and ensure they are using Adjustment for the right reasons
    • They will have thoroughly researched their firm choice and will need to make a decision on a whim for Adjustment, explain the importance of research to your student to ensure their new chosen university is suitable for them
  • If the student has paid an accommodation deposit at their firm choice university and they decide to change via Adjustment, the deposit will be lost

As a careers advisor on results day, you will be the first person students want to talk to whether they’ve done better or worse than expected. By remembering these key steps for Clearing and Adjustment and listening to their problems on the day, you’ll help them to achieve their goal of reaching higher education.

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