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University Advice ❱❱ What is Clearing?

What is Clearing?

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Clearing is where universities can list all of their courses with vacancies for applicants to start study in September of the same year. Available university places will be shown and available to search from July to September, and you must have a Clearing number to be able to apply for a university place through Clearing. It can feel stressful and pressured when using Clearing, but by understanding the process, it will minimise stress and allow you to make rational decisions about your future.

When would I use clearing?

There are a few options of when you may use Clearing. It is most commonly used on A Level results day after discovering your exam results. It may be that your results have not gone to plan, and you have not been successful in achieving the grade requirements asked for by either your first and insurance universities, and you find yourself in a position of having no university offers but still wanting to go to university the same year. It can also be used if you have already received your exam results but have no offers from a university, or if you submit a UCAS application after the 30th June 2017. You will know if you are eligible for Clearing if you log into UCAS Track.

What to do the morning of results?

On the morning of your results day, it is important that you log into your UCAS Track. UCAS Track will show you if you have been accepted or unsuccessful in gaining a place in either your firm or insurance university choice, (find out more on understanding university offers). You will be able to check Track before you have received your results, so do not feel as though you have to wait for these to arrive before checking.

If Track hasn’t updated, do not panic, it will update as soon as your university has made their decision.

What should I do after receiving my results?

If you have not been successful in getting into your firm or insurance university choice, your UCAS Track will show that you are eligible for Clearing. This means that you are able to directly contact a university to see if they will accept you with your grades. If you have narrowly missed out on one of your choices it may be worth giving them a phone call to see if they will still accept you with your grades. If they are unable to accept you onto your first choice course, you could look at different courses at your preferred university. It might be that they have several variations of the same course that have spaces open, by phoning the university, they might suggest a different course within the same field.

If you are unable to get into your firm or insurance choice university by this route, use the UCAS vacancy list, this list is regularly updated so don’t panic if there isn’t anything you like the look of when you first visit the page. Universities and courses with vacancies will also be published in The Times newspaper. Although the vacancy list is regularly updated, your parents or a friend could help you find options by looking through the paper while you look online.

It may also be an option to change course, in this situation it may be that a second-course option is very similar to your initial idea or it may be quite different. If it is significantly different, it is always a good idea to talk to a career advisor or personal tutor on the morning of results day. They may be able to advise you or give you some reassurance about your decision. Talking it through with someone else will also help you to realise if you definitely want to change courses.

What should I do once I have found a vacancy?

Once you have found a vacancy at a university, you must make contact with the university. Be aware that phone lines are bound to be very busy on results day, and you may find it difficult to get through to universities that are near capacity. Be persistent, but also have a handful of options to make contact with, so that you are not relying on just one university. Once you have selected a few universities you would like to attend, phone up the university and ask to be accepted for the course you wish to study, you will need to give them your Clearing number and your UCAS Personal ID number (For more on this, check out the UCAS Terms and Abbreviations page or check out our University Terms Glossary). This allows them to look at your current application form and exam results. The university may then give you an informal offer, make a note of this offer. It may be that you are happy with their offer and want to attend the university, in this case, you should add them on UCAS Track. You can also phone up more universities to find a better offer or to have a selection to choose from. If you have time, you could also visit those that have given you offers over the phone to get a better feel for the university.

How many clearing choices should I add?

You will only be able to add one choice to your UCAS Track so make sure you add the university that has confirmed that they are happy to offer you a place (informal offer) and enter the course details that the university has given you. As you have already received an informal offer, once you have added a choice this confirms that you are happy to accept the place, so be 100% sure that this is the place for you before adding it. If for whatever reason, the university does not confirm your place you will be able to add another university. If you are still undecided or not confident on your current university choice, check out different universities by area by using our interactive university map

How to find your clearing number?

Your Clearing number is unique to you and allows you to apply for another university, and your UCAS Personal ID number allows for potential universities to look at your full UCAS application. If you have been unsuccessful in reaching the A Level grades required (or Scottish) for your insurance or firm choice and therefore do not have a university place, you will be eligible for Clearing, and your Clearing number will be located on both the welcome page and the ‘Your Choices’ section of UCAS Track.

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Can I swap my insurance and firm choice?

You are unable to swap your firm and insurance choice at all. If you wish to attend the alternate university, you will have to follow the Clearing process and make direct contact with the university to see if you can receive an informal offer to attend.

Can I use Clearing to change the university I have been accepted for?

If you have been accepted into your first choice university but are having doubts about where you have made the right university choice, you may be able to use Clearing to be released from your current acceptance and apply for another university or course, it’s all dependant on universities and entry requirements. However, this is completely up to your first choice university. You may change your mind on the subject of your course or have a more solid reason for wanting to change location of university, in this case it is essential you make contact with your first choice university either over the phone or via email and give them in writing a reason for you no longer wanting to attend their institution. If they accept your reasoning, you will be giving a Clearing number on UCAS Track that you can then use to apply for a new university. If you make this decision, you will no longer be able to apply to your firm or insurance university to be 100% certain with your choice!

How will you know if you have been accepted for a choice through clearing?

After you have applied for a choice through Clearing, keep an eye on your UCAS Track, if your new university choice has accepted your application it will update on here. There is no need for you to accept the offer.

What should I do after results day?

After you have applied for your Clearing option, all you can do is wait! Hopefully, you will be successful as you should have already been given an informal offer from the university you have applied for. However, it is always a relief once your university has confirmed. You will them receive a confirmation letter from UCAS, and all that is left to do is to prepare for heading off to university! 

If you’ve been accepted and are now entering your first year of university, stay money smart and budget your first year at university.

Does applying through Clearing change anything while at university?

Applying through Clearing will have no effect at all on your experience at a university. You will receive confirmation from your new university with any instructions regarding student accommodation choices and specific course details. It may be that you want to go and visit the university as you may not have previously been and by doing this, you can often sort out any essential steps such as university accommodation and ask any questions you may have. Once you start at university none of your peers will know that you applied any differently to them

Most of all do not rush and don’t panic during Clearing. No matter how much you may want to go to university at the same times as your peers, you do not want to end up wasting time and money making the wrong choice, be it going to a city university when you love a campus setting, or choosing the right course and instead end up taking a course that you are not that interested in. If you are not confident that any of the courses or locations are right for you, there are so many other options that you can do; you can even take a year out to work, retake exams during a gap year or travel and reapply for that perfect university and course for the following year.


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