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Clearing: What, why and how?

Choosing the right subjects can set up a student for life. Make sure your child starts the IB on the right foot by speaking with an EIB Consultant to pick the perfect subjects.

What is clearing?

UCAS clearing is a service for students who fit one of the following criteria:

  • Students who did not receive any offers
  • Students who did not meet the conditions of their offer
  • Students who declined their firm offer and want to apply to other universities*
  • Students who applied after June 30th

Universities may have places remaining that were not filled in their first round of admissions or that have become available since then, and these are filled through the clearing process.

*This year you can reject your firm offer and be released into clearing to look at different universities (previously, students had to call universities to ask for this to be done). To do this you need to click the ‘Decline my place’ button on UCAS Track. Whilst this may be useful for some students who have had time to reconsider, please do heed the UCAS warnings with regards to declining your Firm offer, as once this decision is taken it cannot be undone. Therefore, please think carefully before declining your current offer.

Clearing vs adjustment: Clearing is for those who do not have offers or who were not able to reach the conditions of their offer, whilst adjustment is used for those who have exceeded their offers and are looking to explore studying at a different university. We have more information on adjustment here.

When does clearing open?

Clearing opens on 5th July and runs until 19th October. As stated above, any application received after June 30th is automatically entered into clearing through UCAS. Please also be aware that clearing will become very busy after A-level results day, on 10th August, as many A-level students will begin calling universities regarding clearing offers. Places can be advertised before this by universities, so it is worth checking to see if any universities are able to make you an offer before this point.

How do I apply through clearing?

Firstly, you will be informed if you have entered clearing as the message ‘You are in clearing’ will appear on UCAS Track. This will mean that you can begin applying to university courses through the UCAS clearing system. To do this, we encourage you to follow a 4-step process:

1. Talk to an adviser

Firstly, we encourage you to discuss your options with an adviser, as you may still be accepted by your current university even if you miss your entry requirements. You could speak to your school university co-coordinator, teacher or our expert admissions team about your application to assess the options you have.

Even if the university you applied to does not accept you onto their course, it is important to talk through your options, as you can also plan the alternative courses and universities you are willing to apply to. This may be a related course, such as a joint honours degree, or a course requiring similar skills. Remember that you could also go in before results day and speak to your school university coordinator about this so that you have a plan for results day.

2. Find a course

Once you have decided to enter into clearing, you can use the UCAS search tool to browse courses that you could apply to. Keep checking the list of courses on the UCAS website, as these are updated as universities receive results and make places available. UCAS also offers a Direct Contact Service where universities can contact you through track if they have any places.

Note: UCAS conservatoires (performing arts schools) do not use clearing, so you should use the UCAS course finder to find relevant courses and contact the university directly to ask if they will accept you on to their course

3. Talk to the universities you are interested in

Once you have decided on the course(s) you are interested in, it is time to contact universities to see if they will accept you. Some universities may reconsider you even if you applied to the same course earlier in the year if they find that they still have spaces on their courses. There are several key pieces of advice when calling universities that we want to highlight:

  • Make sure you call them! If you call them, rather than a parent or university coordinator, universities are more likely to give you an offer as you are demonstrating that you are engaged with and keen to attend this university – At the end of the day you are the one who are going to attend the university, so they want to hear from you (we understand this may be a little daunting, but after one call this nervousness should soon disappear)
  • Have your clearing number (available on UCAS track) and personal ID number ready along with A-level and GCSE grades, as you may forget these in the heat of the moment
  • Be prepared to sell yourself and explain why you want to study this degree at this university. Treat the phone call as a mini interview where the university is finding if you are the right fit and you also get to find out about the university’s clearing process. However, please do not let the thought of an interview alarm you – this will be very informal and the best interviews are ones where you are relaxed, interested and honest, so try to just be yourself on the phone
  • You may receive informal offers over the phone but, unlike adjustment, this can be done with multiple universities and they are not formal agreements. You are free to talk with multiple universities about their offers and can decide later on which one you want to accept
  • Talk to the universities about their accommodation options, available grants and opportunities to visit (making sure that your offer will still be there should you take the time to visit)
  • Most importantly, do not rush this decision! You will be spending 3 to 4 years, if not more, studying at this university, so make sure that this is the one that you want to go to!

If you want help and advice on choosing a university, why not call our admissions team? They will be able to offer advice on which university suits you best, having experienced studying at top universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and University College London and, with years of experience helping students attain university offers, whatever your query, we are here to help!

4. Update Track

Once you have confirmed an agreement with the university you wish to attend, you will then need to input the clearing details that the university gives you over the phone into UCAS Track. The university will confirm that this is the offer they made you and that they are happy to accept you as a student. You can only add one choice at a time, but if the university does not confirm your place, you can add another to your UCAS Track. If you originally only applied to one university (in the January application period), you will also need to pay the additional £6 fee to apply to more universities in clearing.

Note: You may still be considered even if you feel just shy of your grade requirements by your university. Please contact the universities you have applied to for confirmation.

Clearing success stories:

The Complete University Guide and UCAS have a number of clearing success stories to demonstrate how going through clearing can help you reach your goals!

Top Tips:

  1. Research your course before A-level results day – As IB students, we have an advantage as we get our results early, so get a jump on A-level students and start researching potential courses and calling universities before the rush of A-level results day. Take your time to research your current course – its modules, assessment, dissertation requirements, optional electives, teaching methods and opportunities to specialise – and compare this with other courses. As you have more time now than you did when you originally made your choice it is the ideal time to research into more detail how your course is structured. This will be useful even if you do not end up going through clearing, as you will have a better idea as to how the next few years studying your current course could pan out.
  2. Research alternatives to your course – As well as your existing course, research the alternative options at different universities. This could be the same course – with lower entry requirements – or a different course. Consider the structure of alternative courses, the opportunity for a year abroad or sandwich year in industry, the teaching methods and career opportunities. Perhaps go back to the notes you may have compiled when researching university courses in year 12/early year 13 to remind yourself why you picked your existing course and compare this to other options.

Note: You do not have to study subjects that you studied during sixth form (for example, I study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Warwick but only studied Economics during my IB). However, if you are thinking about this option, make sure you research your new subjects extra carefully. Look at the best university for particular subjects using rankings such as the Complete University Guide, Times Higher Education rankings or National Student Satisfaction Survey (via unistats) and ask students currently studying the course how they are finding it (and students at your school why they chose it). Also, pay attention to grade requirements – it is unlikely you will be accepted by a university with higher requirements than your current offer. Similarly, always contact the university to make sure that, even if their requirements are lower than your grades, you will be accepted.

The more questions you ask, the better idea you’ll have of whether the money you spend will be worth it. ~ Josie Gurney-Read

  1. Have all of the relevant information ready – Have your qualifications, reasons for wanting to study at this university and questions for the person you speak with ready with you so that you can refer to them if needs be. If the admissions officer asks you why you want to study at a particular university, you can have 3 to 4 prompts in front of you to refer to; although, above all, be honest. It is much better to be honest and a little clumsy with your wording than sound like you are reading from a script, because the admissions officer wants to hear your true reasons, that will carry you through to the end of the course, as to why you want to study at their university.

  1. Make notes during conversations – Keep a diary of anyone who you spoke to, their contact details and any offers made. Try to get the university to email you this offer along with how long it will stand so that you have a copy signed by the university to refer to should you choose to call them back to accept their offer.

  1. Stay calm – Staying calm will help you to come across more clear and confident. We recommend talking to other people who have been through clearing as well as friends and family about your options. Your school friends may be able to suggest what they have done, and your family can give you advice from a point of view that is not caught up in the fracas of exam results and university admissions. Talking through your options will help you to have confidence in your choice, whatever that may be, and wholeheartedly pursue it.

We hope this article has been helpful and wish you the best of luck in clearing! If you would like to read more articles like this one, please visit our resources page. Alternatively, to find out what your options are, through clearing and other avenues, please feel free to call one of our admissions team – we would be happy to help!

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