The TOTUM Guide To 'Clearing': How To Get A Uni Place On A-Level Results Day | TOTUM
Jasmine TomlinsonAugust 7th

Clearing - no, it doesn't bite, and it's here to help you, we promise.

With results day coming up, it's worth remembering - and being thanful for - the existence of the clearing system, helping to ease minds, which we're sure are feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment - totally understandably.

So, here's a quick breeze through some of the basics of clearing to give you a bit more knowledge about the system in case it comes in handy on results day.

So... what is clearing then?


Clearing is the process by which many, many students have found places at universities when their A-level grades haven't quite met the entry requirements for their chosen university.

It's a service run by UCAS, and universities and colleges can advertise any places they still have available there, meaning students can find alternative courses and places they'd be interested in, whilst universities can fill spaces left on their courses - it works both ways!

Okay, who can use it?


The system is available for a multitude of students in different scenarios, not just for those who haven't met predicted grades.

You can also use it if you applied late to UCAS (after June 30th), didn't receive any offers (or did receive some but none you wanted to accept), or if you're trying to decline a place through the 'Track' section of UCAS where your offers are.

Students whose exam grades surpassed expectations might like to chose a different place on another course they'd prefer. You can do this by registering for 'Adjustment' via Track from A-level results day until August 31st (you have five days to look for a new course. If you fail to find one, your original offer will still stand).

Right, got it. How do I use it?


Right, so now you know a bit about what clearing is, you're probably wondering how you actually use it. Let's condense the process into some easy steps.

1. Signing in - Use your login details to get onto 'Track'. You'll know if you haven't received any offers or didn't meet the requirements for the universities as your Track screen will say either 'You are in clearing' or 'Clearing has started'. Make sure to note down your clearing number which should be on the welcome page and ‘Your choices’ section of Track, as you'll need this later on when contacting universities.

If you don't already have an account with UCAS, you'll need to register online and make an application by going to 'sign in', 'students', 'undergraduate', click 'apply' on the year you'll be going to uni and then a section should be available for you to register. UCAS will then send you a welcome email with details of how to access Track, and your clearing number.

2. Finding vacancies - UCAS has a neat search tool on its website where you can find courses and universities to look through and pick from.

Remember, it's not always a bad idea to look at courses or unis you may not have originally planned to visit or even knew about. A surprising amount of people get onto courses they hadn't thought about or accepted at places they hadn't considered, and end up absolutely loving it!

Once you've clicked on one that interests you, you'll be provided with basic details about that course, like its duration, start date and qualification type.


3. Planning it out - If you've found one that you like the sound of, look for their contact details, which will either be with the other information about the course on UCAS or on the university's website. Some universities do tend to have special hotlines just for this clearing process.

It would help to make a list of the courses you liked the most and write the contact details next to each uni.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Ensure you have your UCAS ID number and your clearing number with you - the universities will want this. Have your A-level and GCSE results on hand, any portfolios you might have, as well as a copy of your personal statement, CV or anything that provides details of relevant work experience - all things that will give you backup stuff to say should you need to sell yourself as a good candidate. Don't panic, read the next step.

4. Picking up the phone - When contacting your chosen university, an admissions staff member will ask for your clearing number, which will enable them to open your Track screen and look at your application, results and personal statement.

If you're eligible for a place and there's one available, you may be asked a couple of questions that are just designed to make you stand out even more, as a few students could be applying for the same spaces so there might be a bit of competition. This is why it's good to have your personal statement and CV on hand to refer to.

Don't worry though, this isn't a scary interview and it can all be done over the phone so no worries about body language, dressing smartly and all that.

UCAS also recommends preparing some of your own questions about the university, such as any queries on accommodation, the course or just anything you'd like to know.


5. Decision time - You may be made an informal, verbal offer there and then or you'll be told that they'll ring back. Either way, there's a time limit so you have the chance to consider and think about it.

You could also give ringing a university or course that you already applied for a try and ask if they'd reconsider you. After all these calls, you may be left with offers from a variety of universities so you best start deciding which one you'd like to accept!

Many universities hold clearing open days which will give you the chance to look around the campus. If you have time, attending these would be beneficial and make the whole decision making process a little easier. As an indecisive person myself, I know the opportunity to see the university with my own eyes would help massively.

6. Updating Track - ONLY once you've found an offer that you want to accept and the chosen university has given you permission to be on their course, can you add this clearing choice onto Track. In the 'Your choices' section of Track, you will find an option telling you to 'Add clearing choice' and from there you'll just need to fill in some course details by the date the university gave you on the phone.

It's important that you don't just add the clearing choice without having spoken to the university as this could delay your application.


7. Sealing the deal - So a decision has been made and is now updated on Track. This counts as you definitely accepting the offer, so if they confirm, it'll show as an acceptance on your 'choices' page in Track. 

If you've been given a few offers, please note that you can only add ONE choice at a time, but if the university doesn't confirm your place, you'll then be able to add another.

8. Other important information...

Clearing is available from July to September every year - if you had conditional offers but your exam results didn't go to plan, you can use clearing from results day, when clearing vacancies will be listed in the search tool (it goes live at 8am on A-level results day). If you already have your exam results but you have no offers, you can use clearing from July.

The system can also be used to decline a firm place you don't want anymore by clicking the 'decline my place' button in Track.

If you originally took the cheaper option of just applying for one course for the reduced fee of £18, you'll have to pay an additional £6 to apply through clearing.

UCAS Conservatoires do NOT use clearing to fill vacancies. You can however use UCAS' search tool to find available courses at conservatoires if this is what you're interested in. You'll need to check with the institute if they're still accepting applications before you apply though.


When looking for the signs 'You are in Clearing' or 'Clearing has started' on Track, it's possible that it may take some time for these to show up, as Track could just be waiting for your results to update or your originally chosen universities might still be considering you, even if your results are a bit lower than required. Get in touch with the universities/colleges if it's taking a while though.

You can’t swap your firm and insurance choices. If you now want to go to your insurance choice, you need to go through clearing. Check with your insurance choice uni that they can accept you in clearing.

Remember, there's people out there who want to help you, so don't hesitate to talk to an adviser at your school, college, centre, or careers office, or even consult with a teacher - most schools have careers advisers who can talk you through alternative courses/subjects.

One of the most important pieces of advice we can give you is to not panic. Many students have been in the same place yet ended up with both a uni and course they thoroughly enjoyed, thanks to systems like clearing.

There's always a way, and don't fear the worst.

Good luck!

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