UK Universities: Guide to Clearing

UK Universities: Guide to Clearing

QS Staff Writer

Updated January 16, 2020 Updated January 16

So, it’s that time of the year...results day is looming. For many students, it will be a joyous occasion, as they achieve the results they need to attend their top choice or insurance university.

Many others, however, will not. It might seem like the stuff of nightmares now, but you should not despair if you fall into the latter category – there are several options open to you.

One of these options is Clearing. This, in case you don’t know, is a process through which students can search places still available at universities around the UK, and make a new, last-minute application.

Last year, nearly 60,000 students used Clearing, and are now happily enrolled at a university that, perhaps, was not originally on their radar, but will provide them with a high quality education, and some of the best years of their life.

So if you don’t get the results you need, don’t panic! There are still thousands of courses available on the UCAS Clearing website – read on to find out how the process works.

What to do before you use Clearing

Before looking into Clearing, call your first choice and insurance universities to see if they will still accept you – you may still have a shot if you really impressed them in your application, but didn’t quite make the A-Level grades.

Also, you may have rejected conditional offers earlier in the year, due to only being allowed to choose two. If this is the case, then perhaps give them a call too.

You're eligible for Clearing if you haven't met the requirements set forth in your conditional offers (or you didn't receive any), if you’ve declined your offers, or if you didn’t respond to them by the due date. If you only made one choice on your original application, and didn’t pay the full £22 application fee, then you have to pay another £11 to be eligible.

You must also have completed a UCAS application (if you did this after June 30th, you’ll automatically be entered into Clearing) – if you haven’t, you have until October 23rd to do so.

You’ll be given a unique Clearing number – make a note of this, as you’ll need it when talking to universities and colleges.

The process

Available places will be listed on the UCAS and Telegraph websites (an app is also offered by the latter) between July 5th and October 23rd.

The lists will be continually updated, but remember, places will only be available where universities haven’t already filled their courses. More will become available as students reject their places, or if they don’t meet the conditions of their offers. The more desirable ones will be filled quickly, so you should act fast if you see something you like.

If and when you see something that appeals, the next stage is to contact the university – many will have special Clearing hotlines – to see if they will accept you. UCAS also recommends a quick visit to the university before you make any final decisions.

You’ll need the following to hand when you call:

  • Your Clearing number (which can be found in Track)
  • Your GCSE and A-level grades (and what they equate to in UCAS points)
  • The university’s UCAS number and Clearing code
  • Your personal statement

You’ll likely speak with a member of the admissions office at the university, who will establish that you meet the requirements for the course and then pass you to a course administrator – bear in mind that this part is likely to be like a mini interview, in which you’ll need to sell yourself and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the course. Try to sound positive and enthusiastic, and mention specific aspects of the course that interest you.

Accepting a clearing offer

If a university provisionally accepts you with a verbal offer, you’ll be given 24 hours to accept it, giving you time to look into other universities. If you’d like to formally accept it, then the next step is to head over to UCAS Track and click the ‘Add Clearing choice’ button that will have automatically appeared on your account when you entered the Clearing process (which would also have happened automatically, as soon as you were rejected or rejected your place, or if you entered the process late).

This will allow you to enter the details of the university and the course on which you have chosen to enrol, as well as generating a Clearing Number which will confirm you’re eligible.

The university can then view your application and officially accept you. You can only apply to one at a time, so make sure you’ve explored all of your options, and are sure you’d be happy to attend the university to which you’re applying – and, of course, that they would accept you. If you’re rejected at this stage, the ‘Add Clearing choice’ button will reappear, allowing you to apply to another university.

If you’re accepted, the university will show up in the ‘Choices’ section of UCAS Track (the area of the UCAS website through which you track the progress of your application). You’ll also be sent a confirmation letter, which makes it all official and tells you whether you need to do anything else. 

Finding last-minute student accommodation

Once you’re confirmed for a university, your next step is to sort out your accommodation. You should start by researching the town or city you’ll be living in, and thinking about the typical price of rent, the transport links, how close you want to live to your uni’s main campus and how many fellow students you want to live with. Many universities host Clearing-specific open days, which is a perfect way to get a feel for your new university before you make the move.

It’s a good idea to call the university’s accommodation office, who will be able to advise you on what’s available in university halls. If the university halls are full or there isn’t anything suitable, you could look into private halls or private renting in a shared house. For these, you’ll often need to pay a deposit (equal to one month’s rent) and provide a guarantor.

Other options

If you haven’t managed to get into a UK university of your choice, then another option to consider is studying abroad. The QS World University Tour, which comes to London every October, is a good way to explore your options. Attendance is free, and you will the get the chance to meet some of the world’s best universities, which may just provide you with a better option.

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This article was originally published in August 2018 . It was last updated in January 2020

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