Didn’t receive any offers from your chosen universities?

Forgot to reply to your offers by the due date?

Changed your mind about what you want to study?

Or maybe you missed the 30th June deadline?

Whatever your reason for entering UCAS Clearing, this process of securing a place at university doesn't have to be a headache.

What is Clearing?

Clearing is the process by which UK universities and colleges can fill any places they still have on their courses.

As mentioned earlier, it can be used by students who missed the grades they needed to get onto their preferred course, forgot to send their application/reply to offers on time or have changed their study plans.

However, Clearing also offers a great way for students to secure somewhere they previously thought was unobtainable due to their low predicted grades.

When does Clearing open?

In contrast to popular belief, Clearing doesn't open on A level results day - it has already been open since 5th July, and will remain open until 18th October.

Remember that any student can apply for a place through Clearing, as long as they are not already holding a place at another university, and there are still places available for the course you wish to apply for.

How long does Clearing take?

Your initial conversation with a Clearing advisor can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes, during which you will be asked some questions about the course and the grades you've achieved.

You will also have the opportunity to ask any questions of your own about the course structure, teaching methods, etc.

If you are then made a verbal offer, you will receive an email confirming what you need to do next. The email should arrive within an hour or so, and will instruct you to add your Clearing choice through your UCAS application within five days.

You can add your choice after 3pm on A level results day – just click on 'Add Clearing choice' and fill in the course details before the offer expires.

This means you are accepting the offer, and once it’s confirmed, it'll show as an acceptance on your 'Choices' page in your UCAS application.

Which universities can I apply to through Clearing?

Most universities in the UK have courses available through Clearing, including some of the highest ranked institutions such as the University of Warwick, Loughborough University, University of Bath and University of Southampton.

If you're looking for somewhere particularly reputable, the Russell Group represents 24 world-class, research-intensive universities, and in 2022, 17 of them had at least one course available through Clearing.

Some universities announce whether they have places available when Clearing opens, while others wait until A level results day (this year, on Thursday 18th August).

Can I change course during Clearing?

"Even if you applied for marine biology but you’ve now realised that food science is your calling, there’s nothing to stop you from contacting universities to ask for a place," say UCAS.

However, it is important to note that you are only eligible for Clearing if you have no offers. 

If you get your grades but change your mind about your course, you can decline your place online and enter Clearing. However, UCAS suggests that students only do so if once they have spoken to an teacher or adviser and are absolutely certain of their choice, as once you've decline your place, you can't get it back. 

If you have had conditional offers but miss your grades and decide to study something else, you do this through Clearing, too.

Are popular courses such as Medicine and Engineering off limits?

Not anymore. In the past, oversubscribed courses such as medicine and engineering were never available through Clearing, but this has slowly changed over the years.

1,015 applicants were accepted onto Medicine and Dentistry courses in 2019 through Clearing, so there's every chance you can still get onto the course you really want to study.

The University of Buckingham has been the leader in Medicine Clearing places for the last two years, and St George’s, University of London, have offered medicine places through Clearing for the past six years. The University of Central Lancaster, Hull York Medical School and the University of Leeds also usually have places in Clearing for Medicine.

Can I apply for a course at a university that previously rejected me?

Clearing allows you to apply to any university with vacancies, even if they rejected you the first time round. 

So yes, if you see a course you like and meet the entry requirements, call the admissions team and talk to them about your opportunities. Don't be afraid just because they turned you down before!

Do I have to pay for Clearing?

If you've already paid the multiple application fee, then you do not have to pay anything else extra to go through the Clearing process.

However, if you've only paid the single application fee, and you want to add multiple choices to your Clearing application, you'll have to pay an additional £4.50 to go through Clearing.

Can you apply through Clearing without UCAS?

Clearing is the UCAS process of matching students without university places after A Level results day to universities with vacancies for some of their courses. Although it is normal to apply for universities via UCAS that doesn’t mean that you have to, there are other options.

If you’re applying for a full time undergraduate degree before Clearing opens then you’ll have to go through UCAS. Most universities, although not all, won’t let you apply directly for their courses.

Some universities will allow you to apply directly and you may also be able to apply for part time courses directly, although check with universities before attempting to submit an application.

How should I prepare for Clearing?

Even though A-level results day isn’t until the latter part of August, it’s a good idea to start doing your research now if you feel your grades might not be quite up to scratch for your current offers, or if you already know you will definitely be entering Clearing. 

Make sure you know which course you would like to study, even if you are entering Clearing because you missed a UCAS deadline. The courses you originally applied for might not be available during Clearing, so a backup plan is a must. 

First of all, look at as many universities as possible that are offering the course you are interested in. Read through the content of each one carefully:

  • Does it cover all aspects you are keen to learn more about?
  • How many modules do you get to choose (if any)?
  • How will you be taught?
  • Are the entry requirements suitable?
  • Does it include a work experience placement (if you want one)? 

Once you’ve found a bunch of courses you think meet your requirements and you will enjoy studying (try to find at least 5 or 6), it’s time to look more closely at the universities themselves, and what else they can offer you apart from a great degree programme. 

Again, even if you’ve already chosen your preferred universities, it’s best to take another look at what else is out there, in case some (or none) of your original choices have your course available in Clearing. 

When putting together a list of potential universities, there are many factors to consider when deciding which ones are the best for you. 

Think about:

  • how far you want to move away from home
  • how large it is and how many students attend
  • the kind of area in which it is situated
  • what facilities you expect it to provide.
  • how well-supported you will be during your studies - check that all your choices offer services such as counselling, careers advice, union society, personal tutors, medical centre, faith support and anything else you feel you may require assistance with. 
  • What clubs and teams you can join - your university experience isn’t just about studying. It should be balanced with a good dose of socialising!
  • Sports and cultural activities you can take part in - this is especially important if you have a particular interest or hobby. 

League tables are useful for getting down to the nitty gritty, and are a good way of comparing universities in terms of student satisfaction, teaching quality, graduate employability and more.

Full university rankings can be found via the Guardian and the Times. You can also find some honest opinions in our university reviews area. 

When you’ve finished researching all possibilities, put your chosen universities in order of preference, so you can quickly follow each one up as soon as clearing vacancies are released on results day

If you have any questions, jot these down too so you can put them to the admissions tutors over the phone. On the day, have your grades, a copy of your personal statement and some pretty decent reasons why you want to study their course! 

Don’t feel that going through Clearing means you’re settling for second best. It can actually be a chance to better yourself and secure a place at a more reputable university. As of 5th July, there were still lots of spaces available in Clearing at highly-ranked universities, including the University of Warwick, Lancaster University and Loughborough University.

Preparation is key to a smooth (or less bumpy!) journey through Clearing. It’s much easier than students believe it to be, and in 2020, 73,320 UCAS applicants were placed through Clearing. Not all of your chosen universities may be offering your course through Clearing, but you will still have a head start on the process!

Remember - this planning will also ensure the next 3 or 4 years of your life are happy, memorable ones. So it’s worth getting that computer, pen and paper out now to avoid make a rushed decision that you will later regret.  

Where can I find out more about Clearing?

For more tips and advice on Clearing and getting into university, please see:

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions on my post, please leave your message below!