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The Clearing Track

11 August 2015
Nicola Dandridge

Nicola Dandridge

Former Chief Executive
Universities UK
Empty exam room

With A-level results out this week, Nicola Dandridge shares some tips to help students considering opportunities through Clearing.


A-level results day is inevitably surrounded by anxiety, and although many students will received the results they wanted, for others things may not go quite to plan. But this is not a reason to panic as there are a variety of other options available, and one of them is Clearing.

The word ‘Clearing’ sounds rather unattractive, but what it describes represents an extremely positive and constructive way forward for literally tens of thousands of students each year.

A university degree is a fantastic asset in life, and if you are keen to further your studies in university but haven’t secured the grades needed, you should not give up, because the chances are you can go to university and study the subject you want through Clearing.

Clearing is a process managed by Ucas, which enables applicants to look for suitable available courses from a wide range of excellent universities and colleges. It allows students to apply for courses if they don’t have offers or perhaps missed the grades needed for original offers.

It is important to remember that universities won’t know if they have filled all their courses until results day and many of them may therefore end up having significant numbers of places available that might well suit you.

Last year, a record 61,300 students found their place at university via Clearing: that is a very large proportion of the total student population.

Before results day

If you are waiting to receive your exam results and think you might need to go down the Clearing track, there is a fair amount of preparation you can do beforehand.

For instance, why not go through your personal statement and think about what made you apply to university in the first place. Motivation is important here and when you speak to universities, you need to have in mind the reasons why you picked this specific course and what you want to get out of it, not least because universities considering you for a Clearing place may want to ask you about your reasons for choosing a particular course. So do ensure you are prepared to answer those sorts of questions.

You should also look through the universities that offer the course you are interested in to see what is available. Make sure you look carefully as what might appear to be the same course may actually vary substantially between different universities. Look at the course requirements and see if you are likely to be able to match what they need for grades come A-levels results day.

It may also be important to be open-minded and see if there are any other courses that you could apply for that are still within your career/goal plans. Be as flexible as possible. You will be studying this course for at least 3 years so make sure you pick something that will inspire and motivate you.

You can also speak to universities before Clearing opens so why not start now. Have a list of the questions you need to ask and make sure you get all the information you need to make an informed decision.

On the day

You will know if you are in Clearing as the Ucas Track status will say ‘You are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’. If the Track status doesn’t say either of these yet, it may just be waiting for the results to update.

If it turns out you are in Clearing, you should always consider getting in touch with your original university or college, because even though you may have missed your grades it may be that they are still willing to  consider you even if your results are lower than required.

If you do need to go through Clearing, then you will need to identify which universities and which courses you want to apply for. Once you have drawn up a list, you will need to call up the universities and speak to them. You may find that you end up having a mini-interview over the phone, so do be prepared. The universities will want to hear about you and why they should offer you a place so keep calm and answer the questions as best as you can.

Once you receive an offer over the phone, get a written confirmation via email. Remember, you can speak to as many universities as you want, but you can only add one choice to Track so make sure you make the right decision.

Ucas only allows your choice to be added to Track after 5pm on results day so you have the whole day to speak to universities and make a decision.  Once you have made your choice and it has been accepted, you will receive an email to confirm your place, UCAS Track will show “Clearing Accepted” and an AS12 letter will be sent to you in the post.

It is important for students remember that this whole process requires you to stay calm and collected. Whatever decision you make should be made by you and you alone and it is important that you pick something that is right for you. Remember that thousands of students have been through Clearing before and ended up having a fantastic, rewarding and inspiring time at university. Good luck!​

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