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Exam results and university admissions

Eleanor Jubb

Eleanor Jubb

Former Policy Manager
Universities UK

With A-level results coming out on 18 August, the thoughts of thousands of students will be turning to university places and enrolment.


This year, nearly 675,000 people had applied through UCAS by its 30 June deadline (more will have applied since), and for most of them, Thursday morning will bring the news that they’ve got into their first choice university. Last year 62% of everyone who applied by 30 June had a confirmed university place by A-level results day, having accepted offers and achieved the necessary grades – that’s more than 400,000 applicants. Another 107,000 were holding offers about which they were yet to decide.

For some students though, results day will mean finding out that things haven’t gone quite to plan. But it doesn’t have to mean disappointment. Last year a record 64,300 students used Clearing to find the perfect place, and this year even more courses will be on offer. The key to a successful, stress-free Clearing period is preparation.

Before results day, look over your personal statement and think about what made you apply to university and for the courses you picked in the first place. You’ll need to be sure about these things when you’re making decisions about any offers you receive, and you’re likely to be asked about your motivations by universities you are contacting. If you’re not sure that you’ll remember amid the pressure on results day, make some notes.

Then look at what courses are on offer. Doing research is important as courses can differ substantially between different universities. Make sure that you can take the options that you’re interested in and that you’re likely to be able to meet the entrance requirements. Also check out the universities themselves: would you want to live there? You can speak to them before A-level results day if you’re interested, so give them a call.

Make a list of the universities and courses you’re interested in, along with their Clearing helpline numbers and your UCAS number, so you’re ready on the day.

You should be flexible and open-minded about different courses and universities, but remember that you’re going to be doing any course for at least two years so you must be inspired and motivated by it. UCAS’s search tool lets you look at the available options and The Telegraph will publish all Clearing vacancies on Thursday 18 August and Saturday 20 August as well. 

On the day itself, your Track status will let you know if you’re in Clearing, and will also provide your Clearing number. Make a note of this, as universities need it to make you an offer. Then start phoning! Ring early, because although we expect there to be more places in Clearing this year, we still expect them to go quickly. Last year more than 3,000 people were placed in Clearing on results day, and thousands more were confirmed at their firm or insurance offers.

Think about getting in touch with your original university or college, as it may still accept you. If it doesn’t, move onto the universities on your list. You should have the details of the course you are interested in and the university’s Clearing helpline number, as well as your own Clearing and UCAS numbers and your grades. Think of the phone call as a mini-interview; remember your motivations for applying and why you’re still a great candidate for a place.

If you get an offer by phone, ask to for written confirmation via email, and don’t feel you have to accept it straight away. You won’t be able to enter a choice into Track until 3pm on results day, so you have the whole day to speak to different universities and think it over. Make sure that you pick the right course and the right university for you – it needs to be your decision, not that of your parents, your friends or your teachers.

Once you’ve made your choice you can add it in Track for it to be confirmed by the university or college. This counts as you accepting the offer, so you can only add one choice at a time. There is more information on the process from UCAS here and advice from the Exam Results Helpline here.

Whatever you do, 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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