The Clearing system allows universities to fill up any course vacancies and gives students without an offer a second chance of securing a place.

Last year, a record 64,300 students found a place at university through Clearing. So if you find yourself without the offer you want come results day, remember you’re far from alone. And the good news is there will be plenty of universities looking for students just like you (with options for student loans) to fill their courses.

First things first, what is Clearing?

The Clearing system allows universities to fill up any course vacancies and gives students without an offer a second chance of securing a place.

Why would I use Clearing?

Students usually go through Clearing when their grades fall short of the requirements set by their preferred universities. Sometimes near-misses are good enough. So if you find yourself in this situation, make sure you check the UCAS website or give the admissions officers a call.

Some other Clearing scenarios are: You actually got grades higher than predicted and want to try and get onto an alternative course with tougher entry requirements; you changed your mind about your preferred choice of uni and want to apply to a different course or university; you applied before 30 June but don’t have any offers; you applied after 30 June – in which case, you’ll be automatically entered into Clearing.

How should I pick a course?

It can be hard to think clearly when you’ve just missed out on a place you’ve had your heart set on. But don’t panic and scrabble for any vacancy on offer. If you find yourself on the wrong course, you could have a miserable few years ahead.

We strongly recommend all students do some research into potential back-up options before results day. Your Clearing courses don’t have to be the same subject as your original UCAS application, so you can find a similar course or study something else entirely. And remember, you don’t have to start university in September. Your plan B could be taking a gap year or redoing your exams.

When is Clearing 2016?

Most students don’t realise Clearing actually begins in July, before results day, although your choice will be quite limited at this time. It’s generally best to wait until all the results are out, which this year will be when UK students pick up their A-level grades on 18 August. Don’t hang about though. Spaces on popular courses are likely to be filled by the end of the first week following A-level results day. You have until 20 October to make your choices.

How does the process work?

Just follow these steps for headache-free Clearing.

  • Check UCAS Track as soon as you have your results. If you’re eligible for Clearing, you’ll find your Clearing number here.
  • Find out which courses are up for grabs on the UCAS website or on university websites.
  • Phone up the universities you’re interested in on their Clearing phone lines. Make sure you have your Clearing number ready.
  • Speak to the admissions officer and, if you can, a relevant course tutor.
  • Get an offer. You’ll normally have 24 hours to accept the place before it’s released back into the Clearing pool.

What will the university ask me?

Before you pick up the phone, make sure you’re prepared to answer any questions the universities may have. Some will make a decision straight away based on your grades. Others will ask questions to assess your interest in the course. Have a few notes to hand covering off what you like about the university and the subject you’re calling about. You’ll also need your Ucas number, Clearing number and your grades for both GCSE and A-level.

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