You might’ve heard about university Clearing.

But what is it? How does it work? And what are some tips for Clearing success? Let’s take a look.


What is university Clearing?

First, let’s clear up a misconception: Clearing isn’t just for people who miss the grades for their firm and insurance courses.

Clearing is actually about choice.

According to UCAS, over 30,000 courses are listed and more than 50,000 students get places through Clearing across the UK each year.

While Clearing can be used if you miss your grades, it can also be used if you:

  • Get the grades for one of your choices but are no longer sure you want to go there
  • Are more interested in another uni
  • Decide you want to change course
  • Get better grades than the offer you have so want to go somewhere with higher grade requirements
  • Apply for uni or college after 30 June (you’ll automatically enter Clearing as this is after the application deadline)


Do I have to pay extra to go through Clearing?

If you applied for multiple courses (two to five courses) on your initial UCAS application, you won’t have to pay extra.

But if you only applied for one course on your initial application, you’ll have to pay £4.50 extra to go through Clearing.


Swapping firm and insurance choices

If you meet your grades for both your firm and insurance choices, you’ll automatically be accepted for your firm choice. In this situation, you won’t be able to swap and instead choose your insurance choice.

If you prefer your insurance choice and want to go for that instead, you’ll have to go through Clearing.


Which universities do Clearing?

It’s impossible to say if a uni will have courses on offer through Clearing in a particular year since it completely depends on how full their courses are. But most UK universities will have courses available.

However, certain unis don’t participate in Clearing, including:

  • University of Oxford
  • University of St Andrews
  • LSE
  • University of Cambridge


How does university Clearing work?

First, if you’re going through Clearing even though you’ve successfully met the grades for one of your offers, you’ll have a confirmed place at that university or college. So to go through Clearing, you’ll have to decline that offer on UCAS using the ‘Decline my place’ button.

Once you’ve done this, or if you haven’t met the grades for your choices, your application status on UCAS should say ‘You are in Clearing’.

Unis and colleges will list their available courses on UCAS, with some information about grades and other requirements. If you’re interested in a course, contact the university or college directly. You’ll usually have to phone them, but sometimes you can reach out through an online form.

You can contact many universities through Clearing and get several informal offers, from which you can then choose your favourite.


How do I find available Clearing courses?

All available Clearing courses are listed on the UCAS website. You can use UCAS’ search tool, which lets you browse all courses on offer through Clearing, regardless of how closely related they are to the courses you previously applied for.

But you’ll also be provided with matches through Clearing, to help you get beyond the overwhelm of the thousands of courses listed.

By clicking on the ‘My matches’ button in your UCAS account, you’ll see a list of the top 50 courses you’ve been matched to, based on:

  • Your profile
  • Your grades
  • The courses and unis/colleges you previously applied for
  • The entry requirements of the courses


You can then click to show interest in any courses you see. Once you do this, the uni or college will be able to contact you and may call and give you an offer.

Don’t only rely on matches, though - use the search tool to see what else is out there and make the most of all your options.


What info will I need to provide?

When you contact a university or college, they’ll probably ask for:

  • Your UCAS ID
  • Your Clearing number (this should be under your application status on UCAS)
  • The grades you’ve received
  • What course you’re looking for
  • GCSE results
  • Email address


Selecting a Clearing choice

Once a uni or college has given you an informal offer (and only once they’ve done this, not before), you can add it as a Clearing choice through UCAS.

Go to the ‘Your choices’ part of the UCAS website and ‘Add Clearing choice’, then add the course details. The uni or college will have to confirm your place - if they don’t confirm, you can add a different choice, but you can’t add more than one Clearing choice at the same time.

Learn more about Clearing on the UCAS website.


When does university Clearing start?

Clearing opens in early July and will close in early October.

From July, you can browse what courses are being offered. And if you have exam results but no offers (e.g. because you took a gap year after missing the grades for your choices), you can contact universities and colleges and apply for courses from then on.

However, Clearing is used by most students from results day onwards.


What if I decide uni isn’t right for me?

When it comes to it, you might decide that you don’t want to go to university or college. Other options you might consider are:

  • Apprenticeships: opportunities for you to work, earn and learn. Check out our Apprenticeships pathway to learn more
  • Gap year: you might travel, spend time with family, work, volunteer or do something else for a year while you assess your options
  • Job: maybe you’ll look to get straight into work instead of heading off to uni or college


Tips to help with Clearing

Plan & have a backup

No matter how confident you are, it’s good to think about what you’ll do if you don’t get the grades for your chosen universities or colleges.

Decide what your backup plan is before results day, so there’s less stress if things don’t go to plan on the day.


Get advice

On results day or before, speak to an adviser at your school or college to help explore your options. Also, make use of the information UCAS have about Clearing.


Check out the unis whose courses you’re considering

You want to have as great a time as possible and be happy where you end up.

To make this more likely, research the unis or colleges you’re applying to through Clearing to check out the vibe and facilities. Often you can do virtual tours to get a quick look.


See if there’s a course that suits you better

If you miss the grades for your offers and your firm/insurance choices were for courses linked to subjects you got low grades in, it might be worth considering other courses, linked to subjects you did better in.

Or you might just be interested in exploring something different! Use the UCAS search tool to see what else is out there that piques your interest: you never know, you might find your dream course.


Try not to rush into a decision

When Clearing time comes, you need to move quickly to find a course that suits you. It’s best to contact unis and colleges ASAP since courses can fill up quickly and you might otherwise not get much choice, if any at all.

But don’t accept any offer for the sake of it. Really think about whether the course is something you want to be doing and if the university or college is somewhere you see yourself thriving.


Look into accommodation

Since you’re making a late change to where you’ll end up, you’ll need to sort out accommodation as soon as possible.

When researching courses and institutions, look into the available accommodation options. You don’t want to end up without somewhere to live, have to pay over the odds for a room or live far from campus. It’s a good idea to ask about this when you contact the uni or college.


Contact unis, even if a course isn’t advertised through Clearing!

If you were rejected for a course because you didn’t meet the grade requirements, you probably won’t get onto the course by contacting the uni or college through Clearing.

But if you decide you really want to go to a particular university or study a particular course at a university, even if they’re not advertising anything through Clearing, reach out to them and see if they can offer you something.

There’s no harm in trying - what’s the worst that can happen?


Prepare answers to questions they might ask

When you contact a uni or college through Clearing, they might ask why you’re interested in the course or the institution. Prep some answers so you’ve got something substantial to say.



So Clearing can help you get into a uni or college if you miss your first and insurance choice. But it can also open up opportunities you might not have considered and give you alternatives if you decide you don’t want to go to the uni or college you get into or get better grades than expected. So it’s worth considering as an option. 🙏

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