A-levels results day: A student guide to clearing

It is still possible to get a place at university if you did not make your offer
It is still possible to get a place at university if you did not make your offer Photo: Stephen Wilson/PA Wire

If you did not got the grades you were expecting, or applied late, you can still apply for university courses through a process called 'clearing'.

You may also consider clearing if you've had a change of heart about an offer you received from a university.

Last year, more than 55,700 students gained university and college places this way according to figures from UCAS

Clearing operates from July to 20 September, but most people wait until they have their exam results on 15 August (or 5 August in Scotland) before they start looking.

How does it work?

Check whether you are eligible for clearing on your Track page on the UCAS website.

You will have automatically been entered into clearing if:

  • You missed both your firm and insurance offers
  • You didn't receive any offers (or none you wanted to accept)
  • You applied to UCAS after 30 June

You will know you're in clearing if your Track status says 'You are in clearing' or 'clearing has started'. It may take a few hours to update with your exam results.

You will find your Clearing Number on this page. Universities will need this so that they can view your application.

Start calling universities to discuss the courses available and whether your application can be considered. Make sure you have your results and Clearing Number handy.

Read Making a good impression below.

Phone operators take calls in the Clearing centre at London South Bank University
Phone operators take calls in the clearing centre at London South Bank University Credit: Myung Jung Kim/PA Archive/Press Association Images

If a university offers you a place on a course, you must still formally apply through the UCAS website. The university will give you a date by which you must enter their course details on your Track page.

Don't feel that you have to accept the first offer you receive. You can receive as many offers as you like, but may only apply for one.

To formally apply, you need to click on your 'Add Clearing choice' button and enter the course details. You can only enter details for one choice.

There is a useful video about the clearing process on the UCAS website.

Search for courses

It is a good idea to pick up a copy of the Telegraph, as this is the only newspaper that publishes the full list of clearing places available.

You can also search them online on the UCAS website.

Making a good impression

Before calling the university, make sure you have some notes written down on why you want to study this particular course and why you want to attend this university.

Have a copy of your personal statement handy, and make a note of any other details that may help sell yourself (i.e. strong results on a particular unit, extra-curricular activities, mitigating factors).

Tell them if there are specific areas of the course that you are interested in and why.

More than 55,700 people found university courses through Clearing in 2012
More than 55,700 people found university courses through clearing in 2012 Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

I changed my mind about a university offer

If you no longer wish to accept your firm or insurance offer but you got the grades, you'll have to ring the university and ask them to release you. They will probably ask for reasons why.

It could take up to two weeks for them to release you, so it is important to do this as soon as possible. Once your release has been processed, your Clearing Number will appear on your Track page.

My results are better than expected

You can apply to an alternative university course through a process called Adjustment.

This service is available between 15 and 31 August. Get full details on the UCAS website.

Key dates and deadlines

  • 15 August: GCE and Advanced Diploma results day – and the start of the full clearing vacancy search. Adjustment opens.
  • 31 August: Adjustment closes.
  • 20 September: Final deadline for applications to 2013 courses.
  • 30 September: Clearing vacancy search closes. You can still add clearing choices in your Track page, but you must contact universities and colleges directly to discuss vacancies first.
  • 22 October: Deadline for adding clearing choices.

Useful resources

  • There is more information on the UCAS website. Youc an also phone on 0871 468 0468 for general enquiries.
  • The Telegraph website will publish all clearing vacancies from Midnight on results day.