Your guide to clearing

23 July 2018 | University Advice | Thomas Peacock

It is interesting that university application numbers have been falling for the past few years, and 2018 is no exception. Many of the country’s top universities are finding it increasingly more difficult to fill up their courses, so many of them are at this very moment devoting an inordinate amount of resources to filling any places they have left. This is good news for those looking to start university this autumn. If you want to go to university but have not received an offer, you are still in with a chance!

Basically, clearing is a part of the UCAS university application process and is a way for universities to fill any spaces they have left for the new academic year. It gives applicants who have not had an offer from university another opportunity to find a university place. It actually starts at the beginning of July and continues up until 23 October.

At the start of July, a lot of Clearing spaces are advertised on the UCAS website, so this would be the best time to start looking into it. However, if you are still awaiting your exam results at this point, you will need to wait until you receive them before you can use the Clearing service.

Who is eligible?

If you have applied in the current application year, and you have not withdrawn your application, you are eligible to use Clearing, but you must make sure that one of the following conditions applies:

  • You applied before 30 June and did not receive any offers
  • You applied before 30 June and declined all of your offers
  • You did not meet the conditions of your firm and insurance choices, and they have declined to take you, or you have declined any alternative offers
  • Your application was received after 30 June, in which case you will go straight into Clearing

You must have paid the full UCAS application fee in order to be eligible for Clearing. If you have only paid the fee for a single choice, then you will need to pay a further fee to UCAS to use Clearing (please check the UCAS website for current rates).

Once you are in Clearing, you will be able to see everything on your UCAS Track, where you'll also find your Clearing number. Universities will ask for this number when you talk to them, so they can view your UCAS application.

Where to find Clearing places

It is a good idea to consult the university’s own website in the first instance. Most universities publish their vacancies there first, and this is generally the most accurate list of vacancies available. It will also provide more information on what grades they require and the procedure for applying.

Beyond that, the universities will inform UCAS on which places have been filled, so the UCAS website will provide the most up to date information on any remaining places. You will find this on the UCAS Search page or on the websites of the specific university.

You can apply for a place on any course with vacancies in Clearing, but you should ensure that you don't enter a Clearing choice on UCAS Track unless you've been asked to do so by the university. Universities are very unlikely to accept you unless you have spoken to them first, and you won't be able to add a replacement Clearing choice while you're waiting for another to be removed.

You don't have to apply for the same type of course that you applied for when making your original UCAS application, although the university will want to hear your reasons and motivations for wanting to study the new course.

Contacting universities in Clearing

If you are in Clearing, you should contact the universities directly. When you have found a Clearing course that you wish to apply for, call the corresponding university's Clearing number. Usually you will get to speak with an admissions tutor who will ask you about your grades and the reasons for your interest in the subject you're applying for.

There can then be three possible outcomes: 1) you could be offered a place straight away, 2) you could be put on a reserve list or 3) you could be turned down. Please remember that if you do receive an offer, it is usually only valid for a limited period. Consequently, you must add the university as a choice on UCAS Track within that timeframe if you want to get the place. If you miss the deadline, the university will give the place to another applicant. If you receive an offer verbally, please ensure that you request written confirmation of the offer and any conditions that apply - most universities will be happy to email you written confirmation.

It is always a good idea to keep a record of any conversations with a university during Clearing. Always note the name and job title of the person you speak to and a summary of what was said. This is particularly good practice if you speak to lots of different universities within a short period of time.

You can talk to as many universities as you like, but you can only make one Clearing choice at a time via UCAS Track, and you can only enter a choice after 3pm on results day. 

Remember: you should only put down a clearing choice in UCAS Track if you have been given a verbal offer or had a verbal offer confirmed in writing via email.

Clearing acceptances tend to happen very quickly, and you will not have to wait very long for offers. After the university has accepted your Clearing application, they will send out an email and letter confirming the place.

Further Help

More information is available on the UCAS website https://www.ucas.com/. You will find an excellent how-to guide on Clearing. There are also many online forums where you can post queries and ask questions. Good luck!


Peter Panayotou is the Founder and Senior Consultant at leading CV Consultancy The Write Stuff: www.thewritestuff.co.uk

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