Literally EYNTK about university Clearing

6 mins
18 Aug 2022
guide to university clearing

The clearing process is waaaay simpler than you might think

words Megan Wallace

Another year, another slew of A-Level results and students receiving their long-awaited grades. After two years and a full-blown pandemic, young people across England, Wales and Northern Ireland opened the A4-sized envelopes that let them know the final outcome of many late nights studying.

A guide to Clearing

This year’s cohort is the first to have actually sat exams since before the pandemic, so expectations were pretty huge and, for the students affected, potentially extremely nerve-wracking. Already, we’re beginning to gain an overall picture how students this year fared with details emerging that the percentage of people gaining A and A* grades has dropped by 8.4% on last year and that 20,360 students who applied to go to university did not get a place.

If you’re one of the individuals who didn’t quite get the grades or offers you expected, that doesn’t mean that university or further education is off the cards – far from it. We’re often sold the idea that there’s only one route to university but, for many people, there are twists and turns in the road and that don’t mean that you won’t reach your destination.

One way to expand your options is the Clearing process, by which you can gain access to courses which have remaining spaces. To discover more, Woo contacted UCAS, the National Union of Students and The Student Room to bring you an expert-led guide. TLDR: If you're currently in Clearing and don't know what to do, we've got your back!

What is clearing?

First up, let’s cover the basics. You might have heard of Clearing before, but what does it really mean? “You can apply for a course using Clearing if you’re not already holding an offer from a university or college, and the course still has places,” writes a representative from UCAS in an email to Woo.

Basically, this process matches individuals who don’t yet have a destination for the forthcoming academic year with courses and universities that are still looking for students. Think of it as academic match-making.

Who is Clearing for?

Okay, sounds simple enough - right? Next up, it’s good to know who Clearing is really for. You can apply through Clearing if any of the below applies to you:

  • You’re applying for university after 30 June
  • You haven't received any offers (or at least none you want to accept)
  • You haven't met the conditions of your offers
  • You have declined your firm place using the ‘decline my place’ button in your UCAS application
  • You've paid the multiple choice application fee of £26.50

"Almost 50,000 students in the UK were accepted onto a course via clearing in 2021, and that number has been even higher in previous years," Vice President for Further Education at the National Union of Students (NUS), Bernie Savage, told Woo. "Clearing can be a great way to find an institution or a course you hadn’t previously considered, and lots of students go onto be successful and really enjoy their course after going through clearing."

When is Clearing?

Now you know a bit more about what Clearing is and who can apply, it's good to know what the Clearing dates actually are. Contrary to popular belief, Clearing doesn't begin on A-Levels results day (Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers results came out on 9 August this year, for starters).

Clearing this year is already open, beginning on 5 July, and closes on 18 October.

How much does clearing cost?

According to the official UCAS website, if you already purchased the multiple choice application fee of £26.50, you don't have to pay anything additional for Clearing. If you opted to apply to only one course and therefore paid the reduced fee of £22, you will be asked to pay an additional £4.50 to apply through Clearing.

What is the Clearing Process?

Clearing sounds complicated, right? In reality that's far from the truth. Here are the different stages of the Clearing process, according to UCAS.

  1. First steps: Log into your UCAS account, search for courses with vacancies on the UCAS website (keep checking in and refreshing, as more will be added with time) and find your Clearing number and Personal ID on your application.
  2. Call the university: Before you add a Clearing choice of your preferred course and university in your application, you need to call the university and give them your Clearing number and Personal ID, so they can look it up. When on the call, ask the university if they'd accept you – they might reconsider you (maybe for the same course) even if you applied to them earlier in the year.
  3. Shop around: get informal offers over the phone – maybe from a variety of universities and colleges – then decide which one you want to accept.
  4. Do your research: ask about accommodation options – are there any on-campus? Take a look around the campus – if you have the time, it's the best way to see what a university/college is like – most will be happy to meet you and show you around. Alternatively, see if they have a virtual tour or a virtual open day.
  5. Add a Clearing choice to your application: you can only add one at a time, but if your preferred option doesn't accept you, you can add another selection.

Clearing top tips, according to experts

Bernie Savage, Vice President for Further Education at the National Union of Students (NUS)

"Courses will start filling up after results day as people go through Clearing, but there’s no need to rush into making a choice. Clearing closes on 18th October this year, so if you’re not totally sure don’t feel like you need to make a rash decision"

"It’s good to keep your options open and have a look at courses you might not have previously considered, to make sure you make the best decision for you. Speak to your parents or guardians, teachers and friends for advice or if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just remember – a lot of people have been through this process."

Grace Etheridge, Community Engagement Manager at The Student Room

"It’s really important to make sure that whatever course you’re choosing in Clearing is something that you feel excited about and where you can see yourself for the next three or four years."

"The questions you ask on the Clearing call should reflect what’s important to you about your university experience - whether that’s the mode of delivery (eg. in-person, hybrid, online), a city or campus university, whether you want to stay close to home or move away, the accommodation options available, whether you’d like a year in industry, and so on. Write a list and go through it on the call to make sure you get the answers you need to make your decision."

For further resources you can head to The Student Room for Clearing advice and tips

more stories

keep reading