No-panic university clearing guide

Your results may be expected or come as a total surprise. Either way, you’ll be full of emotions when you receive your final grades. This may include panic if you’ve not met the entry requirements for the course at your chosen universities.

It might feel like it, but we promise that this isn’t the end of the world, you’ll still be able to find a great course at a university you’ll love. All you need to do is take a breath and look for a new place through the clearing process. So don’t stress, this guide will give you all the information and tips you need.

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What is university clearing?

Clearing is when school or college leavers apply for unfilled places on university courses. Students often enter this process when their exam results haven’t met the entry requirements of their conditionally offered courses.

This process means each UK university can fill the places on their degree programmes. It also helps students take the qualification they want. The whole clearing process is completed via a student’s profile on the UCAS website.

Who can apply for clearing places?

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There are a range of reasons why students might apply to universities via the clearing process.

This includes those who:

  • Didn’t get the exam results they needed to have their first-choice or insurance offers accepted
  • Got better than expected results and want to change their university choice
  • Didn’t get any course offers after making their first application
  • Were waiting until results day to decide if they wanted to go to university
  • Have changed their mind about their chosen university and self-released from their offers

So, entering the clearing process doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a student and won’t get a place on a good course. In fact, it’s even possible to reapply to the same university. You just might need to be more flexible about the type of course you choose.

How does clearing work?

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Clearing works by letting universities offer spare places on their courses to students who haven’t yet secured and accepted an offer. To start the clearing process, you need to be registered on the UCAS Hub. If you’ve applied to go to university before, you will already have a profile on the site.

Once you’ve created or logged into your UCAS profile, follow these steps to start the process:

  • Look for course vacancies using the UCAS search tool. This will be kept up to date with the latest openings, so look regularly to see what’s there. If you can’t find a programme in the exact subject area you want, you might need to consider alternatives
  • Ring up university clearing numbers to check their requirements. Have your clearing number to hand so admissions tutors can look you up on the system. Ask if they’re likely to accept or reconsider you and get more details about the course and living options
  • If the university gives you permission, you can add your clearing choice to your UCAS profile. You’ll have to add in a few details from the admissions team. Once the university has confirmed your place, the offer is automatically accepted

If you’re still uncertain about your options, talk to an advisor at your school or college. They can recommend next steps based on your results and requirements. Or, have an honest chat with parents or friends—talking through your options can help you more clearly decide on the right path for you and pros and cons more objectively.

When can I apply through clearing?

The clearing process automatically opens after the exam season ends, and you’ll still have plenty of time from results day until the deadline to work through your options and make the right decision for you.

OPENS: 30 June


ENTER CLEARING: 15 August (exam results day)

DEADLINE: 21 October

Is a clearing place guaranteed?

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Unfortunately, clearing places are NOT guaranteed and the number of course places released through clearing is limited. Students still need to meet the entry requirements of any course they apply to for an offer to be sent.

Application forms are also processed on a first-come-first-served basis. To get into a programme you want at a university you like, it’s best to apply as early as possible.

Tips for university clearing

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You’ll no doubt be eager to jump online and start applying to any open places. But remember, you’ve got up until the October deadline to find a course that suits you. Going to university is a big decision, so make sure you follow these tips to find the best option for you:

  • Try to prepare ahead of time: looking up alternative universities and courses with various entry requirements from 5 July will give you an idea of your options before results day
  • Don’t rush into a decision: you’ll be spending three or more years at the university you choose, so you need to make sure it's right. Talk to the admissions team and, if possible go to a clearing open day for a look around
  • Think about accommodation and finance: ask your university about living options and update your student finance application as soon as you’ve confirmed your final place. Be prepared to be flexible. For example, you might need to stay at home for your first year
  • Consider other options: if you’ve not managed to find a place through clearing or aren’t sure you want to start the process, don’t worry. You can have a gap year and reapply later, take a foundation degree or look at apprenticeships and technical qualifications

Whether you decide to apply for a course through clearing or not, make sure you celebrate your results and your achievement—you accomplished a great thing! By taking time to consider your options, you’ll figure out what you really want and make the next best step for your future.

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