Clearing – The Shaping Futures Guide

Last year over 64,000 students were accepted to full time university courses through UCAS clearing and this year similar numbers of students look set to use the UCAS Clearing service. If you aren’t holding any offers, or think that your exam results might not have gone to plan, Clearing might be the best option for you, so we’ve pulled together some of the main queries about what Clearing is and how to use it, ready for you to refresh yourself with ahead of the big day this Thursday (Reminder: A Level Results Day takes place on Thursday August 18th!)


What is Clearing? 

Clearing is a UCAS service where student who aren’t holding any university offers can search for courses which still have places and which might accept them. Students can then contact the university directly to see if they’ll offer them a place.

Who is eligible for Clearing? 

Student who aren’t holding any university offers. This might be you if you didn’t get the grades required for your firm or insurance choices, if you didn’t receive any offers after your application, or you rejected all your offers. You’ll know you’re in Clearing if your UCAS Track status says ‘You are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’ and you have a Clearing number. Your Clearing number should be in the top left hand corner of your screen.

How does Clearing work?

If you’re in Clearing and want to find a university place you need to start by searching for courses that you’re interested in. Lists of courses in Clearing appear on the UCAS website, the Telegraph and on each individual institutions website. When you’ve found a course, or courses which you’re interested in you should call the university directly to see if they’ll offer you a place.

When you call your university they’ll ask for your Clearing number, so make sure you have it to hand. Your Clearing number will allow them to pull up your application. They’ll ask you for your grades and might ask you some questions, these are just designed to see if the course would suit you, and whether you meet any additional entry requirements they have – for example work experience. Although a Clearing call is very stressful, it’s important to keep calm and answer any questions as best you can – the advisers you speak to on the phone will understand the stress you’re under and will be very understanding.

After a conversation with you universities will either make you a verbal offer, or decline to make you an offer. If they decline to make you an offer, it’s back to the Clearing vacancies list to try another university – don’t be too disheartened!

If a university makes you an offer and you accept you need to confirm that you accept the offer with the university – each university will have different rules about how they want you to accept the offer. Some will take a verbal confirmation, some will want an email, or letter confirmation. You also need to ‘Add a Clearing’ choice in your UCAS Track, and add the course you have accepted.

Can I get more than one Clearing offer? 

Yes! You can contact more than one university and be made more than one Clearing offer, then make your decision. If you’re unsure on what you’d like to do, it can be helpful to get offers and then do further research, or even visit the university if you can to make sure you’re choosing a course you’ll enjoy. However the offers you’re made in Clearing will have a time limit on them, so make sure you make your decision within the specified time frame.


What should I think about when picking a course in Clearing? 

You might be able to choose a course that’s really similar to the ones you originally applied for in Clearing, but if not it can be useful to consider similar courses which might share a lot of content. Some courses can be quite similar but have different names – for example International Politics and Politics can have lots of shared content, and you can customise further through module selection (We’ve linked the International Politics and Policy and Politics courses at the University of Liverpool for comparison). You might also want to consider courses which are different to your original because they’re joint honours programmes, or include a Year in Industry.

You should also think carefully about the university you choose – think about what made you choose your original universities and bear that in mind. If being in a big city was really important to you all the way through, you shouldn’t choose a rural campus an hour away from a city just because it has places. If societies or study abroad opportunities were a draw for you, don’t give up on that just because you’ve gone into Clearing, search for a university that has a similar offer.

It’s important to make sure you choose a course through Clearing that you’ll enjoy, and will benefit you – although it’s a pressurized situation you shouldn’t rush into a decision just to have a university place, it needs to be the best university place for you.

If I think I’m going to go into Clearing, can I start preparing now? 

Absolutely! Provisional Clearing lists are live now on UCAS, the Telegraph and university websites. Start to research into alternative course you’d be interested in and make a shortlist ahead of time. You should also make sure you’ve got all the relevant information you might need to hand; a copy of your personal statement, your contact information, GCSE grades and information on any work experience or anything relevant you might want to tell a university about would be helpful to gather ahead of time. You can also read the Shaping Futures Guide to Results Day for general tips on preparing for Results Day.

There are no courses I want to do in Clearing, what should I do now? 

Clearing vacancies are updated all the time, it’s important to keep checking back to see if a course you’re interested in has vacancies. However, if there isn’t a course you’d like to do, you might want to look at alternative options like apprenticeships, college courses or even resitting your A Levels to improve your grades. If your course is highly selective, or doesn’t have many places, you might even want to take a gap year and reapply for the next UCAS cycle. Your teachers or support staff at your school or college will be able to give you advice tailored to your specific circumstances, so it’s important to talk to them.

Where can I find out more about Clearing?

The UCAS website has lots of information and helpful videos about Clearing. You might also find visiting The Student Room, where you can get information and chat to lots of students in a similar position to you, helpful. Each university website will also have it’s own dedicated Clearing section, where you can find information specific to that institution. You can also tweet us @ShapingFutures_ and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

All of the Shaping Futures team are wishing everyone luck with both Results Day and Clearing!