How to Prepare for UCAS Clearing, in case Exam Results are not as Expected

When pre-uni exams don’t go according to plan, UCAS Clearing is there to help…

Hopefully, you’ll get the results you need for your firm or insurance choice university. But if you miss your grades, all is not lost…you don’t need to give up on going to uni!

We’ve put together a simple guide to UCAS Clearing – what to do when you get your results, and importantly, how to prepare in advance in case you need Clearing, which will prevent panicking on results day, and help you secure a place on a course that’s a perfect fit for you!
In this article:

What is Clearing & Adjustment?

How to prepare in advance for Clearing

What to do on Results Day


Clearing and Adjustment


What is Clearing?

Clearing provides an opportunity to find the best degree course if you don’t get the grade requirements for your original choices, or if you didn’t get any offers you wanted to accept, or if you have changed your mind about what or where you’d like to study.


How does Clearing Work?

Universities and colleges use Clearing to fill any spare places on their courses, and they list vacancies on the UCAS website. You will need to call the institutions directly to see if they will accept you, and then make a final choice from any offers you receive.

You can check if you’re eligible for Clearing by signing into your UCAS Track on results day (15 August 2019).


What is Adjustment?

If you’ve done better than expected, and your grades have exceeded the requirement for your firm choice, you might want to reconsider where and what you want to study. The Adjustment system allows you to switch courses if places are available. The process is open for 5 days only, so register on UCAS Track as soon as you have your results, consider your options and make your choice within the allotted time. If you don’t find anything, you still keep your existing university place.

How to Prepare for Clearing

First of all, don’t worry! Thousands of students gain places through Clearing every year, they go on to love their time at uni, and suffer no consequences with career prospects.

A bit of preparation in advance and on results day, will make the whole process easier and less stressful, and increase your chances of getting a place on a course you really want.

Be Proactive


Things to do Before Results Day


1.  Have a Plan

Even if you’re fairly confident of getting the grades, it’s wise to plan for scenarios where you do worse (or better!) than expected.
Treat the Clearing process like a job application. You want to come across well in the telephone Clearing ‘interviews’ with universities, so some good preparation will help you feel more confident and perform better: do your research; think about your strengths and aspirations and why you want to do the course; note down questions and plan answers for the interviews; be enthusiastic and try to stay calm!


2.  Research universities/colleges & courses that interest you

You’ll have more options if you can be flexible e.g. consider courses that are similar to your original choices, or opt for joint honours degrees. Go for subjects you enjoy or that could help your career. Speak to your teachers/tutors, who can talk you through the various alternatives, and may suggest courses you had not even considered.

  • Review course content to make sure it covers the subjects you want to study.
  • Check the entry requirements, but bear in mind that requirements are often lowered during Clearing, so you might be accepted even if you don’t quite meet the grades.
  • Look at other important criteria like quality of teaching, employability, student satisfaction, location and type of university, accommodation options and anything else that matters to you.


3.  Make a shortlist

Shortlist your preferred courses, noting Clearing contact details and website links, so you’re ready to act quickly on results day.


4.  Check availability

Courses are listed on the UCAS website from early July, although most universities only publish their vacancies from results day. Keep checking availability, as the list will be constantly updated, but bear in mind that many good options will be taken early on. Clearing generally closes around the end of October.
Things move fast on results day, so it’s best to double-check vacancies on the university’s website and get on the phone if you’re interested in a place. Prepare well before you call, to boost your chances of success!


5.  Re-read your personal statement from your UCAS application

Refresh your memory about why you applied for a particular course, your personal qualities and achievements that will support your case. Mention any additional recent relevant experience or qualifications, during the Clearing interviews.


6.  Prepare questions to ask

Clearing interviews are a 2-way conversation: university staff want to gauge if you’re right for them, but equally, it’s an opportunity for you to judge if it’s the best course for you. Prepare questions to show your interest, and to gather the info you need to make the right decision.


  • Are there any open days, or opportunities to visit the university?
  • Do you offer support with careers or work placements?
  • Will there be accommodation options for this year?
  • Would I be able to apply for a bursary?
  • Can you give me an idea of typical living costs?


7.  Plan answers to Clearing interview questions

Think what you might be asked and note down suitable responses.

Common examples:

  • What are your qualifications?
  • Why do you think you didn’t achieve the results you had hoped for?
  • Why are you applying to this University?
  • Why are you interested in this course?
  • Why have you changed your mind on what you want to study?


8.  Follow on social

Follow your preferred unis on social media and check out student forums, to gain an insight into what life is really like there. You can get in touch for quick answers on courses, applications or student life.


9.  Sort your student financing

There’s no need to wait until you have a confirmed offer before applying for a student loan or other student finance. Try to sort this early on, as you won’t have much time between confirming a Clearing place and starting your course! If your plans change, you can simply amend or cancel your funding application.


10.  Consider your options

If you don’t find a course you want to do, don’t worry, you still have good options! Consider some of the great apprenticeship schemes out there, or think about taking a productive gap year and reapplying the following year. You could bump up your grades with exam retakes, find some relevant work experience, or travel the world and pick up some valuable life skills.

Things to do on Results Day


 1.  Clear diary, clear head

Set aside time on results day (and a few days after), to give your full attention to the task. Results day can be extremely busy for universities and the best courses fill up fast. So, free up your diary, find a calm space with decent WiFi, have your info to hand and start phoning around.
Get organised


2.  Call any universities and colleges you’re interested in

Start with a call to your first choice and insurance universities; many will still accept people who have missed their grades, so it’s definitely worth asking. But if not, don’t fret, because Clearing is designed to help you find a course that will suit you perfectly well.

It’s natural to feel nervous, but remember that universities and colleges want to fill their vacancies, and their staff will be keen to reassure and help you. Just try to relax and show some enthusiasm for the institution and course you’re applying for.


3.  Info to have at hand when you make your calls

  • University/college Clearing phone number
  • Your contact details
  • Your log-in details for UCAS Track
  • Your Clearing number from Track
  • Your exam results: A-level, AS-level, GCSEs (or equivalent), including marks for key modules
  • Your personal statement
  • Your notes about the university and course, including why you want to apply
  • Your questions
  • Your answers to anticipated questions
  • Details of anyone you have already contacted at the university


4.  Make notes

Jotting down notes during the calls will help you recall important points from each conversation, and keeps you focussed when you’re feeling nervous.


5.  Ask for email confirmation of offers

If you receive a verbal offer, as for email confirmation including how long it remains valid, to avoid any misunderstanding; (most offers are valid for 12-48 hours).

You can ring as many universities as you want, to collect other offers before deciding which one you would like to accept.


6.  Don’t give up!

If a call doesn’t go too well, just take a deep breath, refocus, and move on to the next. Try to stay positive and be persistent! Even if a university does not offer you a place first time round, if there are still vacancies, there’s no harm in calling again the next day – it will certainly demonstrate enthusiasm and determination!


7.  Enter your Clearing choice on UCAS Track

Once you have verbal offers from universities/colleges, decide which one you want to accept and enter your choice on Track at the allotted time (after 3pm on results day 15 August 2019). You can only add one Clearing choice at a time, so be sure you want to accept the offer.
Don’t commit to studying something for the next few years if you’re undecided – it might be better to take a gap year and reapply later.
If results day doesn’t go as planned, we hope this guide helps you through UCAS Clearing and you’ll go on to enjoy an amazing experience at uni! Things will turn out OK!
Read Jess’s report of how Clearing worked for her (3 years on she has just graduated with a 2:1, she’s starting out in her chosen career and is planning to apply for a Masters!)
Dip into HelloGrads for tons more tips for uni and beyond.
We wish you the Best of Luck!

Find out more about Clearing from UCAS and Uni Compare.


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