Clearing: finding a place at university

Every year, many students miss the grades for their conditional offer and find themselves without a university or college place.

Group of students sitting and laughing

If this happens to you, don't worry. You may still be able to secure a higher education place through clearing. Clearing is a process that operates between mid July and September.

Results day

Achieved your expected results

If you have achieved your expected grades and meet the conditions of your university offer(s), the university or college will confirm your place in Track (the UCAS application tracking system). You should receive details from the university or college about what to do next and will be able to view your confirmation letter in Track, five to seven days after your place is confirmed.
You can find out more about what your results mean on the 'Apply and track' section of the UCAS website.

Missed grades

If you've only just missed your grades, contact the university or college that offered you the conditional place. There may still be opportunities on your preferred course. If the course is not full, there may be room for negotiation regarding your grades. If the university or college that gave you a conditional offer still cannot offer you a place, then you can turn to the clearing system.

If you have not received any offers, your offers have not been confirmed or you have declined the courses on your UCAS form, you may be able to take part in Clearing. You will need to check your online UCAS application form using 'Track' to see if you are eligible for Clearing as UCAS will not contact you to advise this. If you are eligible for Clearing an 'Add Clearing choice' button will appear on your Track 'choices' screen which you can use to apply for a course.

If you have difficulties accessing the UCAS website to review your application form, or have any questions about the clearing process, you can contact the UCAS Customer Service team on 0871 468 0468. See the 'Further information' section below for more details.

Better grades than expected?

UCAS have introduced the Adjustment process for students who receive better grades than they expected. It provides an opportunity for you to consider what and where you would like to study. You can find out more about the Adjustment Process and whether you are eligible on the UCAS website. The adjustment process is available for a short time from A-Level results day.

Finding a course through clearing

Follow the advice below to take you through the process.

Step one: Get some advice

Talk through your ideas and options with a careers adviser or Connexions adviser at your school, college or local careers office. They can help you decide which courses and subjects would be most suitable for you. You don't have to stick to the subject choices you made originally - there may be other areas which might suit you better.

Step two: Look at the course vacancies available

Course vacancies throughout the UK are published on the UCAS website and in The Telegraph newspaper after the A level results have been published. The lists are updated continually, but not all universities, colleges and courses have vacancies in Clearing, and some vacancies fill up quickly! Unfortunately there is no guarantee that places will be available on any particular course but things change and a course that appears full may have vacancies later. Keep checking the vacancy list to see the latest information.

Look through the details and record the names of the courses you're interested in. Check that you meet the minimum requirements of the courses. These will be listed in the vacancy information. Think of all the questions you have about the course and why you are interested in the course. Make a list of what qualities you will bring to the course. You need this information for the next step - contacting the admissions tutor for the course.

Step three: Contact universities and colleges that interest you

Once you have your exam results, you can contact universities and colleges about the possibility of gaining a place through Clearing. Phone the admissions tutor for the course you are interested in. Contact details will be listed with the vacancy information. When you contact a university or college they will ask for your Clearing Number to confirm that they can consider you in Clearing. They can then view your complete application immediately on our secure online system. Your Clearing Number is displayed on the 'welcome' page and 'choices' page in Track.
Answer any questions the admissions tutor asks you. This is your chance to show how much you are interested in the course and what qualities you will bring to the course.

Step four: Accepting an offer through clearing

Don't rush into a decision! Do take time to do some background research so you are confident you can spend three or four years at that institution. See our Choosing a university page. If you are really unsure, you could consider taking a gap year and reapplying for the next academic year, or deferring your application. 
Most universities and colleges have open days or can arrange someone to show you around before you accept their offer. You can also arrange to discuss your support needs with a member of the Disability/ Student Support Team and find out the support linked to the programme you are interested in. If you realise the course or university isn't right for you, keep looking. There's a good chance that you'll find similar options somewhere else.
When you are speaking to different universities and colleges, you may be informally offered several places. You will need to decide which offer you want to accept. When you know you want to accept a course offer you can add a Clearing choice to your application.

Step five: Adding a clearing choice

If a university or college provisionally offers you a place in Clearing, they will give you a date by which you must enter their course details on the UCAS 'Track' system. If you want to be formally considered, you need to select the 'Add Clearing choice' button and enter the course details. You can only enter details for one choice so only enter a Clearing choice if the university or college has provisionally offered you a place on the course and you want to accept it. 

Step six: Confirming your place

Once complete, UCAS will contact then university or college and let them know that you have entered their details on Track. If the university or college accepts you, the acceptance will be displayed in the 'choices' section of Track. UCAS will send you a Confirmation letter to let you know your place is confirmed and advise if there is anything else you need to do now. Once you receive this letter, your place is officially confirmed. If you are not accepted, the 'Add Clearing choice' link in Track will be reactivated so that you can apply to another choice in Clearing.
By taking up this place, you accept the university's or college's terms and conditions, so you must read all about them in their prospectus or other published materials. You cannot apply to another university or college for the same year.
Don’t forget to apply for Disabled Student’s Allowance, if you haven’t done so already or see if any changes need to be made to your original application. Contact the Disability Adviser at your chosen university for support with this application or visit the Disabled Students Allowances pages for more information.

Melanies story: How clearing worked for me!

Melanie, 24, from Wigan, applied for courses at several places during her A Levels. When she visited the universities shortly before getting her results, she started to have second thoughts. On the day of her A Level results, Melanie was disappointed that she hadn't received the grades to get into any of the universities she preferred:

"I found out that I had actually got the grades to get into a large university in the heart of a busy city. My heart sank as this no longer suited what had become very important requirements. At the time I applied mobility was not such a problem, so I was leaving my options open. Looking back, perhaps I should have taken more care and chosen all campus universities just in case.

My mum, who always backs me in my decisions, started to realise that I was going off the idea of university completely. But she'd read that there can still be good quality university places available, because people turn down their first choices. It doesn't mean that the universities or courses are inferior - but to get a place, you do have to go through the clearing system.

Mum asked me if I had thought about declining the offer and trying to go through clearing to get a place at a campus university instead. I hadn't really considered this as an option. But I found out that when you decline an offer, you get sent a form and can then apply to a different university. I felt so much better and optimistic!"

Melanie and her mum immediately got to work researching possible places:

"When I found a college that looked like it would suit me, I rang them up and asked if could visit to discuss the possibility of me studying there. They were helpful and suggested I came down to look around.

We met with the disability adviser. They could tell that my main worry was where I would be living, so they showed me a small annexe connected to the university with a private bathroom. I thought that was a good compromise. I loved the feel of the university, it was not as far away from home as the one I had first got into and everyone was really friendly. I am now a minute's walk from the entrance to the university and not too far away from the seaside, which also suits me because I am getting out and about and love taking part in sailing at the weekends!

Don't worry if you don't get your grades - you will probably get a place through clearing and will end up having lots of fun at university!" 

Further information

Find out more about clearing at university clearing through UCAS page or through the UCAS website. If you have difficulties accessing the UCAS website to complete your application form, or have any questions about the clearing process, you can contact the UCAS Customer Service team on 0871 468 0468, Monday to Friday, 08:30-18:00 (UK time) and calls from UK BT landline will cost no more than 9p per minute. Calls from mobiles and other networks may vary.