Clearing – Reasons for Panic or the Route to Your Dream Course?


If you’re planning on heading into higher education (HE) this year, you may have just about finished all your A-level examinations. Congratulations! You made it, and now your summer has officially begun.

However, if you’re feeling some trepidation about your next steps, in particular, the lack of certainty surrounding where you’ll be in September, we might be able to put your mind at ease. Today we’ll be talking about the HE route that strikes fear into the more organised of us (but is a savior for others) – Clearing.  

A-level Results

During your A-level (or equivalent) studies, you will have almost certainly sat down with your careers advisor to talk about those ‘critical’ next steps that parents can’t seem to stop banging on about (the world will continue to spin, Mum, regardless of my C+). One route that almost half of school leavers in the UK choose is HE. If gaining a degree, for example, has always been your plan, you will probably have submitted yo

ur UCAS application and got back your offers – if you planned well, you would have made a broad selection of HE providers that includes at least one safety option (a contingency for acute examination stress), a smattering of achievable choices and perhaps one or two top-draw stretches (the equivalent of a what if episode of your favourite sitcom).

Each HE institution would have reviewed your application and either offered you an unconditional offer (the golden ticket), a conditional offer (the normal ticket) or rejected you altogether (the ticket for that one-person show no one wants to watch). If, like most, you’ve received conditional offers, you’re now in results purgatory – patiently awaiting that letter that will seal your fate. So where does Clearing fit it?

Clearing Explained

Clearing is the process that describes HE providers filling leftover spaces on courses. If you didn’t achieve the necessary results for your conditional offer, for example, there would be a you-shaped hole left on that course. Likewise, if you had second thoughts about your choices, you can formally reject all your offers and play you luck in Clearing. The final way to enter Clearing is simply by doing nothing – by which we mean, submitting your UCAS application late. If you miss the cut-off date, usually in January of your final year of sixth form or college, you will have to go through Clearing if you want a place on an HE course.

How It Works  

If you fulfill the conditions and you have a UCAS account, you’ll automatically be assigned a Clearing number. From here, you can start checking Clearing vacancies via the UCAS platform (HE providers usually begin posting their availabilities in early July). If you see one you like the look of, you can contact the institution directly to inquire about the positions available and find the answers to questions like – Help me, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, and Please take pity on me, my brain stops functioning when I take examinations. In addition to answering your stress-induced pleas, they’ll be able to give you details on the Clearing application process and tell you what you’ll need to send to be accepted for their course. Some HE providers host special Clearing days where you can tour the campus and meet the department head, lecturers and support staff. It’s always advisable to try and make it to one of these Clearing open days to get a feel for student life at that particular HE provider.  

How To Solve a Problem Like Clearing

Little known fact, Andrew Lloyd Webber dropped out of Oxford University after just one term; perhaps he should have gone through Clearing to find another HE provider? Anyway… So you want some quick Clearing facts? First of all, Clearing criteria (both grades and material needed) differs for each institution, so get prepared by listing all the providers you’re interested in and contacting them to find out what they need to see to offer you a place. Clearing officially starts on 16th August 2018 and the deadline is 23rd October 2018. Around those early days, it may be particularly challenging to contact an HE providers admissions department as a whole herd of students have chosen the Clearing route; for this reason, we suggest making a priority list and working through it methodically.

After talking with the admissions department, you either will or won’t receive a verbal offer from the HE provider. If you do receive a formal offer, you can then enter the details of the offer via the UCAS Clearing platform. From here you can track your application to make sure everything progresses as agreed.

Our final insight is to remember that there is no limit to the number of verbal offers you can gain. Why not make it a challenge to get as many offers as possible; our record is a whopping 17 (disclaimer – this may not be true and is certainly not advisable).

Got any Clearing questions? Post them below or get in contact!  



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