Ahead of A Level results day, How does UCAS clearing work?

Dusty Baxter-Wright
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From Cosmopolitan

Not getting the A-Level results you need is not the end of the world. While getting your first university choice was the plan before, if you don't quite get them on Results Day (Thursday 15 August 2019), there are options available to you that you might not have considered before. Whether that's apprenticeships, internships and UCAS Clearing, do not fret if you miss your university offer!

While apprenticeships allow you to gain qualifications while working and internships help you to break into the industry of your choosing off the bat, UCAS clearing is a way of still going to university. It might not be a university or course that was originally on your choice list, but that doesn't mean you can't still go there. Here's everything you need to know about UCAS clearing, from how to use it, what your options are, and when it opens.

What is UCAS Clearing?

UCAS Clearing gives anyone who didn't meet the conditions of their offer, didn't receive any offers - or anyone that accepted no offers - the opportunity to go to university. You can apply until 23 October providing you are not already holding an offer from a university or college, and the course you're applying to still has space.

64,300 applicants obtained places through Clearing last summer in subjects from law to English, so it's important to recognise the courses in Clearing aren't just the ones nobody wants. There are places at top universities or on sought after courses on Clearing, for a whole number of reasons.

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How does UCAS clearing work?

Essentially, any universities or colleges that still have places on their courses will fill these through Clearing, which is an ideal way for someone that perhaps missed out on their first choice university to do the same course, elsewhere. Alternatively, you can go to the same university to do a different course.

Once you've found a course and university that you like the look of through the search tool on UCAS, you contact them directly to see if you can fill the place on their course. Before you do that, though, there is a process you have to go through.

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  1. If you haven't already signed up to UCAS and applied to university, you need to register and make an application, in order for the universities to see what you're like. UCAS note that you're only able to add a course choice from Clearing once you've submitted your application, which is when they'll send you your Clearing number and how to access Track.
  2. Once you're into Clearing, you can search for vacancies for different courses at different universities or colleges, and try to find a place you want. When you're found one you like, contact the university directly, agree on whether you're a good fit for the vacancy, and add the course in Track.

How do I get onto the course I want on Clearing?

Right, so this is the important bit. Before adding a university to your Clearing choice in Track, you have to call them and express your interest, give them your Clearing number and Personal ID (many places will use your UCAS ID from your previous application), and let them look up your application and consider whether they want to accept you.

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You have to be accepted by the university over the phone in a verbal agreement before you add them to your Clearing application. You need their permission before you click 'Add Clearing choice', so that you can fill in the course details by the closing date they gave you on the phone.

This counts as you accepting the offer, so once the university confirms the details you've entered are correct, it'll show as your accepted offer on your 'Choices' page. However, if a university doesn't confirm your place for whatever reason, even after you've added them as your Clearing choice, you can continue applying for other courses.

So only add the course and university on UCAS if you've had a verbal agreement over the phone - they will just reject your application if you haven't prior discussed it.

Anything else I should know about Clearing?

1. You can only apply at a certain time on results day

Though you'll likely get your exam results as soon as possible tomorrow morning, Clearing doesn't open for A level students until 3pm. If you get your exam results before then and know you're going into Clearing, you can contact universities in advance to get invitations to add a university/course as a Clearing choice when the option appears later on UCAS Track. Students can gather as many offers as they like, but only accept one on Track - so spend your morning phoning around and seeing what your options are.

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2. It may cost you

In order to be eligible for Clearing, you must have paid the full £24 UCAS application fee - which you should have done already, unless you only paid £11 and made a single choice, in which case you will need to pay a further £11.

3. You find vacant university places on their websites and on UCAS

The majority of universities will publish course vacancies on their own websites, which will also likely include more information on what grades are suitable and how to apply. UCAS update their website frequently, removing any places that have been filled, and The Student Room say The Daily Telegraph also publish a list of all the Clearing vacancies on A-Level results day, as well as offering an app list.

Essentially, if you didn't get into a university for whatever reason first time round, that doesn't mean it's the end of the road for you. A whole host of courses and universities will be available on the 14th, so who knows? You might even end up on a more suitable course or campus than you originally planned.

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