Written by: jemma

Clearing is the process by which universities fill out any remaining spaces they may have from accepting direct applicants. Do not be fooled by the term, it is not 'clearing' out all the poor courses and you are not made any less of a priority. Plus, there are many reasons why a student may go into clearing, it does not mean you have failed. You can still get accepted into a highly prestigious university through the process.

Why would I need to go into clearing?

You are qualified for clearing if you have paid the full £22 UCAS fee and have applied for university for the current year. UCAS provides more information on your clearing eligibility.

Would I ever automatically go into clearing?

You will be automatically entered into clearing if:

  • You are not holding any offers by results day
  • You applied on UCAS after the 30th of June

If this is the case, ensure you do plenty of research and inform yourself on as much as possible before results day. Clearing is a process with time constraints, you do not want to be flustered and overwhelmed on the day. Here is how you can prepare:

time constraints

  • Consider what course you had originally chosen. Make a list of courses and combinations of courses you like and can look out for on results day. Not only this, consider ‘back-up courses‘.
  • Note down a list of universities that you are interested in. It is important to bear in mind that you are signing up for a minimum of 3 years education and will be leaving with a minimum of £27,000 worth of debt – research hard and ensure you are genuinely interested in the university.
  • Some universities post information regarding their clearing processes and vacancies weeks before results day. Get in touch asking for more information and let them know you are interested in attending. Taking the initiative and directly contacting the university may give you that competitive edge. Try to do this well in advance, however. The 3-4 day period before results is very busy for the universities and you may not be able to get in contact at this time.
  • It is very important that you still pay attention to entry requirements – do not expect that they will be lowered for clearing.

I am not expecting to be entered into clearing

research If you do not think you will be involved in clearing, it is still very important to do your research on the process, as mentioned above. This means that you can act rationally and avoid panic if you have entered clearing due to not fulfilling your conditional university offers. It will make way for a much easier and organised process.

Refer back to your shortlisted universities that you created when you applied, and find others with similar characteristics.

I want to go into clearing

In some cases, you may enter clearing by choice, for example:

  • If you no longer feel content about your firm and insurance choices
  • If you are doubtful as to whether you will get the grades for your firm choice and you are not happy with your insurance choice

Ideally, if you know you are not happy before results day, contact your university choices then so they can release you. It may take a day or two to release a student, so this is why it is not ideal to do this on results day when you should be focusing on the clearing process.

On results day: quick tips


  • For whatever reason you may be in clearing, it is important to stay calm and remain organised. Really ensure you are making the right choices for yourself.
  • Double check the list that you have pre-prepared. It is important to check again for updated information and add to your list. A good place to look is the UCAS website itself, it provides a complete list of all the available courses and universities on clearing. The list is continuously updated from results day onwards, so this is a great way to be constantly up-to-date on the clearing environment. University websites will also provide you with updates and information.
  • Do not skip out this step, the purpose of the prior research was to give you a guideline and to avoid you becoming overwhelmed.
  • Though clearing is dependent on time, do not rush – this is your future you are organising, do not apply to random universities on the UCAS list that “will do”.
  • If the process is too over-whelming and you can not find a university that you can fully commit to, take a gap year and reapply.

Beginning clearing: direct contact

phone call

Unless the university states otherwise, usually the way to get in direct contact with them is via telephone. From there, you will discuss your application and the university’s available places. If you are uncomfortable or get nervous talking on the telephone, here are some tips:

  • Try to relax. Give yourself some space where it is quiet and with no distractions. Open the window to let in fresh air, take deep breaths and focus.
  • Make notes of the main points you would like to get across, and the things you would like to take away from the call. This way you can read them off naturally without feeling on the spot and tick off things as you go along.
  • Refer to your personal statement and your current CV.
  • Make sure you listen to the receiver of the call, take down notes of what they say if it helps.
  • Also remember to take your time, think before you answer and try not to get flustered. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification if you did not understand what they said before.
  • It is important to remember that universities are very busy at this time, so you may be put on hold or just put through to an advisor.
  • Keep your UCAS details handy, including your clearing number which should show on your UCAS application. If you do not have it, you may still be able to discuss with the universities but you cannot move onto the second stage of clearing.
  • Ultimately, remember the three P’s: be prepared, professional and passionate!

Applying on UCAS

If you manage to get an offer for the university over the phone, well done.You can then move onto the second stage of clearing, which is adding a clearing choice on your UCAS track. For specific details on the process of this, visit the UCAS website. There is usually a limited amount of time for you to complete this process so make sure you get straight onto UCAS, otherwise the university may give your place to someone else. You can only add one at a time, so do not just add a university that takes an interest in you. Try to rank your university list in order and begin by getting in contact with your favourite one. That way, if they give you an offer, you can add it to your track straight away.

Good luck with the process! Be informed, keep calm and remember: there is no rush to get to university.

For more information, you can visit: The Student Room