Clearing may seem daunting and confusing, but it boils down to a simple concept: it’s your last opportunity to apply for any unfilled places on university courses in 2020.
Clearing has traditionally offered a safety net for students who didn’t achieve the grades they needed for their conditional offer. However, it’s increasingly being used as a chance to change your mind about the course you want to study or the university you want to go to. It’s even open to applicants who have decided late to go into higher education.
If you’re thinking about going into Clearing this year, here is everything you need to do to make sure you’re prepared to make the most of the opportunity it offers you:
1) Understand the point of Clearing
Sometimes a university approaches the end of the applications period having not filled a course. This could be for a number of reasons, such as some students holding provisional offers for the course not achieving their required grades. The university may then decide to put these spare places into Clearing, offering them to students who have found themselves without an offer or confirmed place at a late stage, sometimes with a reduced grade requirement (i.e. offering them to applicants who have been awarded grades lower than the original requirement).
2) Check your eligibility for Clearing
If you previously applied to a course but didn’t achieve the target grades, you can contact your university to see if you will still be accepted through Clearing. However you can also speak to your university about other courses that have places available, or indeed to other universities that have courses you are interested in. Clearing is also an opportunity to make a late decision to go into higher education if you didn’t originally apply to any university, for example if you are reconsidering taking a gap year.
Essentially, you are eligible for Clearing if:
- you’re applying after 30 June
- you didn’t receive any offers (or none you wanted to accept)
- you didn’t meet the conditions of your offers
- you’ve changed your mind about a course or university (and have declined your firm place using the ‘decline my place’ button in UCAS Track)
3) Keep track of the key dates of Clearing
Clearing covers the last 15 weeks of the applications period, running up to the point at which universities will accept no more applicants to start this year. The key dates to be aware of are:
Monday 6th July: Clearing starts / International Baccalaureate Results Day
By this date universities will begin publishing details of which courses have places still available. Students who find out their International Baccalaureate results may decide to enter Clearing at this point.
Tuesday 4th August: SQA Results Day in Scotland.
Thursday 13th August: A-Level Results Day in England and Wales.
These are the busiest days in Clearing, as they are when applicants and universities find out if they have achieved the grades to meet their conditional offer and the process will be flooded with applicants and places that have been released.
Tuesday 20th October: Clearing ends.
This is the last day universities will offer places through Clearing, although the vast majority of places are likely to have gone by this point.
4) Think about your choice of course in Clearing
It’s ok to change your mind. If you’re having second thoughts about your direction of study, Clearing is a brilliant opportunity for you to talk about other options, and your university is totally fine with that! We want you to finish the course you start, so getting that decision right now is important for everyone.
UEA offers a number of courses across most subjects, so even if you know the area of study you want to go into you may find a course that is more suited to what you want to learn, or how you want to learn, or what you want to go on to do afterwards. For inspiration, check out our Course Finder – an online tool that allows you to browse our vast range of course options.
5) Reach out for Clearing advice and reassurance
It’s harder to get advice this year, but speaking to the people in your network who can offer another viewpoint is not only going to give you a better perspective on the universities and courses out there, it’s also going to give you much more confidence and positivity about going into Clearing and getting a great opportunity to commence your higher education.
So reach out to your school or college if you are able to – careers advisors are well-prepared to advise, but also teachers are a good source of insider advice. Also think about other people among your family and friends who know about or have been to university and can give you insights into what particular universities and courses are like. UEA’s HE Advisers are another resource that is on hand to provide guidance – check out their AMAs on Instagram every Wednesday @uniofeastanglia.
6) Do your Clearing homework on universities
A lot of factors go into how people choose universities and courses – there’s the academic side such as course offering, facilities and reputation, and then there’s the non-academic considerations such as the accommodation, the campus, the location and the feel of student life. Making judgments on these factors is often condensed in Clearing, but you do not want to be doing this on the morning of Results Day, so start looking around now.
Even if you have a university in mind, or already have offers from universities but are interested in others, you can still enquire about courses through their social media channels or websites. And many universities are currently offering virtual open days – these are a perfect opportunity to discover more without a need to travel to the campus. You can find out more about our upcoming virtual open day and register your interest now.
When Clearing is underway available spaces on courses (otherwise known as course openings) will be updated live on the UCAS website, so you can monitor the courses you are interested in and browse around other potential options.
7) Get your Clearing application set up on UCAS
If you haven't already applied, you need to register on the UCAS website and make an application for 2020 entry. Once you've sent your application and received your welcome email, you can see how it's progressing by signing in to UCAS Track, the online application system.
If on Results Day you haven’t met your offer’s grade requirements (and you fulfil the eligibility requirements for Clearing outlined in step 2), your application will be automatically entered into Clearing. You will be given a Clearing number, which is displayed in Track. You can also choose to enter Clearing manually if you’ve had a change of mind, but you must do so via the UCAS website so that you have a Clearing number to give to the university you speak to.
8) Do your Clearing application prep
If you’ve got a good idea of the universities and courses you’re interested in, here’s a pro tip: note down their Clearing contact details now. These are available on the UCAS search tool or via university website Clearing pages. You’ll want these to hand when you’re waiting for the phonelines to open – UEA’s Clearing hotline is 01603 591 515 and will be live on A Level Results Day (4th August).
Second pro tip: prepare for Clearing like a job interview. You’ll have questions – make sure you’ve got them noted down and prepared, and that you have the ability to make notes as you ask them. But be prepared for the university to have questions too – think about how you would answer potential questions such as Why are you interested in applying to our course?
9) Be ready for Clearing on Results Day
Try to be well rested, eat well, look after yourself – you want to be going into Clearing in the best condition to think fast. There’s no limit to how many universities you can contact, or indeed to how many ‘verbal offers’ you can receive via Clearing. But there is a time frame to be aware of – your university will tell you the deadline by which you must add the details of your Clearing choice in UCAS Track. And you must also consider that your accommodation choices may become more limited the longer you take to decide.
When you’re ready to commit to your choice, simply click ‘add Clearing choice’ and fill in the course details (you’ll only be able to accept one place through UCAS). You’ll then need to wait while the university checks the details (such as your grade results) match those you gave in your interview and manually confirms the decision to accept you via UCAS.
If you’re accepted, UCAS will send you an email to tell you that the status has changed and that you need to check Track. You can then view and print your acceptance letter - a handy document to have when opening a student bank account. If for any reason the university can’t offer you a place, you can still contact other universities to see whether there are other vacancies of interest.
10) Relax. You’ve got this.
Clearing is a great opportunity to go to almost any university, or find a course in almost any subject, and lots of students participate in the process every year. In the first four days of Clearing last year UEA made 1,433 offers!