Clearing: Get the result you wanted

If you can be flexible and have the grades, the clearing system could be perfect for you
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The Independent Online

This short guide to Clearing has been written by UCAS for applicants who plan to start courses at UK universities and colleges in autumn 2003. We hope you find it useful.

This short guide to Clearing has been written by UCAS for applicants who plan to start courses at UK universities and colleges in autumn 2003. We hope you find it useful.

WHAT IS CLEARING?

If you find yourself without a place at university or college after you've received your exam results, then the UCAS Clearing service may be just what you need.

Clearing runs from mid-July to mid-September, and helps people find suitable vacancies on full-time undergraduate courses at UK universities and colleges after the main UCAS application period has finished. Last year more than 39,000 people found places through Clearing.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M ELIGIBLE FOR CLEARING?

You will be eligible to use the Clearing service if:

* you don't hold any offers from universities or colleges;

* your offers are not confirmed when you get your exam results;

* you decline, or do not respond to, a changed course offer;

* you applied too late for the universities and colleges to consider you before Clearing.

If you become eligible for Clearing, UCAS will automatically send you a Clearing Entry Form (CEF) and a Clearing Instructions booklet that explains what you need to do.

If you are taking Scottish Highers, UCAS will send you a CEF soon after your results are announced on 12 August. If you are taking A-levels, you will get your CEF after your results are published on 14 August.

UCAS sends CEFs out from mid-July onwards to applicants who are taking other qualifications or who are living outside the UK, as they become eligible for Clearing.

WHAT SHOULD I DO NEXT?

Check that the details on your CEF are correct. Write down your Clearing entry number and your original UCAS application number, and keep them somewhere safe. You will need to give these numbers during Clearing.

Seek advice. Do not make any decisions about your future without asking your school or careers officer.

Next, find out which courses have vacancies and make a note of the ones you are interested in. At the end of this article, we've listed the main places where you can find this information. Most of the universities and colleges with Clearing vacancies will show them on their own websites.

I'VE MADE A LIST OF COURSES. NOW WHAT?

Before you start contacting universities and colleges about courses, make sure you've got your CEF handy. They will probably ask for your Clearing number and your exam grades. Then, it's down to business...

Start telephoning, emailing or calling the universities and colleges that are offering the courses that interest you. But do it yourself! Don't expect your parents, teachers, best friend or neighbours to sort it out for you.

WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN A UNIVERSITY OR COLLEGE OFFERS ME A PLACE?

If an institution is happy that you meet their requirements, they will probably ask you to send them your CEF.

If you are sure the course is the right one for you, fill in your CEF and send it off. Better still, take it there yourself. This will give you the opportunity to check out whether that university or college is likely to suit you.

Remember, you can send your CEF to only one university or college at a time. And they will ask for the original CEF, not a photocopy or a fax. So if you're not completely sure that the course they are offering is for you, explain politely and carry on phoning around. When you've found the right course, write the details on your CEF and take it or send it to the university or college.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I'VE GOT A PLACE?

When they have received your CEF, the university or college will write to you. They may offer you a place or they may send back your CEF. If you decline the offer, or you do not get one, they will return your CEF, and you can keep looking.

If you accept the offer, the university or college will let UCAS know that they want to confirm your place, and then we will send you an official letter.

Now it's up to you to arrange all those other things you need to start student life off on the right foot, like accommodation, finances and travel.

WHERE CAN I GET HELP DURING CLEARING?

Phone the UCAS helpline on 0870 11 222 11. Fax 01242 544961. Minicom text-phone 01242 544942.

Trained, experienced operators will be on hand to answer your queries about Clearing or about your application. They will ask you for your name, address and application number.

UCAS website: www.ucas.com

FURTHER CLEARING INFORMATION

From 14 August to 19 September, all courses with vacancies are listed on the UCAS website, www.ucas.com. You can search for courses by subject, by university or college, or by region. The list is updated every two hours.

When you are on the UCAS website, you can click through to university and college Web pages, and to studentUK ( www.studentuk.com), which carries information about student life.

Clear, impartial and confidential advice is available from a Connexions personal adviser through the BBC's Onelife results service on 0808 100 8000. The team of some 50 advisers in Scotland and England are specially trained to give advice on post-exam options and have access to an online database, developed by UCAS and DfES, which provides up-to-the-minute information about course availability.

The Applicant Enquiries Service

This lets you track the progress of your application via the UCAS website throughout the year and is especially useful during Confirmation and Clearing. You can also use it to find out your Clearing Entry Number. But you'll need a password to access the service. You'll find your password on the Acknowledgement Letter (AS2) that you received from UCAS after you first sent in your application. The password is also on the Advisory Letter, which you received in July. If you have a WAP-enabled phone, you can check your application on a WAP version of the applicant enquiries service. During Clearing, the Applicant Enquiries Service is updated every three hours.

Online Applicant Enquiries Service:
www.ucas.com/appenq/index.html

WAP Applicant Enquiries Service:
www.ucas.com/wap/index.wml

Newspapers: The only official listings of course vacancies during Clearing appear in The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Mirror. Vacancy listings in other newspapers are unofficial and may not be complete. The Sunday Mirror also publishes special articles and supplements for applicants during Clearing.

Official listings:

The Independent and The Independent on Sunday
12 August - Scottish listings
14-18 August, 21 and 28 August, 4 and 11 September

Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror
14 August - Regional listings
15 August - 17 August - Clearing features
18 August - Choices 2003
21 August - Final Clearing

UCAS HELPLINE HOURS DURING CLEARING

Weekdays
14 and 15 August: 8am to 8pm
11 August to 5 September: 8am to 6pm
25 August Bank Holiday Monday: 9am to noon

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