Clearing is not a last resort for disappointed students – it can provide a fresh choice in a variety of circumstances, says Darren Baker.

What is Clearing?

Is it a horrible dark hole for people who have failed all their exams? Is it a lastchance saloon where students take pot luck on getting a course? These are just some of the negative views of Clearing that get bandied around at the time of A-level results, and none of them are true.

Going through the Clearing system does not mean that you have failed in any way. You may have had offers that you haven’t met from a university or college; you may decide that you don’t want to go to your first-choice university anymore. You might have changed your mind about which subject to study, or it could be that you applied too late.Whatever your situation, Clearing is here to help you get back on track if you haven’t received the grades you were expecting. It is a well-organised and efficient service, run by UCAS and supported by a team of advisers whose knowledge and understanding make the whole process easy and simple to use.

Last year, over 38,000 people found places at university or college through Clearing.

How it works

First things first – you are eligible for Clearing if:

  • You haven’t withdrawn your initial application
  • You hold no offers
  • Your offers have not been confirmed because you haven’t achieved the required grades
  • You have declined your offers or you have not responded by the due date
  • Your offers have not been confirmed, and you have declined any alternative offers from the same institution
  • You applied after the closing date of 30 June (12 June for Route B art and design courses)

Once you are eligible for Clearing, UCAS will send you a Clearing passport. If a university or college is willing to consider your application, they will ask for the Clearing number that is printed on your Clearing passport.

Getting it right

Preparation and research are the foundations on which a successful Clearing application is based.

Feel free to contact as many universities and colleges as you want, and don’t feel as though you have to accept the first offer that comes along; remember you could be spending at least three years studying the course. Try to be around at the time of A-level results day, because you need to be able to speak to people face to face to sort out a place.

Finding your place

Places are advertised on the UCAS website, in The Independent newspaper and in the student section of The Independent’s website, so if you find a course that you like the sound of, give the institution a call (you can use the institution list at UCAS to get hold of their contact numbers). Remember to keep your Clearing passport handy; if the university or college is interested they will ask you for your Clearing and application number.

What next?

If your preferred university offers you a place then they will ask you to send them your Clearing passport. Remember, only send off your passport to an institution if you are absolutely sure that it is the place you want to go and the course you want to study.

Whatever you do, do not send your Clearing passport to UCAS; it’s your chosen university or college that needs it. Also be aware that if you are applying for an art and design course, you need to be ready to take a portfolio of work in to show your favoured institution.

After you have sent your chosen university or college your Clearing passport, they will then tell UCAS that you have accepted the offer, and UCAS will send you a confirmation letter. Once you receive this letter, you can start to prepare for your studies. It really is that simple.

Hot dates

This year, Clearing begins on Tuesday 5 August for Scottish vacancies and Thursday 14 August for all other vacancies. It runs until Monday 17 September, when available places will stop being advertised, although you will have until 20 September to submit your application. Above all, remember that if you do get involved in the Clearing process it is merely an extension of your UCAS application. So, don’t worry if your results differ from what you expected – just get the right result through Clearing.

Useful information

UCAS helpline

If you need to talk things over with someone, call one of the UCAS advisers; they are extremely helpful and have a wealth of knowledge - 0871 468 0468

UCAS website

Visit the website from 14 August (5 August in Scotland) to view Clearing listings and get contact numbers for the institutions you are interested in

The Independent

Pick up a copy of the newspaper for official Clearing listings, and for further advice and information on clearing and up-to-date student news bookmark

  • Darren Barker, communications officer at UCAS
  • This article will also appear in Which Way magazine - produced in association with UCAS - which comes out on 13 August