Clearing 2016: The ultimate post-results day guide for students

If you’ve missed out on your offer, Clearing provides a second chance at getting into university

Exams are over, and you probably have a pretty good idea how you did. Even so, it never hurts to have a backup plan just in case results day doesn’t go to plan. Clearing not only allows universities and colleges to fill the places they have left on their courses, but it also allows those of you who have changed your mind about your firm and insurance choices to apply to a different course.

Over 64,300 students found a place through Clearing in 2015, according to Ucas, which is up five per cent on the previous year, so it shouldn’t be disregarded as just a backup option for underachievers. You can use it from July to September each year, so if you’ve already had your exam results but no offers, you can start straight away.

So how do you go about it?

Start before results day

Whether you think you did great, failed, or somewhere in the middle, it doesn’t hurt to have a think about alternate universities and courses before results day rolls around. Make sure you have the following important documents to hand, just in case you need to make some calls: Ucas number, Clearing number, and A-level/GCSE grades.

Ask for advice

Your school or college will likely have advisors standing by on results day for those who need advice. They can talk you through alternative courses and subjects before you start to look at Clearing.

Look on Track

If you log into Track and haven’t met the requirements for your course, it will show a Clearing number. You’ll need this, as well as your personal ID, throughout the day when talking to universities, so make sure you know what it is. You’ll know you’re in Clearing if your Track status says ‘You are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’.

See what’s available

There is an official vacancy list on the Ucas website. Consider different subjects, you might have changed your mind and no longer want to stick with your original idea. The online list is updated regularly, so if you don’t see the university/college or course you’re looking for, check again later.

Talk to the university or college you’re interested in

Remember to treat this phone call as mini-interview; on one hand, the phone call could just be a confirmation of your grades, or they might throw in some questions to test out your suitability for the course. Give them your Clearing number and your personal ID number which will let them see your application online. They might reconsider you (maybe for the same course) if you’ve applied to them earlier in the year.

Get informal offers over the phone - you can get more than one from a variety of different colleges and courses - and then decide which one you’d like to accept. If you have the time, the best way to see what a university or college is like is visiting to have a look around.

Add a Clearing choice in Track

Once you’ve had confirmation from a university and they’re happy to offer you a place, click ‘Add Clearing choice’ and fill in the course details by the date the university/college gave you over the phone. This counts as you definitely accepting the offer so if they confirm, it’ll show as an acceptance on the choices page of Track and Ucas will send a confirmation letter.

You can only add one choice at a time, but if the university or college doesn’t confirm your place, you’ll be able to add another. Once you’ve been accepted at a university or college, you need to start thinking about where you’re going to live and start applying for accommodation.

Don’t panic

Alix Delany, head of admissions at the University of East Anglia, says: “All universities, including UEA, are very aware this is a big decision for you and you might not have expected to be in Clearing. So, remember there will always be a friendly voice at the end of the phone line, and we are here to help you find the right course to match your interests.

“A little checklist of the things you would like to ask the university is worth having, so you can compare and contrast the different offers you might get. For example, if you want to live in university accommodation, am I guaranteed a room? How long is my offer guaranteed for? Where can I find out more about the course, and is there an opportunity to come and visit?”

Above all, the best thing to do with Clearing is stay calm and make an informed decision. Although it has a reputation for being a ‘mad scramble’ for students to find a place at university, this is often not the case. Take the time to consider your options, as this is where you’ll be spending the next three or more years.

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