Clearing 2018 guide: How to find an alternative university …


As anxious students across the country prepare to open their A-level results, the process of finding vacant university and college places begins.

If you haven’t quite got the grades you needed to meet a conditional offer or if you’ve had a change of heart, never fear. You always have options.

The Ucas Clearing site gives secondary school graduates a second chance to find last-minute places on unfilled courses.

What is it? When does it open?

​Ucas Clearing enables students without active offers to locate free spaces on suitable courses at higher education institutions across the UK.

So long as your A-level results meet the course’s requirements, you’re free to apply.

The process is open from 5 July to 23 October and you’re advised to be prepared in advance of results day on Thursday 16 August.

Who is it for?

Anyone who has recently completed their A-levels can use the service to secure a place in higher education.

Whether you’re seeking an alternative course after missing out on the grades a conditional offer depended upon or if you are looking to change to a different course, the Clearing service can help.

It is also open to anyone who applied to Ucas who did not receive any offers – and to those you applied to Ucas after the deadline of 30 June.

How do I log into Clearing?

You need to register online with Ucas and make an application

Once you’ve done that, Ucas will send you a welcome email containing information on how to access Track – which goes live at 8am on results day and enables you to monitor and organise the application process – and your unique Clearing number, which you will need to quote when making applications.

How does it work?

Ucas Clearing will provide you with all the information you need to find vacancies via the site’s search tool and contact the relevant colleges and universities offering them.

The site is regularly updated with new places as they become available so keep checking and don’t be discouraged if a suitable course is not immediately listed. 

Students are advised to consult with parents, careers advisers or teachers to better guide your search and ensure the alternative options you pursue are right for you.

You could turn the setback to your advantage and use it as an opportunity to pick a different subject or a joint honours degree that would enable you to study two complimentary courses at once.

Students whose A-level grades surpass expectations might like to make a new application to a different college or university.

You can do this by registering for “Adjustment” via Track on the Ucas Clearing site, available from results day until the end of August. Doing so gives you five days to research and secure a new course. If you fail to find one, your original offer will still stand.

How should I approach universities?

Ucas recommends calling any institutions you are interested in directly to notify them of your application and give your Clearing number so that they can easily review it.

This also gives the college or university the opportunity to guide you on whether they would be likely to accept you or make an informal offer over the phone.

You are advised to regard the conversation with an administrator as a mini interview so be sure to read up on the specifics of the course you are enquiring about to show you’re serious about committing to it.

If a definite offer of a place is made, you can confirm the process online using Track – click on “Add Clearing choice” and fill in the course details.

This counts as you officially accepting the place and Ucas will send you a letter of confirmation.

But remember: you don’t need to accept an offer right away and should wait until all of your options become clear before making a decision. You need to be totally happy with your choice.

You can also use the call as a chance to touch base on other information like accommodation or visiting the campus for a tour.

Will they accept lower grades?

It is entirely possible.

If you have only narrowly missed out on your predicted grades, it’s worth speaking to your first choice institution again to see whether they might still offer you a place on your preferred course. 

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