The university ‘clearing’ process and what you need to know.

What is clearing?

Clearing is the process by which students who haven’t made their A-Level grades or fulfilled the conditions of their first-choice Higher Education offer of a place can still plot a route to university.

Around three-quarters of those who use clearing fall into this category – they’ve already applied through UCAS and, for whatever reason, haven’t got the required grades… so clearing it is.

The process also welcomes in those who haven’t yet applied and are therefore going directly into clearing – this accounts for around a quarter of all applicants.

Finally, a very small percentage of students will use Clearing having had a change of heart along the way. They wish to turn down their initial choice and look around for somewhere else.

Early preparation

Firstly, it pays to be prepared. If you feel you may be missing your grades, you can access the Clearing platform prior to results day, where some courses will already be showing. It’s also a good idea to dig out your personal statement, have a shortlist of locations you’d like to consider, and get your grades early on the big day so you can head back to start the search… should you need to.

Starting your search

Look on the UCAS website, check entry criteria and see if you meet them. A new feature that’s been brought in is Clearing Plus, which offers personalised matches through Track, and can enable you to express interest in a course. It is a way for universities to connect with you rather than just relying on the rather one-way process of old.

When you think you have a course that suits, explore online the university itself, as well as the town or city it’s located in. Remember, your studies will be only one part of the package.

Get busy

Next, contact the university – you can email, but putting in a call is always best. Have a chat over the phone and treat the experience a bit like a mini-interview, ensuring you ask lots of questions.

In truth, what you will probably find is that both parties on the call are selling themselves. The student obviously wants to impress the institution, while the institution is keen to attract students to fill up their vacant places. Ultimately, both need each other and the process of matching aims, ambition and suitability is one that benefits all parties.

Stay calm

When an offer comes along, don’t just accept the first one, however tempting that is. Instead, survey options and make an informed choice.

Of course, that’s easier said than done because many students are in the stressful throes of not knowing where they will be heading at the end of the summer. It’s a nervy time and, in the majority of cases, comes off the back of the initial disappointment of A-level grades not being up to scratch.

There’s the additional setback of knowing you won’t be attending the university you’ve pined over for the best part of a year; yet approaching clearing with a clear mind is important. And remember, millions of students have been through the clearing process and, at the end of their three years, will tell you they wouldn’t have wanted things any other way.

Try to enjoy it

Make no mistake, the process of clearing for students – and their parents – is a nervy one. It will determine the place where a loved one will live for the next three years, and potentially beyond, as they embrace independence and adulthood. All that said, it’s still an exciting experience – just a few calls and a few emails will determine so much; so whether you are a student approaching D-Day, or a parent looking to support, embrace the process and be positive about this huge step.