The Tab’s guide to clearing

You’re gonna be OK


If you don’t get the grades you’re hoping for on Thursday 18th August, all is not lost. There’s always clearing.

Generally clearing is used by those who did not achieve highly enough to get into their firm or insurance choices. However, it can also be used if you have changed your mind about which university you would like to go to, or if your grades are way above your offer and you’d like to upgrade, or ‘adjust’, you can give better unis a call to see if they’ll take you on with all your surprise A*s.

You are only automatically entered into the clearing system if you were rejected by your firm and insurance offers, so if you have other reasons, you must call the university that accepted you and inform them that you don’t want your place before you can get your UCAS clearing number and begin calling other universities.

If you didn’t get any offers when you did your application, you will also be entered into clearing automatically. So, on results day, you might be in the same position as that smug guy at your college who got five offers.

Advice from Mike Gibbons, Director of Student Recruitment and International Development at the University of Manchester

The clearing period can be a stressful time for students, but if you don’t get the results you were hoping for then stay calm as there are still a lot of options open to you. Log in to UCAS track and check your status. If you’ve only just missed your offer then there’s a chance that you may still be under consideration, or you might even be offered a place on another course at the same university.

If you are in clearing then do some research on courses that you’re interested in and call those universities for advice. If you have done well enough to exceed the conditions of your firm offer then you could, if you wanted to, consider other courses or other universities that you didn’t apply for originally.

Advice from Kirstie Ritchie, Director of social mobility charity Access Aspiration

University isn’t the only option, of course. On A-level results day the key thing for all students to remember is that their results are not the only thing that will determine their future – there is always a plan B, plan C all the way to a plan Z.  

In my experience, leading employers value work experience above grades or the university they have been to. One way to gain skills that will help for both university and future employment is to get as much varied work experience as possible, get some insight into business and find out more about your own talents and where you could see yourself in the future.

A work-ready generation of young people is what is valued by employers so getting practical experience is just as valuable – if not more – than the grades they achieve in their A-levels.

Alex Urquhart, York

With 4 A’s at AS level, predicted A*AA (Maths, Chemistry and Biology) and one offer (AAA) to read Medical Science at Leeds, clearing wasn’t an option. Clearing was a life-sentence to a third-rate uni, miserably scrolling through Facebook, during my poorly-conducted lectures, watching everyone who got their first choice (everyone but me) blissfully learning their dream subject and loving life.

Despite the process of Clearing appearing to me as a desperate scraping of the degree-barrel, settling for the scraps that successful students had left behind, I was completely wrong. Clearing completely changed my life for the better, and it can for you too.

So when it happens, what should you do? I got BBB: I couldn’t apply for a single science degree, few universities I viewed on open days wouldn’t even speak to me, and I was on holiday without my family – here’s what I’d recommend:
Don’t mourn your grades. Of course, this is an emotional, stressful and important time in your life, and if it doesn’t go to plan it is upsetting, but don’t cry about it for too long, you’ll only inhibit yourself from making progress – be pro-active. Collect yourself, breath and look at your clearing options. If you love your prospective uni, look for similar courses available there. If you love your course, search the course and look at similar options.
The grades have spoken – is this subject for you? Though you might have convinced yourself that Microbiological Mathematical Physics is the only thing you want to do, ask yourself if it really is. If you struggled with the exams, you are going to struggle to get high marks at university. Now, that might be a challenge you want, but three years of fighting to get 60% can, not only make you hate your subject, but also be a real emotional test and you may be so much happier doing something you genuinely enjoy and flourish in, even if its something you currently deem ‘wishy-washy’.
Don’t settle for the first university that shows you mercy. You’re emotional, you’re delicate, school feels like decades ago and that lovely Maths teacher that had “every faith in you” is nowhere to be seen. You’re desperate for any form of security, but don’t compromise too much. You have qualifications, you do have results. More than one university is going to want you – you can reserve some right to be a little picky.
However, don’t be a snob. You may have had your heart set on a top 10 uni, but a degree granted by the other unis isn’t completely worthless. For your degree, they may be better for teaching, facilities and student satisfaction so check leagues for your specific degree as well – the same degree can be very different depending on the University.
Don’t just look at leagues though. They don’t mean everything. What makes your university experience unforgettable is very personal, and depends on lots and lots of things that no one can predict. Use them as a guide but don’t let them make the decision for you.
Speak to your friends, but be honest with yourself. At such a tumultuous time, you’re going to want second opinions on everything. Speak to people, ask them what they think you should be doing, but also remember that only you will know what really makes YOU happy.
When you’ve chosen your new course/uni, attack it like its your first choice. Approaching your clearing choice as if its a second-rate decision will result in you having a second-rate time. Do your research, find the right accommodation and look at the sports teams and societies you’d like to join.

If you’re convinced you will hate your clearing choice, the thought of University gives you anxiety and you’d rather just take a year out and worry about all this later – I implore you to give it a chance. I was in this position as well but you’ll always have the option to leave and take some time out, but running at your clearing option with all your energy can become a fantastic adventure where you learn and grow more than you would at your first choice.

Ultimately my most important piece of advice is do what makes you happy and throw yourself at whatever your eventual situation is – this is the best way of getting the most of of your clearing choice. A lot of people that achieve their first choice Uni are regularly never given the opportunity to question what they really want from work and life, until they’re at uni doing a course that they don’t really enjoy.

I now read Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance at York; a complete U-turn to the path which i convinced myself was the only option. It was the best decision I’ve ever made – a decision made, thanks to Clearing.

Ella Brown, York

When I first opened my results I couldn’t quite believe it, my first thought was literally ‘shit’ cos no matter how much you mess up an exam you always sort of think that it will work out anyway.

My advice would be to have the clearing numbers that are on UCAS ready before the morning even if you think you’ve done well, you never know if you’ll need them. Ring the unis up as soon as possible, get as many offers as possible and don’t worry about making a decision until you know where you stand. Remember, it’s always worth double checking your firm/insurance won’t let you through even with slightly lower grades.

On the phone just be friendly and enthusiastic no matter how crap you feel, accept their congratulations and sound like you genuinely want to go to the place you’re phoning (even though it’s not your plan A). Most importantly, just know that it will work out. Uni is amazing full stop, regardless of where you go and what you do.

On results day I thought it was the worst thing that could ever have happened to me but here I am a year later and I wouldn’t change it even if I could.