How to get through university clearing

If your teenager's exam results aren't high enough for them to take up a place at the university or college of their choice, find out what you can do to support them through the Clearing process.  

Share this on Facebook

On results day

Make sure your teen is able to access UCAS Track online, so they can see the decision about their application and have the contact details for universities that are their firm and insurance choices to hand.

If they want to look for a place in Clearing or Adjustment, they can use both the UCAS Search tool and university websites to see if there are any vacancies in the subjects they're interested in.

How to find out about university decisions

Your teen's first port of call should be UCAS Track. Bear in mind that UCAS Track is 'frozen' for a week before the release of both Scottish results and again before A-level results. It will reopen early on Thursday 18 August.

What if their grades aren't high enough?

If your teen doesn't get the grades they hoped for, they should still check UCAS Track online for their chosen university's decision. In some cases, universities accept a student who has achieved slightly lower grades than originally required.

UCAS Track should show the decision of both their firm and insurance universities. If your child hasn't been accepted by their firm university, then they need to check the decision of their insurance choice.

If your teen has missed both their firm and insurance offers, they can look for a place at another university or college through Clearing.

How to find out about Adjustment and Clearing vacancies

The UCAS Search tool and individual university websites will provide the best listings of what vacancies are available through Adjustment and Clearing. Listings will also appear in the Telegraph.

Most universities will have a Clearing helpline for students, but it can be difficult to get through as many other applicants will be contacting each university at the same time.

Some universities allow people to register interest in a course via their websites, which means less time on hold, but your teen will need to keep checking their email (including their junk folder) for replies.

When your teen finally gets through, they will need to be prepared to explain why a particular course and university appeals to them, and what experiences they've had that might be relevant.

They mustn't add a Clearing choice on UCAS Track until they've been offered a place by phone or email and they're certain they want to accept. And a Clearing choice can only be added on Track after 5pm on 18 August.

What if results are delayed?

Universities must accept any firm applicant who meets the conditions of their offer and whose results are confirmed by 31 August.

If an exam result is likely to be delayed until after 31 August, then your teen should contact their chosen university to ask whether this deadline can be extended.

In some cases universities won't accept results after this date, although it may be possible for a university to arrange for an unconditional offer to be deferred to the following academic year. 

Better than expected results? 

If your teen is happy with their chosen university, then they should stick with it. But if they're interested in looking at other universities and have higher grades than those required for their firm offer, then they can register for adjustment.

Adjustment allows a student to hold on to their firm choice for five days while they look at other university options.

Unhappy with firm choice but haven't got better than expected results?

If your teenager is interested in other universities but hasn't achieved higher grades than were required by their firm offer, then they can look at other university options in Clearing.

But they won't be able to arrange a place at another university until they've withdrawn from their current firm choice by asking the university to release them into Clearing.

Whatever they do, don't let your teenager do this until they've spoken to the university they want to go to and are 100% certain they will be able to get a place.

What Mumsnetters say about getting through Clearing

  • "If you are going through Clearing, you can save valuable time by using The Student Room which has a fantastic list of contact details and Clearing website quick links for every uni in the country."
  • "When appealing, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE get your teen to ring themselves. It's MUCH more impressive than if mum or headteacher rings, unless an appeal is actually underway, in which case the head teacher can of course say so."
  • "Counsel them against being panicked into choosing a course at an obscure university just because everyone else is going off to university in October."
  • "Taking time to reconsider your position and/or retake A levels and reapplying for the following year is usually a much better option."

More useful info...

Starting university: advice for parents and students

Guide to student loans and finance

Chat to other parents about clearing

The content on this page is provided by Sheffield University. Approved by UCAS.

Last updated: about 2 months ago