A guide to getting through university clearing

University signs

If your teen doesn't get the exam results they hoped for, here's how you can support them through the UCAS clearing process – and help to find the right course of action for them

Preparing for 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 university contact details for their firm and insurance choices to hand.

If they want to see what might be available ahead of their results, you can have a look at vacancies on clearing courses now (listed from 5 July to 23 October).

On the day

Your teen's first port of call should be UCAS Track. Bear in mind that Track isn't available the nights before the SQA and A Level results are published, and reopens when the results are published – 9am on 6 August for SQA results, 8am on 15 August for A Level results. Note: sometimes this is earlier, so get online with plenty of time to spare.

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 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, and a 'clearing number' should be displayed.

University building

How to find 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. You can also try the search tool on The Telegraph website.

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 junk/spam folder) for replies.

When your teen does gets through, they should have their clearing number to hand and be prepared to explain why a particular course and university appeals to them, as well as 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. A clearing choice can only be added on Track after 3pm on 15 August.

Note: you can also use clearing if either your teen's UCAS application didn't receive any offers or was late, after 30 June.

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. Universities have to hold your place until then.

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.

This year, UCAS have introduced clearing self-release, which allows any applicant who already holds a place at any university to release themselves into clearing to get a place at another university.

Whatever you do, think very carefully before you do this. Once you give away your place, it's unlikely you'll be able to get it back – and you'll have to reapply for housing and student finance too.

What Mumsnetters say about getting through clearing

“You can save valuable time by using The Student Room which has a fantastic list of contact details and clearing website links for every uni in the country.”

“Get on the phone as soon as possible. If on mobile, find the best reception spot in the house and make sure to get the name of the person you're speaking to.”

“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 headteacher 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 uni in October.”

“Take time to reconsider your position – for example, perhaps retaking A-Levels and reapplying for the following year.”

Student with laptop looking relaxed

The content on this page was provided by Sheffield University and approved by UCAS.