17 August 2023

Not got the A-level grades you needed? Here’s how to get started with the clearing process

17 August 2023

A Level results day can be a roller-coaster of emotions if you don’t get your predicted grades – which conditional university offers are heavily dependent on.

But, try not to panic. Your educational journey does not stop here – there are still plenty of options, including clearing.

Unsure where to start? Here’s what the clearing process entails…

What is clearing?

Clearing is when universities fill the empty spaces they have on the various undergraduate courses they have on offer.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website has loads of helpful guidance and information. You can also use it to search for universities offering clearing courses. However, if you are going through clearing, it could also be worth calling universities that you have previously declined an offer from, especially if you visited the campus and felt at home there.

Why can apply through clearing?

Clearing usually happens with students who either make a last-minute decision to go to university after the UCAS deadline has passed – this year’s was January 25 – or with students who didn’t get the grades they needed to get onto course they previously applied for, and as a result are looking for an alternative course or university to accept them.

According to UCAS, you can also apply through clearing if you didn’t get any offers to start with, you paid the multiple choice application fee of £27, or you have declined your firm place at a university using the ‘decline my place’ option on your application.

How do you prepare for clearing?

Most of the clearing process is done on the phone. But before calling universities to try and secure a place, you need to be prepared.

It’s important to gather all the relevant documents that you may need – including your A Level results or UCAS Tariff points, personal ID number, clearing number, and a clear, confident answer about why you want a place at that particular university. Having some bullet points written down can help with this.

The UCAS website also suggests having a list of universities you can reach out to, with their numbers, course code and titles beside them, and any important bits of information you have found from the research you’ve done.

It suggest leaving space next to these to write down any important notes from your conversations with them, so you don’t end up getting confused. And find a “nice quiet environment with good phone signal to take the calls”, so you can hear everything clearly.

How do you make a clearing call?

It’s normal to be feeling quite overwhelmed, so take some time beforehand to feel calm and collected – take some deep breaths if you need to.

While it may be tempting to ask your parents to make the clearing call on your behalf, it’s advised to make these calls yourself, so you can speak directly to the university. And making a good impression is important, so be polite and patient but show your passion and enthusiasm too.

While phoning is the most common approach to get a clearing place, UCAS notes that there will be other options for people who are unable to speak on the phone, such as “live chat functions and social media platforms”.

What other options do you have?

Remember, you still have alternative options outside of going to university right away. From taking a year out and reapplying again, retaking your exams or getting them remarked – or looking at different routes into careers you are interested, such as apprenticeships and trainee schemes.

Rahim Hirji, UK country manager at global learning platform Quizlet, said: “There might be other nuanced routes to study your chosen subject by including a different subject as a minor, for example studying economics with French, rather than straight economics. Many employers value the diversity of someone who has studied more than one subject, and it could equip [you] with skills that will make [you] stand out.”

Hirji also suggested looking into degree apprenticeships. “If [someone] is set on a specific degree, there may be companies willing to sponsor them to study part-time while working. It might be too late for the current year, but you could lock-in something for the following year.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox