Guide to Clearing: What to Do on A-Level Clearing Day

Results day – This is officially one of the most stressful days in your life to date, but like most stressful events, they are possible to overcome.

Results day doesn’t always go according to plan for everyone. Your grades might not match up to what you expected, and on the other hand you might have surprised yourself at how well you did.

If things didn’t quite go to plan, at least you can count on clearing to give you a helping hand to achieving the future you always wanted…

What is ‘Clearing’?

Think of Clearing as a matchmaking service. Universities with gaps in their student intake, paired up with students who didn’t quite reach their required target, who are looking to fill the void. These two parties come together and voila!

It is worth noting that clearing is also available for students who over-achieved and exceeded their grade expectations.

Who is eligible for clearing?

You’re eligible to use the UCAS Clearing system if you’re one of the following:

  • If you didn’t get the grades required for your firm choice, or your insurance choice
  • If you applied too late – after the 30 June deadline
  • If for some reason you haven’t applied to university yet – and if that’s the case, if not, why not?!

Immediately after you realise you didn’t get what you needed, or either of the other points apply to you, you’ll need to start the clearing process.

The Clearing Process

Before you actually go through the clearing process you need to make note of a few things:

  1. Your UCAS personal ID (10 digit number) so you don’t have to scramble around for it each time you contact a university
  2. A list of universities you would be willing to go to, and ones that you would consider
  3. A list of courses you would want to study

After you have done the above the first port of call is UCAS Track. This is your little black book of importance on results day, so log in and check whether you have an offer recorded – if you do, phew, it’s okay, go celebrate. If you don’t, then click the ‘Add Clearing Choice’ button and get to work.

You’ll also need to check official Clearing listings in the local press, the UCAS website, and also on the websites of individual universities who will advertise vacancies for various subjects. Again, be flexible. The press will print vacancies on the day the results are out, so it might be an idea to pick up a copy on the way to get your results, just in case. If you don’t need it, hand it to someone who does, they’ll be grateful.

It’s worth knowing that some universities rely on cold callers, that’s you, ringing up on the off chance. Not all universities go ahead and advertise all their vacancies at clearing. They’re basically quite confident that someone will ring up and they’ll be able to fill any gaps. So if you really fancy a particular university, or a particular course and it’s not down on the official listings, there’s nothing to lose by giving them a call just in case – you don’t lose points for trying! The worst thing they can say is ‘sorry we’re full’.

You might feel completely out of control because the one thing you want to go right has actually gone a bit wrong, but you have more control than you realise. You are the one responsible for searching through clearing listings, narrowing down your choice, acting quickly and making the call. Always be polite, friendly and professional when you call a university, as you’re basically selling yourself, telling them why they should accept you.

If a university you contact has a vacancy and they’re happy to accept you they’ll either tell you straight away yes; or on the flipside no. Alternatively you’ll hear either way very soon afterwards, so no major waiting period here – Clearing is a fast moving process. It will all be resolved quicker than you expect.

Don’t give up!

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again! There is some truth in that saying. You might hit lucky with your first call, in which case great, well done you. If however you don’t find success in your second, third or even fourth call, don’t worry! Work down through your list methodically, don’t become stroppy the further down you get. Remember to stay positive and professional, even if you’re starting to get fed up.

Once you find a course and university with a vacancy and it’s looking positive, don’t be scared to ask questions. This place is going to be your home for the following few years, so it’s important to get all details clear in your mind, so you can make your decision.

You’ll also need to ask the university about the clearing process with relation to accommodation; as you’ll be in need of somewhere to live… You can find out more about sorting your student accommodation through clearing herestudent accommodation through clearing here.

If the university runs open days, ask about them, in fact even if they don’t, ask if you can visit, because that way you can make your decision quicker. Some universities will hold open your offer until you visit, so make it quick and don’t say ‘oh I’ll come a week on Tuesday’, go as soon as you can! This makes you look good too, eagerness is not desperation, it’s a desire to move forwards with your life!


This may all sound extremely confusing and you have to do all of this at a time when you’re upset and wondering what went wrong with your A levels. It’s important to remain calm and not think it’s the end of the world, because really it’s not. Regardless of your results, whether you aced them or just scraped in, failed miserably or just missed the mark, life will go on and this could simply just be a bump in the road.

Despite emotions running high, the most important advice is to stay calm. The Coursefindr website is a mine of information (if we say so ourselves), but if you have any questions that aren’t detailed, hop on to Twitter and ask! This confusing time need not be as stressful as you think.

Good luck!
The Coursefindr Team