You’ll have probably heard all sorts of rumours about the clearing process. Be careful what you believe!
Clearing is not just a last resort attempt at a university career. It’s not something you should be ashamed of, or scared to tell anyone about. Clearing is used by thousands of students each year for a variety of reasons. It’s all about giving yourself options.
So, let’s start at the beginning - what is clearing?
Clearing is where university applicants are matched to university places that haven't been filled. Clearing is available to anyone who has made an application to university through the UCAS Undergraduate application process but doesn't hold any offers, or who has turned down offers for whatever reason. It’s a very busy process, and one that thousands of students use to get where they need to be.
While it might seem daunting and confusing, clearing is actually very simple and potentially life changing. You might have changed your mind last minute on where or what you want to study, which is pretty common. You may have underachieved and not made your desired grades, or on the reverse side of the coin, overachieved and want to apply to a better university or explore a different degree course.
Usually students contact universities with their grades and are then matched with any suitable courses that still have places available. Decisions and offers are usually made on the phone, within the space of a few days, or even on the spot. Clearing enables you complete freedom to contact whichever university you want, so it is actually a very rewarding and satisfying experience for most who do it.
Let’s bust some clearing myths:
- Clearing is only for those students who have failed at college
This is absolutely not the case. The idea that Clearing is just for students who don’t get their desired grades is just not true, because it is much more focussed on students who want a change of direction, whether that be the subject they study or the place they want to go. Some students reject all of their UCAS choices because their personal circumstances or direction in life has changed since applying - and this is perfectly fine. The last thing you want to be doing is studying the wrong course in the wrong place for the next few years.
- Clearing only offers rubbish courses that aren’t full
There are lots of reasons why courses aren’t full on results day - not because they are “rubbish” or less worthy than most. There is no predicting how many students may apply for a course, and some universities may be flexible about how many students they accept onto a course. Therefore you shouldn’t just assume that open places on courses means something negative – it’s quite unusual these days for a course to be completely full. Universities are also fully aware that some very strong candidates may come through Clearing too, so often places are reserved for this likelihood!
- It’s too late to start making completely different choices
This is the whole point of Clearing! It is there to open your eyes to other possibilities and career paths you had never considered before, so don’t believe the hype about it being too late for anything. Most universities welcome clearing candidates as long as they meet the course requirements and seem like a good match. It’s also false that you have to have studied that subject before to be accepted, so if you have an epiphany and want a sudden change to pursue something completely different, know that it is possible!
- Clearing is an awful, chaotic mess
Yes, you’ll need to make phone calls, and yes, many other students will be doing the same. However, it’s not the horror story some may make it out to be. It’s all in the planning - just make sure you do your research and see what’s on offer. Start contacting universities to see what’s on offer, and speak to them - you may be able to reason with course leaders if it is something you desperately want to do. You’re not under pressure to accept on the spot either - you’ll have time to make your final decision regardless of what has been discussed on the phone. Think long and hard, and go with your gut feeling.
- Uni is not for me if I have to go through Clearing
The common anxiety is that you won’t fit in at university if you go through Clearing, but this is so far from the truth. You won’t be treated any differently if you came through Clearing to those students who applied early - in fact, nobody cares and you’ll probably never get asked! Last minute does not equate to shame - please remember that. Day one is a fresh start for everyone, and you’ll have just as much opportunity to achieve as everyone else on your course.
- If you failed your exams at college you shouldn’t be going through Clearing at all
Listen, that’s all yesterday’s news. Clearing is a fresh start to those of you who may have had a rough time in your exams at college. Treat it as the first day of the rest of your life! Failure leads to strength!
Clearing can be the beginning of something amazing.
Here are some great tips for you if you find yourself in Clearing:
- Stop panicking - Clearing is there to help you and calm you down, and it goes on well into the following week, so Rome doesn’t have to be built in a day. Think, think, think!
- Don’t just accept the first offer because you already feel anxious - Clearing doesn’t mean you are hanging on the edge of a cliff. Speak to multiple options if you need to before making that all important decision. You’ll usually have a day or two to respond to any offers made so you’ll have some time to think about what’s right for you.
- Prepare well - research can help you make much more informed decisions during clearing. Go on university websites and look up their courses and academics. Research the area in your new town or city. Do some reading - it’ll really benefit you when you feel like you’re on the spot making crucial decisions.
- Beat the rush - once you have your results, start making calls! Get in first on that course you really want.