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Clearing – Frequently Asked Questions


Some of the most commonly asked questions about results day and Clearing. Click the link to see the answer. If you don't find an answer to your question, go to AskCUG and our team of experts will be on hand to help.

Results day

Clearing process

Adjustment process

Still waiting

Applying late


A-level results are published soon. Is there anything I should be doing now, prior to receiving my results?

  • IB students will receive their results on Wednesday 5 July 2017, when UCAS Clearing opens. BTEC results are also published in July. These students should and do secure their place earlier with their firm choice university.
  • SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) results are published on Tuesday 8 August, when the Scottish Clearing vacancies open.
  • A level results will be published on Thursday 17 August 2017, when the English, Welsh and Northern Irish Clearing vacancy information services begin. 

Whatever your expectations regarding your exam results, you should have a contingency plan in place.

  • Hopefully you will receive the results you require in order to take up your firm or insurance university place. However, it is worth taking some time to consider what you will do if you don't: will you re-sit your exams and/or take a year out and re-apply for entry in 2018; will you obtain a university place through Clearing?
  • Consider all your options, read through our FAQs here and take a look at the pages on Results dayClearing and What if I just miss my grades for advice. If you do take up an alternative course through Clearing, remember to update the course/institution advice on any loan and grant applications.

I'm away for results days and won't know my results until a couple of days after they're released. I am worried about whether my results will get me into my desired universities. What is my best course of action while I'm away, or should I wait until I'm back, even though I may have missed out on Clearing opportunities?

  • Our advice is – never go away on A level results day.
  • Make arrangements with your school to get access to your results if you can't get them online.
  • Check UCAS Track as soon as possible on results day.
  • If you need a place in Clearing, check vacancies with UCAS/university websites and enquire about places by email or university web forms.
  • Leaving it until you return from holiday, depending a bit on the subjects you might be interested in, might well significantly erode your options.

What is the best way to check whether or not I have a place at university?

  • UCAS advises that the best method of confirming whether or not you have got your place at university is to regularly check UCAS Track on the UCAS website, which will be updated as soon as UCAS receives updates from the universities.
  • Even if you have not obtained the required results for your firm or insurance choices, first check UCAS Track to see if you have been accepted anyway – you may still be offered a place even if you have not obtained the required grades.
  • If you become eligible for Clearing, an 'Add Clearing choice' button will appear on your Track Choices screen. You must use UCAS Track because UCAS will not send you confirmation via the post.
  • In the event that you are not offered a place, it may be worth telephoning the university as it may be flexible or be prepared to offer you a place on a similar course.
  • Make sure that you have your password and ID number to hand for UCAS Track and also that your email inbox is not full, and can accept bulk emails – many universities will send confirmation messages automatically to a list of their applicants.

I've got the results I expected, and I've met the conditions laid down by my firm choice. Do I need to do anything on Results Day?

  • Congratulations! You have a place at your chosen university. Do check UCAS Track carefully, though, especially if you have an offer expressed in points rather than grades.
  • Check out our page on Results Day and the chart explaining Firm & insurance choices on results day for clarification.
  • You are best to wait until the following week to phone or email the University you are going to be studying at as they will be extremely busy on the first few days after results.
  • In addition check your email address given to UCAS/Universities is up to date and that your chosen University's 'ac.uk' domain name is in your trusted sender lists – they may be emailing you with information.

What if my grades are better than expected?

  • Well done if you have achieved better than expected grades! You can, of course, stick to your original plan and take up the course you have been offered – after all, you will have made your original application based on research and consideration of what you want from your time at university: all very important.
  • However, UCAS have a process called the Adjustment Period. This allows students who have achieved better than expected exam results to hold their place on their original Conditional Firm (CF) place whilst looking at other courses with higher grade requirements. Eligible students have to register for Adjustment and will have a maximum of five calendar days in which to register and secure an alternative course.
  • We strongly recommend that students do not make hasty decisions to adjust or upgrade at what is a stressful and busy time. Think carefully before you register for Adjustment. For more information on the Adjustment Period, and further advice, take a look through our pages on  Results Day and Clearing, and visit the UCAS website.

My exam results are worse than I expected and I don't have a place at university. What can I do to get onto a university course starting this year?

  • We're sorry to hear about your results, but you are eligible for the UCAS Clearing scheme, which is a way of matching universities without students to students without universities.
  • Trying to get a place through Clearing is not as difficult as it sounds and you may be surprised at the number of vacancies which will be available at most Universities. 
  • Keep realistic and act positively and assertively (don't allow disappointed parents or teachers to push you into an unwise or badly thought out decision).
  • Having said that, don't isolate yourself from family, friends and your careers advisors either.
  • Don't give up! Read through our other FAQs on Clearing and visit our pages on Clearing and What if I just miss my grades? for direction on what to do now. Have a look at other students' real life experiences of Clearing to read their success stories – good luck!

Who can use the UCAS Clearing Scheme?

  • Students who have not obtained the grades required for a place from their firm and insurance choices.
  • Students who have applied after the 30 June deadline.
  • Students who have not yet applied to university, although you need to have completed a UCAS application in order to use Clearing.
  • If you haven't yet applied, apply online now via UCAS Apply. Remember that you will need a reference as well as your personal statement.
  • Bear in mind, also, that universities may not be enthusiastic about students making their initial university applications via Clearing, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Think carefully about whether you need to start higher education this year, or whether you can take a year out and apply to university for 2014 entry.

Where can I obtain advice on my exam results and Clearing?

An obvious place to start is with your school and careers advisor. The Complete University Guide has a whole section covering all aspects of Applying to university, including Results Day and Clearing. You can ask us questions via Facebook or email. For additional impartial advice, telephone the Exams Results Helpline on 0800 100 8000.

  • It is open for Scottish students on 3 August.
  • It opens for students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on 13 August.
  • This is a service provided by Skills Development Scotland to Scottish students and by UCAS to students in the rest of the UK, to help with questions on applying through Clearing and with queries on your application.

What is the best way to deal with Clearing and obtain a university place?

Treat Clearing as you would a job application. Take time to prepare and be professional:

  • Make a list of universities and their telephone numbers.
  • Make the calls yourself.
  • Think about what you might say beforehand and write it down. Prepare honest answers as to why you are in Clearing. These calls are an opportunity to sell yourself. Be prepared to say why you want the particular course and institution and what you can offer. Be ready to answer questions on your exam results, your motivation and experience.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. Make notes of the questions you want to ask. Not all university accommodation for first year students is guaranteed by the time Clearing comes around. Ask about the availability of accommodation and the cost; ask about any financial help available.
  • Have to hand your UCAS Clearing number (the six-digit number starting with the letter 'C' displayed in UCAS Track); your UCAS Personal ID (the 10-digit individual number assigned to each applicant when they register on UCAS Apply); your address and postcode; details of your results, including GCSEs or Scottish Standard Grades.

My son has not made the grades he required for his chosen university course and is feeling very despondent. Any advice please?

  • There is time for your son to find an alternative course via Clearing, to re-sit exams or take a year out and re-apply for entry next year. Take a look through the other Clearing FAQs here and read through our pages within  Applying for further advice. Your son might consider asking his first choice university what he can do over the coming year to make a successful application next year, e.g. volunteer work, work experience, better grades.
  • Remind your son that he needs to be flexible but not desperate! He must ensure that any course he chooses is right for him. He needs to be happy on the course and at the institution and shouldn't feel under pressure to accept the first offer he receives.
  • He should be realistic about his interests and ability, particularly if he is considering changing his subject. Hopefully he made his original decisions on what to study, and where, after careful research. Help him to carry out any more research required or to attend any open days and interviews offered by universities to Clearing applicants.
  • Above all, stay positive and encourage your son to be positive too! Poor exam results are not the end of the world. Look through our section especially for Parents for more helpful ideas.

I have heard about a UCAS procedure called Adjustment Period – what is this?

  • The UCAS Adjustment Period, enables students who have achieved better grades than those of their Conditional Firm (CF) acceptance to hold their place open on their original CF choice whilst they consider other courses with higher grade requirements. For more information about the Adjustment Period, visit our pages on Results Day and Clearing and see the UCAS website.

Can I reject my insurance offer and go through Clearing?

  • Students must ask to be released by their insurance choice before they can go into Clearing.
  • We advise that students identify available places in Clearing, talk to the universities that offer them and secure a verbal offer before requesting they are released by their insurance choice. The last thing you want to do is be left without any university offers at all, unless you’re happy to take a year out and reapply in next year’s cycle. 

Is it true we cannot enter Clearing until declined by firm and insurance choices?

  • That’s true. Students will automatically be entered into the clearing process if rejected by their firm and insurance choices.
  • Alternatively students can request to be released by their firm and insurance choices but we recommend that you err on the side of caution if doing this. Get on the phone to some universities and secure yourself a verbal offer via Clearing. 

I didn’t meet my insurance or firm offers but the universities haven’t declined yet, what shall I do?

  • Call the universities concerned to check the status of the application – it may be that results are missing or you have not met the grades and universities are placing near misses such as yourself in order - to see who they can take, or they are waiting for other candidate’s results to come in.
  • The UCAS system does not update every minute so decisions can take time. If it has not updated later in the day do something constructive, for example call a few universities with Clearing vacancies Just in case you need plan B.

I have ‘x’ grades, and want to do ‘x’ course. Which universities will accept?

  • It’s hard to say exactly what grades universities are willing to accept via Clearing. The best thing to do is to identify universities with places on related courses using the UCAS search tool. Make sure to search for places available in clearing. Then get on the phone to the relevant universities and see if they’ll consider you.

I missed out on my firm choice but only just, is it worth calling the university to see if they’ll reconsider?

  • This will usually mean that the course is full. That’s not to say there isn’t any hope, it’s worth getting on the phone to see if anyone decides not to take up their offer or finds another place via Adjustment. It’s unlikely but definitely worth it. 

Is a university likely to go below the grades listed on their prospectus as Clearing requirements?

  • Within the context of Clearing they may well go lower than the normal offer listed on their prospectus. It depends on how much demand each university and course is seeing, and the quality of the students interested. Get on the phone and see.

I'd like to go through Clearing but haven’t applied yet, when is the deadline for Clearing and can I still apply through it?

  • You can still apply, but you will need to get organised. 
  • You’ll need to complete the UCAS application as normal, including a personal statement. You can’t add course choices but once registered you’ll receive an email with a link to the track service and your Clearing number.

I can’t get through using the hotline number, what shall I do?

  • Be patient. Unfortunately this is just part of Clearing, university hotlines will be extremely busy. Persevere you’ll get through eventually.

I have received multiple offers via Clearing, can I put them all into UCAS Track?

  • You can only add one Clearing choice at a time to Track. If the university doesn't confirm your place, you can then add another.

I’m applying for university but have deferred a year. However I've been unsuccessful with both my firm and insurance choice. Can I go through Clearing or do I have to reapply?

  • Clearing is available to you. You have nothing to lose. If you don't get a deferred place you can just reapply. Make sure to be clear that you want a deferred place when discussing places with university.


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