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Clearing and results day advice for teachers

Find Clearing and results day advice for teachers and careers advisors, including guidance on Adjustment, calling universities and supporting your students.

Clearing guide for teachers


  1. What’s Clearing?

  2. What’s Adjustment?

  3. Key dates

  4. When should students start thinking about Clearing?
  5. How to talk to students about Clearing

  6. How to support students on results day

  7. When should students start thinking about Adjustment?

  8. How should I talk and support students through Adjustment?
  9. Calling universities

What’s Clearing?

Clearing is the process of matching students without a university place to universities with unfilled places. It gives students an opportunity to find the right course for them in the current cycle, rather than waiting to apply in the next cycle.

Students can choose to go through Clearing if they:

  • Don’t get into their firm (CF) or insurance (CI) university choices
  • Change their mind about where they initially decided to go and wish to self-release
  • Don’t receive an offer after first applying
  • Apply late (after 30 June)
  • Get better grades than predicted and decide to try and change course

It’s a common and useful way to help students get into university or college. Over 80,000 went through Clearing in 2020 and we predict a higher figure in 2021. 

How does it work?

Clearing begins in July and closes in October. Students can only go through Clearing after they’ve received their exam results (or if they are applying to university late, before results are published).

Those who didn’t receive an offer from a university after applying, or didn’t get the grades they needed for an offer, (and are not accepted with near-miss grades), will be automatically released into Clearing. Students who get the grades but decide they don’t want to accept their original offers can self-release into Clearing.

Clearing vacancies go live on our search tool from 5th July. Students can search through what’s available and get in touch with universities to secure new places. Vacancy information can also be found on university websites and UCAS Clearing.

What’s Adjustment?

Adjustment gives students the chance to reconsider where to study. Those who have achieved better grades than required for their confirmed university offer can look at other courses with higher entry requirements.

It can be very competitive, but it’s worth students looking at what options are available. Many applicants don’t meet the requirements for their university offer, so places free up. 

Adjustment is entirely optional. It’s there to give students more flexibility with their decisions.

How does it work?

Adjustment is available from A Level results day, or the day the student receives an unconditional firm (UF) offer – whichever comes second. If they’re eligible, their UCAS Track profile will display a ‘Register for Adjustment’ option. After this, it’s available for five days.

There is no Adjustment vacancy listing. Students have to look at university websites and course listings to see if there’s something more suitable for them than their current offer. They hold on to their current offer when searching.

If the student gets in touch with a university that offers them a place, they should gather all the information they need to be sure it will be a good option for them. They can only have one Adjustment offer, and they must be 100% sure before verbally accepting it. When they do, the university or college will add themselves to their application, which will then be updated on UCAS Track.

If the five day period of Adjustment has ended and no new offers have been made, students keep their original offer of a place.

Key dates

When should students start thinking about Clearing?

You can introduce the possibility of Clearing as soon as students begin looking at applying to university. 

Some teachers talk about Clearing when their students are preparing their UCAS applications. Others do so after the application deadline, or when universities give students offers. Some teachers mention it as early as the beginning of Year 12.

As a teacher, it’s up to you to decide the best time to introduce the idea of Clearing. We suggest students get to know the different processes and options early on.

How to talk to students about Clearing

Teachers should try to be encouraging about Clearing, as it can be utilised for success.

Students benefit from people who:

  • Talk with and listen to them
  • Suggest and discuss different options
  • Show them how to use online tools

Many teachers hold sessions and workshops about Clearing and results day to provide extra support.

Preparation is key – many people don’t think they’ll need to use it. However, it’s always a possibility. Ensure that your students understand what Clearing is and what they might have to do before and on results day. Plans can change drastically once students find out their grades – they should think about what they’ll do if things don’t go as expected.

Ahead of receiving their results, students can look for possible Clearing options that interest them. They can even get in touch with universities to discuss any opportunities. Some universities have the option to pre-register for vacancies on their websites.

IB and Scottish Higher students receive their exam results before A Level students do. This means a headstart into Clearing, but less time for preparation.

How to support students on results day

Students can usually see an updated status on UCAS Track first thing on results day. But encourage them to go into school or college so that you’re there to give them Clearing support if necessary.

If they don’t get the results they need, get them to look at the Clearing course search. They can list down alternative courses and universities that they’re interested in along with the university Clearing numbers to call.

Questions they should think about when selecting a new option:

  • What’s more important, the university or course?
  • Which universities offer similar courses?
  • Does the university they want to go to have a different course they’re interested in?
  • Is university right for them now, or could they consider a different option?

Look out for anyone who is finding it difficult. They may need a quiet space (online or in person) to talk about their options away from everyone else’s excitement.

Stay positive, but also be realistic. There’s plenty of time to find the right thing for each person, whether that be finding an alternative course, resitting exams or taking a break and reapplying next year. Students must prioritise their happiness, and not feel like they should accept the first offer they’re given. They will be alright in the end, whatever they decide to do!

We have plenty of Clearing information and advice on our website. Other places to find information include university websites and UCAS. It’s also handy to look at our university league tables, subject tables and Clearing success stories.

When should students start thinking about Adjustment?

It’s good for students to know early that Adjustment could be an option. We suggest talking about it when they're choosing universities to apply to.

Adjustment doesn’t usually need as much attention as Clearing, as most students are happy with the unconditional offers they receive on results day. A lot fewer students go through Adjustment. However, it can be used as a tool for finding the most suitable course and university for them.

How should I talk and support students through Adjustment?

Encourage students to be ambitious, but ensure that if they’re considering Adjustment, they don’t make hasty decisions. It can be a stressful and busy period, so they need to think carefully. A course with higher entry requirements doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a better and more enjoyable course.

Students can only have one formal Adjustment offer. Remind them that before they verbally accept an offer from a university, they must be 100% sure it’s the right option. After they accept, they will lose their previous offer.

For more information, see our Adjustment advice content, league tables, university websites or phone lines. Students can also speak to careers advisors and even ring up universities to discuss potential options.

Calling universities

Help your students to prepare before calling a university about Clearing or Adjustment. You can practise phone interviews so they know what kind of questions a university might ask. This will help them gain confidence and be able to show university staff they’re enthusiastic about the course.

Make sure your students prepare thoroughly. You can use our preparing for a Clearing call page to see how you can help them prepare effectively.

Questions could be about, for instance:

  • Their grades
  • Why they want to study that course at that university
  • Their personal statement (make sure they re-read this before calling!) 
  • Any career goals

They should also spend time considering what the place has to offer (such as location or accommodation options) and note down any questions they want to ask the university. This will help them gather enough information and decide if it’s what they’re after.

When calling, students need in front of them:

  • UCAS number
  • Clearing number
  • A Level and GCSE grades, UCAS points or equivalent
  • Personal statement
  • Pen and paper for making notes

University phone information is available via our Clearing course chooser. Students can search by subject or university and click ‘CALL NOW’ to reveal the number. They have to make the call themselves; you can’t do it for them.

Remember to remind students that there are plenty of options. Nothing might happen straight away, so encourage them to stay calm while chasing responses and continue searching for opportunities.

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