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Making the final choice

Clearing FAQs

Your frequently asked questions on results day, Clearing and Adjustment answered, and advice on what to do if things don’t turn out as you’d hoped.

Girl researching Clearing questions


  1. Results day FAQs

  2. Clearing FAQs

  3. Adjustment FAQs

  4. Welfare

Results day FAQs

Results day can be an emotional time and it can be hard to organise all the thoughts and questions you may have.

How should you prepare for results day?

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

You should carefully consider all your options, including resitting your exams, deferring, taking a gap year or reapplying next year.

If you're feeling nervous, talk to people who've experienced results day already, whether that’s a parent, older sibling, friend or teacher.

Read our FAQs and take a look at our results day and Clearing page for more info.

How do you check if you have a place at university?

The best way is to regularly check UCAS Track.

UCAS Track updates as soon as updates are received from universities. This tends to be at around 8:30am, so be ready from 8am on results day. Even if you don't get the grades you need, you should check UCAS Track first as you may still be offered a place.

Remember to have your password and ID number for UCAS Track at hand, and check your email inbox isn’t full and can accept bulk emails. Many universities will send confirmation messages automatically to a list of their applicants.

What should you do if you're away for results day?

Our advice is you should never go away on results day, but there are measures you can take.

Make arrangements with your school to get access to your results if you can't get them online. You should also check UCAS Track as soon as possible on results day. If you need to go through Clearing, don’t leave it till you get back to contact universities as this could reduce your options quite a bit.

You’ve got your expected results and met the entry requirements of your Conditional Firm (CF) choice. Do you need to do anything on results day?

Congratulations! You should have a place at your first-choice university.

For peace of mind, you should still check UCAS Track, especially if you have an offer expressed in UCAS points rather than grades. Once Track confirms you’ve met the conditions of your offer, you should wait for the confirmation email from your university. Check the university has the right email address and that your inbox is set up to receive messages from them.

If you have any questions for your university, it’s best to wait until the following week to contact them as they'll be extremely busy for the first few days after results day. 
After you've celebrated, you can start thinking about preparing to go to university.

You just missed out on your CF choice. Is it worth calling them to see if they’ll still offer you a place?

Yes, it's worth contacting them, but be aware it may not change anything.

This will usually mean the course is full, but that’s not to say there isn’t any hope. It’s worth calling to see if anyone decides not to take their offer or finds another place via Adjustment. The university may be able to offer you an alternative, similar course, for example via joint honours or with a foundation year.  

What if you want to appeal your A Level results?

Some students will be unhappy with what they were awarded, but there are options. Read more about how to appeal your A Level results and find out the best course of action. 

Clearing FAQs

Clearing is available for students who don't get their required grades, don't receive an offer, haven't yet applied or have chosen to self-release.

What's UCAS Clearing? How does Clearing work?

UCAS Clearing is a way of matching universities without students to students without a university place.

The university Clearing system was created for when things don’t go according to plan but it can be used by almost any potential student, whether applying late or for strategic reasons – for example, trading up to a university you initially thought you wouldn't get into.  

Who can use UCAS Clearing and Clearing self-release?

Many students are eligible. This includes those who haven't got the grades required to secure their place as well as those who applied later, got no offers or don’t want to take the place they’ve been offered.

UCAS applications received after the deadline, or students who miss their grade target, are automatically entered into Clearing.

Clearing self-release allows students who are already holding a university place to release themselves into Clearing rather than wait for their original choice of university to release them. Self-release is available in UCAS Track from early July.

Those who haven't yet applied to any universities can also apply through Clearing once they have their results. However, you'll need to have completed a UCAS application to use Clearing.

You can apply online through UCAS Apply. Don't forget you'll need a reference as well as your personal statement.

John, a Senior Tutor at Warwick School, shares a common misconception about Clearing many used to have that's no longer the case:

What's the most effective way to use Clearing?

Preparation, positivity and pragmatism are key to going through Clearing successfully.

A positive attitude can go a long way to being successful in Clearing. Make a list of universities and their phone numbers and email addresses. Think about what you might say beforehand and make notes if you need to.

When you call universities, be positive about yourself and the university. Remember you're competing for places with other students.

Make the call yourself (unless you have a disability preventing this). Universities are more likely to offer you a place if they’ve spoken to you personally. 

Be prepared to say why you want to study that particular course at that particular institution and what you can offer. Be ready to answer questions on your exam results, your motivation and your experience. Prepare your own questions to ask. 

If you're not immediately successful, don't give up. Keep ringing – your persistence will pay off. Calls are best as emails may not be responded to immediately.

Remember, getting a place through Clearing isn't as difficult as it sounds, and you may be surprised at the number of vacancies. However, depending on your results there'll be some courses and universities that'll be unattainable, and recognising this early on will save you a lot of time.

What are the Clearing dates?

UCAS Clearing runs from early July (the same day International Baccalaureate (IB) results are published) until late October.

While you can't apply through Clearing until you have your results, you should avoid being in Clearing all the way up to the October deadline. The longer you leave it, the fewer places will be available. 

See the full breakdown of this year's application deadlines.

How will you know if you're in Clearing?

Your UCAS Track status will say ‘you are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’.

If you didn’t match the entry requirements but your Track status doesn't say you’re in Clearing, it could mean your results haven't been updated or the universities are still considering your application.

Which universities accept students through Clearing?

There’s a stereotype associated with Clearing that only less prestigious universities will have spaces available. This isn't true at all.

With the number of university applications decreasing in recent years and a lifting of the cap on numbers, more universities have spaces they look to fill through Clearing. Many of the universities in our top 20 have courses available. 

Can you reject your insurance offer and go through Clearing instead?

Yes, you can now self-release yourself into Clearing.

You no longer have to wait to be released by your insurance choice, but can do it yourself, saving valuable time.

Can you change your mind about your course if going through Clearing? 

You can. You'll need to get in touch with the uni you originally applied to and ask to be released (make sure you do this as soon as you can). After they release you, you'll be entered into Clearing.

Will universities go below their usual entry requirements during Clearing?

Within the context of Clearing, they may well go lower than the offer listed on their prospectus.

It depends how much demand each university and course has, as well as the grades of other interested students. The best way to find out is to ask the universities directly. 

If you get multiple offers through Clearing, can you 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.

You’ve applied for deferred entry to university and have been unsuccessful with both your Conditional Firm (CF) and Conditional Insurance (CI) choices. Can you go through Clearing or will you have to reapply?

You can go through Clearing.

You have nothing to lose, so if you don't get a deferred place you can just reapply. Make sure to be clear you want a deferred place with the university.

Is it true you can't enter Clearing until you've been declined by your choices?

Not at all.

You'll automatically be entered into the Clearing process if you don't get an offer from either your CF or CI choices.

You didn’t meet either of your offers but the universities haven’t declined yet. What should you do?

Call the universities to check the status of your application.

It may be the case that some results are missing, or you haven't met the grades and universities are placing near misses such as yourself in order to see who they can take. They could also be waiting for other candidates' results to come in before making a decision.

The UCAS system can take time to update. If it hasn't updated later in the day, make a start on your plan B and start calling a few universities with Clearing vacancies. 

You can’t get through using the hotline number. What should you do?

Be patient. Unfortunately, this is the reality of Clearing!

University hotlines will be extremely busy but persevere and you’ll get through eventually. You could also try emailing or contacting on social media, but calling is likely to be the quickest and most direct route – even if it doesn't feel like it.

You'd like to go through Clearing but haven’t applied yet. When's the deadline for Clearing and can you still apply through it?

You can still apply but you'll 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 get an email with a link to the UCAS Track and your Clearing number.

Does going through Clearing affect getting your student loan?

If you've already applied for funding but changed your course or university, you need to update your details as soon as possible.

If you've made your first application through Clearing and haven't applied for finance yet, you need to apply now to give yourself the best possible chance of getting your first loan in time for starting your course.

There's a possibility you won't get your loan in time for the start of the year.

How do you find accommodation while going through Clearing?

Paul, Student Recruitment and Enquiries Manager in charge of Clearing at Staffordshire University, discusses how you can sort your student accommodation through Clearing:

If the course and university are right, go for it and think about accommodation later. But if you've got a few options, the availability of accommodation could be a useful way to decide where to go.

You’ll need to stay relaxed and be prepared to compromise. If the university you want to go to has run out of spaces in the type of accommodation you’re after, then you'll have to think about what's more important to you: your university or where you live.

Be proactive. Go to house viewings, keep ringing the accommodation providers or estate agents, get onto social media groups to find potential housemates and do your research. The accommodation you end up in can have a major bearing on your first-year experience, so it's worth putting in the effort to find somewhere right for you.

Teenage boy sitting at a desk doing homework on a laptop

Adjustment FAQs

Adjustment opens up opportunities for students who meet and exceed their predicted grades. 

What's Adjustment? Who can use it?

Adjustment is a way for students to swap their confirmed place for one at a different university.

The service is for students who ‘meet and exceed’ the conditions of their CF choice. For example, if your CF asked for ABB at A Level and you achieved AAB (or higher) you could use Adjustment to find a place on a university course asking for those higher grades. 

How do you use Adjustment?

You need to contact university admissions offices directly to ask about vacancies.

Unlike Clearing, there's no comprehensive list of vacancies available for those going through Adjustment, so you must call directly and make sure you have your UCAS number at hand. Tell the admissions office you're applying through Adjustment and you're only researching course vacancies. Once you're sure of a course you want to switch to, you can verbally agree to an offer with them.

If the institution wants to accept you, they'll update your UCAS Track with a new choice and send you a confirmation later. Remember to only verbally accept one offer.

We strongly recommend during this stressful and busy time that you don't make hasty decisions to adjust or upgrade. Think carefully before you register for Adjustment, as higher entry requirements don’t always equal more enjoyment.

How long does Adjustment last?

Adjustment is available from A Level results day on 10 August until 18 August 2021, but there are exceptions.

Eligible students have to register for Adjustment and will have a maximum of five calendar days to register and secure another course. However, University of Cambridge offers a very small window of opportunity with their lines open for just five hours on results day, so if you think you may get better grades than predicted check the Adjustment window for your preferred university before results day. 

By going through Adjustment, do you forfeit your place at your CF choice university?

No. While looking for a place through Adjustment, you keep your existing university place.

If you don’t find anything, you’ll keep the place you already have. You only lose this place once you've confirmed you want to go elsewhere and your new university of choice adds itself to your UCAS Track.


You haven't achieved the grades needed for your chosen university course and you're feeling very disheartened. What should you do?

Stay positive! You have a number of options.

There’s time for you to find an alternative course via Clearing, to resit exams or take a year out and re-apply for entry next year. Take a look through the other Clearing FAQs and read the advice on applying.

You might want to consider asking your first-choice university what you can do over the coming year to make a successful application for next year, such as volunteer work, work experience or simply better grades.

You need to be flexible, but not desperate. Make sure any course you choose is right for you. You need to be happy on the course and at the university, so don't feel under pressure to accept the first offer you get.

While it's important to stay positive, you should try to be realistic – particularly if you're considering changing subjects. Make sure you carry out any more research needed. Consider attending some open days and interviews offered by universities to Clearing applicants.

Paul emphasises that during Clearing you'll still have opportunities to attend open days and virtual events:

Above all, stay positive. Poor exam results aren't the end of the world, as our Clearing success stories testify.

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