Check out Clearing course search
Making the final choice

Preparing for your university Clearing call

Calling universities about Clearing can be daunting, but with proper preparation and planning you can approach it calmly and find your perfect Clearing course.

Joyful guy talking on smartphone while studying online at coffee shop

CONTENTS

  1. How does a clearing call work 

  2. What to expect on a clearing call 

  3. How do I prepare for the call?

  4. How do I answer questions on a Clearing call?

  5. Before the call 

How does a Clearing call work?

A Clearing call is when you phone a university to see if they have any spare places through Clearing. You phone via their Clearing hotline, speak to someone from the university and potentially get offered a place at that university.

Clearing lasts from July to September, but Clearing hotlines are usually busiest on A Level results day in August. This is due to the number of students receiving their exam results, finding they haven’t made it into the university they applied to, and searching for a new spot.

What to expect on the Clearing call

Universities receive lots of calls so you may have to wait in a queue before speaking to anyone. Be patient, and don’t worry if no one answers the call straight away. If the line is engaged, you can call another university and try again later. 

When you call a university Clearing hotline, you’ll speak to someone who is dedicated that day to matching students with course vacancies. This could be any member of the admissions team, a subject department tutor, a student ambassador, or other support staff. You may speak to multiple people during the call. They’re usually very friendly and are there to help! 

At the beginning of the call, you’ll be asked:

  • To confirm your grades and UCAS points
  • Your UCAS ID number and Clearing number (this is essential)

You’ll then have the opportunity to discuss your situation and ask if there is a place available on the course you’re interested in, and whether you’re eligible for it. The call could be very simple and the university may offer you a place almost immediately.

Alternatively, the call may be like an interview you may be called back to arrange a more formal interview. Some universities ask several questions to check you’re the right fit. They want to know whether you have spent time researching what the university is offering beyond the course.

How do I prepare for the call? 

Look at the different courses available through Clearing and note down the numbers of the universities that appeal to you. It’s good to do this before results day, as phone lines will be busy results day morning and vacancies get filled up quickly. 

Once you've found a course or university you're interested in, look into the modules, the city, the campus and anything extra the university has to add. You can use these during the call to show you've thought about where you want to go and why.  

You can also contact universities before results day to discuss your options. Many allow you to pre-register for Clearing vacancies and then they might get in touch with you on results day. 

Make sure to research the university before calling them. As mentioned previously, staff want to feel confident that you want to study there. You don’t need to know every detail. But you can show your enthusiasm by talking about, for example, the modules you’re interested in, or if there are any extracurricular activities you like the look of. This shows that you’re not choosing them out of desperation. 

How do I answer questions on a Clearing call?

How do I answer questions on a Clearing call? 

If your Clearing call turns out to be more of a mini interview, you’ll need to be prepared, read the guide below to ensure you are ready. 

Examples of questions you may be asked include: 

  • Why do you want to study this course? 
  • What interests you about this university? 
  • What would you like to do after you graduate? 
  • Do you have any experiences related to this degree? 
  • How do you motivate yourself to study? 

If you’ve already had an admissions interview when applying to university, the questions you were asked could be like those on a Clearing call. 

If you're applying for a professional course (Nursing, for example) or a creative arts-based course (where you may be asked for your portfolio) the interview might be more detailed.  

You need to make sure the university is right for you, too, and you’ll have time to ask the person on the phone any questions that you like. If you’re given an offer, ask what happens next and how long the offer is guaranteed for. 

Top Tips 

Speak to the university yourself: They don’t want to speak to your teacher, parents or anyone else supporting you. They’re interested in you. 

Be confident: With the right preparation, you’ll be able to answer any questions they ask. Speak calmly, politely and clearly about your future ambitions. The person on the other end of the phone wants to give you a place, so try not to worry too much about it. 

Give honest answers: If you’re asked why you didn’t achieve your predicted grades, it’s okay to say why. If necessary, follow it up with how you aim to study hard and ensure you do well at university. In most cases the university will be able to see your grades via UCAS weblink system, so be honest! 

Don’t be afraid to show off: You need to prove that you are right for the course. Show that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about the subject you want to study. 

Avoid giving short responses but keep them concise: Use positive examples to say why you like the subject area. Discuss experiences that are relevant to the course or any research you’ve done from looking into the course, subject or university. 

Make notes: Write down the name of the person you’re speaking to, their number and email, just in case you have to call again. You should also ask them to repeat any information you give (such as a phone number) to make sure they’ve got it right. 

Online interviews: If the interview is online via Zoom, Teams or Google Meet, please turn your screen on – it’s important to interact with the interviewer. 

Before the call

Take a look at the different courses available through Clearing, and note down the numbers of the universities that appeal to you. It’s good to do this before results day, as phone lines will be busy on results day morning and vacancies get filled up quickly.

You can also contact universities before results day to discuss your options. Many allow you to pre-register for Clearing vacancies and then they might get in touch with you on results day.

Make sure to research the university before calling them. As mentioned previously, staff want to feel confident that you want to study there. You don’t need to know every detail. But you can show your enthusiasm by talking about, for example, the modules you’re interested in, or if there are any extracurricular activities you like the look of. This shows that you’re not choosing them out of desperation.

Practice

Get confident with talking about yourself and why you want to study at university. Pretend to do a phone or online interview with a family member, teacher, or friend. Then when you’re on the phone on results day, it won’t feel entirely new.

Write it down

It may help to note down what you're going to say so you don't stumble or sound unsure. Also, note down a list of numbers you want to call. You may be asked to call back at a certain time or speak to a certain individual. 

If you write it all down, you can look more professional and invested when calling someone by name or being punctual with the return phone call.  

For more information on calling Clearing hotlines including how and when to call, and what happens after you’ve called, read our guide to Calling UCAS Clearing hotlines

Related articles

What's Your Story question printed on an old typewriter

Study Creative Writing, why & how to study

A degree in Creative Writing will develop your imagination and storytelling skills to...

09 Aug 2022
Two university students walking and talking

Clearing success stories

Clearing can be a positive experience, giving you the chance to find your perfect course....

09 Aug 2022
Tall buildings under construction and cranes in New York City

Study Building, why & how to study

A Building degree will help you understand how to plan, create, maintain and conserve...

08 Aug 2022

Is this page useful?

Yes No

Sorry about that...

HOW CAN WE IMPROVE IT?

SUBMIT

Thanks for your feedback!