UCAS clearing: How does it work?

Want to go to university, but still waiting for an offer? Clearing could be for you…

If you haven’t received a firm offer from the university you want to go to, or on the course you want to study, don’t panic. Many universities have a number of places left after the first offers are made, which may be available for you to apply for through something called ‘clearing’.

To help you get to grips with the process, here’s our comprehensive guide to UCAS clearing:


What is UCAS clearing?

Clearing is a process which allows universities to fill spaces on their courses, by offering available places to prospective students – after the initial offers have been made.

As many as one in ten students who go to university every year find their places through clearing, making it an absolutely vital way for thousands of individuals to find their perfect course.


Who is eligible for clearing?

Clearing is an ideal route for anyone who hasn’t received any offers to study at university.

It could also be a great option for students that didn’t meet the conditions of their offer, declined the offers they did receive, or those who applied after the deadline.

However, bear in mind that clearing will only apply to students who have applied during the current application year.


Will universities accept lower grades through clearing?

Some universities may lower their minimum grade expectations before the clearing process begins.

However, this will vary, depending on the university you apply to. For more information on eligibility requirements, you should always speak to the uni directly before applying.


When does clearing open?

Clearing is open from the 5th of July until the 19th of October 2021

If you’re eligible, you’ll automatically be entered into clearing. Your clearing number should then be available in UCAS Track, allowing you to start searching and applying for vacancies later that day.


Where do I find clearing places?

All clearing vacancies will be uploaded directly to the UCAS website.

Many universities will also publish a list of available clearing places on their own site, sometimes before they are officially announced via UCAS.

Once your results are in, you’ll be able to contact the university directly to find out more information about your chosen course.

How do I apply for clearing places?

In clearing, students must contact their chosen university to make their application. If your application is accepted, you can then add your choice by going to the ‘Your choices’ section of Track.

However, you must already have been offered a clearing place before you complete this step, and you should always avoid entering a clearing choice on Track before you’ve confirmed it with your chosen university.

Applying before getting in contact with them will only slow the whole process down.


How do I know if I’ve been successful?

If you’ve spoken to your chosen university over the phone, you’ll be made a verbal offer by the course administrator, which will stand for 24 hours.

You’ll also be notified of their decision on track, and emailed if your application has been successful.

However, although you can enquire about courses with multiple unis, you can only accept one clearing offer. When your place has been confirmed, you won’t be able to look for another course.

What happens if I haven’t been successful?          

If you aren’t offered a place, or your application for clearing has been unsuccessful, you can contact any other university which has a course you’re interested in.


Top tips for finding clearing places

Clearing can be a stressful time for many students, so it’s important that you prepare yourself for all eventualities.

To help get your through clearing as painlessly as possible, here are some of our top tips:

  • Be available – Demand for the most popular courses can be high, so always make sure you’re available on the date clearing vacancies are announced – and ready to apply.
  • Do your research – When you contact your chosen university, it will almost be a mini-interview for the place, so research the course before you pick up the phone.
  • Prepare questions – Having things to ask will impress the course administrator, not to mention demonstrate your enthusiasm. Similarly, think about what they could ask you.
  • Be proactive – Check out clearing vacancies on university sites (announced before results day), and make a list of the courses that interest you. Also, try and phone as many as possible (as early as possible) before you make your decision.
  • Be open to other options – Your perfect course might not be available, so be prepared to consider alternatives which could also help lead to your ideal career.
  • Don’t ask your mum to do it – Finally, your phone interview is a great example to sell yourself. Asking someone else to phone on your behalf will instantly lose you points, and only make you stand out for all the wrong reasons.


Still not sure about clearing? Visit the UCAS site to find out more.