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  • Writer's pictureThe Parents' Guide to

What is UCAS Clearing?

Clearing is the system universities use to fill up any vacancies they have on a course. It’s available to students that don’t have any offers and operates between July and September.

Your child can participate in Clearing if they have already applied through UCAS and one of the following situations applies to them:

  1. They did not receive any offers from the universities or colleges they applied to.

  2. They declined all their offers or did not respond by the UCAS deadline

  3. They did not achieve the acquired grades and no further offer was made

  4. Your child applied after the UCAS deadline, June 30.

Teenage boy looking at a level results Clearing UCAS fist in air The Parents Guide to
Sixth form Results Day - what is Clearing?

How it works

Students must apply (through UCAS) to participate in Clearing. If a university hasn’t responded and confirmed the place for which your child originally applied (for example, they may be just below entry requirements and the university is considering whether to make an offer) they will not be eligible to apply for another course through Clearing until such time as they have received a rejection. In this scenario, it’s worth making direct contact with the university in question to get an update on status.

Find out what is available

Use the UCAS website to find out which courses are available via Clearing. This will not be a full list of all university courses, but a list of all those that are available now that results have come out and universities know whether or not the students to whom they have offered places have met the grades. Of course, some courses will not appear because they are fully subscribed, but there will still be plenty of choices. In some cases, courses in which your child may have been interested but did not meet entry requirements might appear if many students failed to meet the entry requirements at the time of results.

Why might there be spare places?

Don’t feel that because a university offers a university place through Clearing this means the courses are undesirable. It is possible that fewer students applied than anticipated; students didn’t achieve the minimum entry requirements; or successful students had a change of heart.

Don’t waste valuable time

Your child will need to speak to the university in person before applying for a place through Clearing to find out if the course is still available, whether your child meets the entry requirements, and whether the course is

suitable for them. Students need to call themselves rather than have someone call on their behalf. The university is going to consider whether to offer them a place, not their representative!

It may seem obvious, but worth remembering: the most popular universities have the most applicants and field spare places first, so your child needs to be ready to act quickly to secure the best options.

Teenage girl excited A level results day UCAS Clearing The Parents' Guide to
What is UCAS clearing?


Our top five tips on helping your child through Clearing

1. Do some research:

Clearing can only be used to apply for one course at a time, so it’s important to make sure this is the right course. A good way to do this is to research ahead of results, anticipating the need to use Clearing. Encourage your child to explore alternative universities and courses with lower entry requirements if they feel think their exam results may not meet the conditions of their current offers.

If great results mean this extra research doesn’t come in handy, so much the better; however, in the event of needing Clearing, it will be time very well spent.

2. Plan ahead:

If time permits, your child should pay a visit if it’s at a university they haven’t visited before (if your child dislikes the atmosphere of the university, they’re unlikely to perform well there); and all the other essential considerations continue to apply (regarding accommodation, distance from home, finance etc.). It’s not sensible to take Clearing as a “last” attempt to get on any course, anywhere just to get to university. Clearing begins in July, and your child should use this as an opportunity to see what is available well in advance of results day in August.

3. Respect deadlines

Be especially mindful of deadlines during Clearing. There are black and white restrictions on how long places will be held open and offers extended so ensure that your child has fully understood this. If universities do not hear from your child within the time outlined, they may simply assume your child is not interested and withdraw the place. Very often, in such circumstances, that decision is irreversible, and neither you nor your child are likely to get them to put the offer back on the table.

4. Being contactable is crucial

Ensuring contact details, such as phone number, address and email account, are accurate throughout the entire UCAS process is very important but especially during Clearing – otherwise your child could miss out because details are being sent to the wrong place.

5. Stay positive

Lastly, try and keep your child’s spirits up. Clearing can be stressful and your child might not get a place on their first, second or even third attempt. But don’t give up: persistence and determination are omnipotent!


For more information on preparing for results day, you might be interested in reading The Parents’ Guide to sixth form Results Day.


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