UCAS Clearing: 2019 Guide

What is UCAS Clearing?

The University clearing system operated by UCAS is a great way to aid those who have had difficulty securing a university place in the initial rounds of application. Clearing runs between July and September each year. To be eligible to apply through clearing you must have already tried to gain a place at university through UCAS. There are then a number of situations which will allow you to go on and complete a further application. Your clearing application must be submitted by the 20th September 2019.

If you have not applied to university before the 30th June 2019, then you will automatically be enrolled into clearing. This does however mean that you are not able to list any choices on your UCAS application and must wait until clearing opens. The other routes to clearing are as follows:

  • If you have failed to receive any offers then you have a second chance of securing a place when clearing opens
  • If you have failed to respond to any offers by the due date
  • If you have received offers but rejected all of them
  • You only applied for one course but have either been unsuccessful or rejected the offer AND you have paid the full £24 application fee.
  • If you applied for one course and only paid the reduced £18 fee, you’ll need to top this up with an extra £6 to apply through clearing

After the initial round of applications has closed at the end of June you must then wait until at least the middle of August for UCAS publish available vacancies on their website.  

How Does Clearing Work?

You do not have to contact UCAS to see if you fit the criteria for clearing. If you are eligible to apply via clearing then you will be notified of this on your UCAS track page. On this page you will find your clearing number which is required so that universities are able to access your application. Clearing is different from the initial round in that the overwhelming majority of highly competitive places already taken. The upside of this is that university admissions teams will be looking to fill vacancies on their courses to secure finances for their department.

When clearing opens students are expected to contact their desired universities so they can discuss directly whether they are able to apply, and also to ask any questions of the course staff. You still have to apply online by clicking the ‘add a clearing choice’ button on your UCAS track page. Compared to the usual five choices, on clearing day you’re actually able to call as many universities as you like. While you may feel slightly panicky at not having been offered any of your initial choices, do not feel pressured to say yes to the first university that will take you.  

How to Prepare for Clearing 2019

If you have applied for five courses and been rejected by all then it is highly recommended that in June you check UCAS extra for spaces that are still available on courses of your interest. Revise the expected entry requirements for these courses as although they do sometimes drop, you must assume that they do not. This will greatly help speed up the clearing process when the time comes. If you make a note of the courses that you’re aiming for will be able to quickly check that they are still available on the day the clearing list is published. Make sure you have done your research before calling in universities, a lack of understanding or interest will certainly come across on any phone call.

Although you may be able to speak to a larger number of universities and indeed received many offers, you are only able to put down one choice. This is why preparation before the day will give you the confidence that you are making the right decision. UCAS clearing is a first come first serve system. If you become overwhelmed by the choices and offers you may find once you have made your decision that the course you want is no longer available.  

Important Clearing Dates

Unless you live in Scotland, clearing opens on a level results day, which this year is Thursday, 15 August 2019. For Scottish students that receive their results earlier, they are able to go through clearing on 6 August 2019. Bear in mind that this applies to applications to Scottish universities only. While universities will often publish available courses on their website, make sure you double check when you phone that there are not any unlisted vacancies that you would consider. It is advised that you make your choices sooner rather than later, but in any case your final decision must be made by 22 October 2019.  

Changing Your Mind

If after sitting in your exams you feel like you have made the wrong choice with your initial application, there is a chance of applying to alternative courses via clearing. This of course is much harder to do if you have met the requirements of your firm or insurance offer. If this is the case for you, then you will have to speak to the universities directly yourself and explain your rationale behind being released from the programme.

If you are certain that your initial choices are not for you, then extra care must be taken going down this road. If you have changed your mind before results day this will give you the best chance of securing another course. The reason behind this is simply timing. Universities will not be overjoyed to see an applicant reject an offer that they have met may drag their feet with processing your request for removal from the course. Sometimes this can take up to 10 working days, by which point majority of attractive UCAS clearing courses may have really been snapped up. It is therefore optimal to start this process a couple of weeks before results day if at all possible.

If you’re reading this, and you are only a few days away from receiving your results think carefully before you make any hasty decisions. How much are you unhappy with your initial decisions? Would doing your firm or insurance offer course for the initial year, set you up for a course transfer at the beginning of your second year? These are important questions, and calling the universities in question may help you to resolve the issue. If you rush the decision, he may in fact be left with even worse options on the table. Your choice then will be to wait a full year for the next round of applications, or join a course which may potentially not enjoy.  

Don’t Wait on your UCAS Track Clearing Number

While your UCAS track clearing number is required to formally apply for your singular clearing choice, it is certainly not required when phoning up universities with enquiries. If you are aware before results day that you are likely to go through clearing, then it is in your best interest to get ahead of the pack and start calling around your top choices. It is only by calling that universities can give you reassurance that your clearing application will be accepted, and it is also the only way that you will discover if there entry requirements have dropped or not.

Even if the grade entry requirements have not lowered, if you come across enthusiastically on the phone, showing an interest in the course with background extracurricular activities to support your claims, you may be able to convince the admissions tutor to accept you. Although you should not be intimidated by calling, as the staff are eager to help you, do try and treat each like a mini interview. Keep relevant paperwork at hand, such as your personal statement or list of experiences and achievements. This will give you the best chance of presenting well to the admissions team and hopefully securing a place.  

Not Calling the Universities?

Despite how useful it is having a conversation with the admissions team, some students either out of laziness or nervousness, simply go online and pick which available course looks most attractive to them. This however is definitely the worst thing you can do. UCAS clearing is a hectic time many universities are rushing to fill their vacancies with the best students possible. If you have not engaged with the process, and have simply added your clearing choice on UCAS track there is a high chance that your application will be rejected.

Due to the busy nature of the day however, the staff may take some time to notice your unwarranted application, leaving it days until they process your rejection. Once this rejection has gone through, you are then free to apply to other universities. Of course the whole time you’re waiting to hear back, other students were quickly snapping up the last remaining places.  

How Fast is Fast?

While while there must be a sense of urgency with your UCAS clearing application, this does not mean that you should panic and make bad decisions in haste. Remember this is the next 3 to 4 years of your life, so you do not want to make the wrong decision! Hopefully, you will have prepared for every eventuality. Start calling universities before results day if you feel you arere in danger of being entered into clearing. If this is not the case however, do not rush to try and secure a course within 24 to 48 hours of results day.

While this may be fine if you have a clear and certain choice in your head, if there are many options you wish to explore making a decision in this timeframe is not necessary. There are in fact several open days being run by universities just just for the clearing period. Visiting any potential future university is certainly a good idea, especially if it was not one listed in your initial five choices.  

Be Present for the Clearing Period

Too many students either overestimate themselves or do not think that they could potentially be rejected by all of their university choices. If you make plans or go away for a holiday during the results and clearing period then you will be at a significant disadvantage if you do not get the results you expected. You will of course need your results to be picked up in the first place so you know if you’ve met your firm offer or not. If you do need to enquire about courses available through clearing you will need a stable phone line that doesn’t cost the earth because you are making an international call.

Defer any plans you may have made for the immediate period after results day to avoid any unneeded stress.  

Do You Need to go through UCAS Clearing?

The shock of not achieving the grades you thought you would can be very distracting. As we have said before, make sure you do not make any rash decisions that could affect your long-term future. Even if you have not made the grade for your firm or insurance offers if your status on UCAS track does not say rejected then make sure to call the University. You may be able to mitigate your poor results, either through personal circumstances or by showcasing strong GCSE and A-level results. Having a well rounded and thought out personal statement can provide a platform to sell yourself from. If you have strong extracurricular activities, you could also highlight wanting to continue these at a high level if your chosen university has a reputation for such activities.

If your firm choice has not allowed any subpar grades and you have also failed to meet your insurance offer then again call the University. If you are not able to secure your choice, ask the staff as if there is a similar track you can study. This is presumably a better outcome than going into the unknown of clearing, unless of course you are fixated on a particular degree title. Only if you are again rejected will you need to then enter the clearing process.  

Going through UCAS Clearing

While it is great that UCAS have provided this service for students, there is of course no guarantee that the courses which remain available are suitable for you. If you find no courses of interest, don’t select something just so that you can gain entry to university. You would be much better served taking a year out either in industry or to retake certain A-level modules to try and bring your overall grades up. Keep in mind that if you are close to the grade boundary, it may be worth your while to request a paper remark. If you are fortunate then your school will pay for this however this is different from school to school and is at their discretion.

If you make a request for a remark and your grade does change then you will be refunded the cost. It is important to note that this is not a paid upgrading service, it is an official remark service. Speak to your teachers before you spend any money, to hear their advice on the probability that your remark be of any benefit to you.

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