Last year, more than 60,000 students found their university place through UCAS Clearing. If you think you might be among them this year, the best thing you can do is be prepared. Get your head around how Clearing works and you'll be in a strong position come results day.
That's where our checklist of Clearing tips comes in. Read through these and you'll be ready to make the most of the opportunities available in Clearing 2016.
1. Do your research and be prepared for Clearing 2016
Results day can be hectic, especially if your results don't pan out as you'd hoped. Preparation is the key. UCAS publishes its initial Clearing lists in early July, so you can work out a back-up plan before you even know your results - just in case.
Go to UCAS Search and make sure you've ticked the 'Clearing 2016' option. You can then find all the courses that are currently listed in Clearing. More will appear on A-level results day itself, but you can get a clear idea of what's available from this initial list.
It's often easier to first rule out the unis and courses you definitely don't want. Think about things like the uni's location, the course content and the type of university you want to go to. This will help you to focus on what you want to get out of Clearing 2016. Check the guides in our university guides A-Z to get a better idea of what each uni is like.
Cast your mind back to when you made your five choices and think about what informed that list. What was most important to you when you chose your unis?
When thinking about your options for Clearing, don't just think about the course, check what the accommodation policies are for Clearing applicants and think carefully about where you're flexible and where you aren't.
You can use The Student Room to speak to university official representatives and other students who are already at university to find out more information about the university or course.
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2. Get hold of the Clearing 2016 listings
On the morning of A-level results day 2016, you'll want to get hold of all the Clearing listings. Your best bet for a full list of up-to-the-minute vacancies is the UCAS Search, which is updated constantly. Universities also publish Clearing lists on their own websites, so check those of any unis you're particularly keen on.
You might also want to pick up a copy of The Telegraph on results morning. This features listings of all the courses in Clearing at the start of the day, so it's a decent starting point for getting an idea of what's out there. Bear in mind, however, these listings go out-of-date very quickly, so you should always check the web-based listings before making any calls. For university contact details, check TSR's Clearing contacts directory.
3. Find a quiet place to phone universities
Once you've found a course space that you like the look of, you need to call the university to see whether they will offer you a place. Make sure you call from a place where you feel comfortable and relaxed and where you have easy access to a phone and the internet. If you can get home easily it might be best to make your calls from there, where there is more peace and quiet and you have everything to hand.
On A-level results day, you have to wait until 5pm before you can commit to a specific Clearing place. That gives you plenty of time to make lots of calls and get all the information you need. You will give a much better impression to universities and colleges if you are relaxed and calm when speaking over the phone. Have a drink of water to hand if you're nervous, in case you lose your voice on the phone.
You might be using a land line to make calls, but if a uni asks for a contact number it's best to give them your mobile. That way, the line won't be engaged if they choose to call you back!
4. Have your details to hand
Have the following information to hand during your call to universities:
- The phone number for the university and your own contact details
- Your Clearing number from UCAS Track
- Your A-level, AS-level, GCSE (or equivalent) results, including module marks
- Personal statement from your UCAS application
- Your log-in details for Track
- Your notes on the course/university and any planned responses to questions
- Any questions you want to ask the university
- The name and details of anyone you have spoken to in a previous call (if you've called the university before)
5. Make the Clearing call yourself
Treat the Clearing call like a job application. Universities are unlikely to be impressed if one of your parents has to make the call instead of you and, besides, unis can't discuss your application with anyone else unless you give your express permission.
Be clear about why you want to do the course and make sure your enthusiasm for it (and the uni) come across in the call. Nerves are no problem - if you get upset or flustered just take a deep breath and start again. It's important that you stay positive and sell yourself, rather than focusing on the negatives and where you didn't do well.
6. Make notes during the Clearing call
Have a pen and paper handy to jot down notes as you go. There's a lot to take in on each call and so you might forget what the person is actually telling you.
Get the full names and job titles of the people you speak to, along with the dates and times of your conversations. Include with those notes a summary of what was said. This will make it easier to get back in direct contact should you need to.
7. Have some constructive questions to ask them
Clearing interviews are not just a chance for tutors to see if you are right for their university, but also for you to work out if they are the right choice for you. Do your research and try to avoid asking daft questions that are easily answered on their website, but equally if you do have niggling questions make sure you ask them.
This is a big decision for you and you should make it once you've got all the facts. Check what entitlement to accommodation and bursaries you have as a Clearing applicant, as this can vary from university to university. You might also want to ask about open days and opportunities to visit the university so that you can have a look around. Asking questions makes you look keen, inquisitive and motivated – all good qualities that tutors look for.
8. Ask for email confirmation
If the university decides to give you a verbal offer, ask for the offer to also be sent through as an email. Ask the uni to confirm their offer as well as how long it stands for. This will ensure that there is no room for misinterpretation, and if there are any problems later with your Clearing choice not being accepted by the university then you have written evidence to support your claims, which will make your position much stronger.
9. Be persistent and flexible
If at first you don't succeed... keep trying. Even if you have an offer already you can still continue to call universities to receive more offers and then decide which of these you wish to add as your Clearing choice on UCAS Track. The situation can change quickly and even if a university wasn't interested in you initially, if places still exist a few days later there is no harm in trying again. If you find yourself on a reserve list, keep in touch with the uni to demonstrate your continued interest.
Find a Clearing place is much easier if you're prepared to be flexible. For instance, you might consider courses that are similar to the one you originally applied for. Look at joint honours - these might include the option to switch over to a single honours course later, should you wish.
10. Add a Clearing choice within the allotted time
You can only enter a Clearing choice on Track after 5pm on A-level results day (18 August 2016). In addition, most universities will give you a time period (typically 12-48 hours) for which their offer is valid. If you enter a Clearing choice after this period has passed then the university may reject you.
And - very important - make sure you only enter a Clearing choice on Track if you have spoken to the university and they have provisionally offered you a place. If you enter a Clearing choice without discussing it with the university, it will be rejected. However, that rejection might take a while, during which time you'll be unable to take any other places. This can significantly delay the progress of your application, wasting valuable time as other clearing places are taken up.
You can only add one Clearing choice at a time, so only add a choice if you are sure you want to accept the verbal offer that you have been given by the university.
Before you make your decision, go back to your prepared notes of where you are flexible and where you are not prepared to compromise. If you are not totally sure then maybe you are better off taking a gap year and re-applying, rather than starting a course which you are not fully committed to and then dropping out having accumulated a hefty chunk of student debt.
For more information about Clearing 2016, head over to our dedicated hub pages. Alternatively, talk to people who have been through it before on the clearing forums.