Two thirds of students unsure about Clearing ahead of A-level results

Confused young woman
by Hayley Pearce | 12 August 2019

Record numbers of students expected to use Clearing this year, but most are confused about it

The majority of school leavers are unsure of their options if they miss the grades they need for their first choice, TSR Insight research has revealed.

According to UCAS, a record 80,000 students could secure university places via Clearing this year, but many students are still in the dark about the process.

Only around a third (35%) of respondents that TSR Insight surveyed were clear about their choices if they failed to meet the requirements of their university offers.

And more than a quarter (26%) of them said they knew nothing about the new 'self-release' button on UCAS, which allows students to decline any offers they hold and enter into Clearing.

Big appetite for Clearing

Some respondents appeared unsure about their university choices and whether they had made the right decision, with 10% planning to release themselves into Clearing, and 39% saying they may do so.

TSR member Prussianxo is undecided about which course to do, and said: "I think I'm regretting the course I applied to so probably will have to go through Clearing.

"I was originally going to do electronic engineering because it looked interesting. But then I would need to do a foundation year because I don't do maths or physics, a foundation year would be too difficult for me I feel. So was thinking either politics or social policy and politics."

Students who enter Clearing include students who change their mind about their course or university, those who miss the grades the need, those who do not hold any offers, those who applied late (after 30 June) or those who are yet to apply.

'Make a plan B'

Hannah Morrish, Student Choice and Higher Education Lead at The Student Room commented on the findings: “A lot can happen in a student’s life between making their university choice and completing their exams.

"It’s natural that some may be reconsidering their options given the volume of courses still available at a wide-range of universities. If you’re a student in this position, don’t be too hasty, it’s likely you did a lot of research before making your application so think things through thoroughly and ask for help if you’re feeling unsure of what you should do next.

"It’s worrying that applicants are unsure of what they’ll need to do if things don’t go to plan on A-level results day. My advice is that you make a plan B now, seriously consider if you would want to go to your insurance choice and if that’s not for you, take a look at what else may be on offer."

She added: "Going to uni where you feel happy and enjoy the course will mean you have a great time and will naturally lead to personal success.”

'I am confused'

Demonstrating the confusion many students are feeling about Clearing, S124 started a thread to ask: "I decided I don’t want to attend my firm uni choice anymore. I don’t have an insurance as my firm was my lowest offer. So, I’ll have to enter Clearing.

"However, I am confused! Do I have to decline my firm before results day or on results day. If I decline it on results day, do I have wait to ring universities or can I just ring them straight away?"

And NovaChro shared the same sense of bewilderment: "On results, day, after I get my A-level results, am I supposed to call my firm/insurance choice universities after 3pm?

"And if I don't get the required grades do I have to apply for Clearing through my firm/insurance choice?

"I am kind of confused, can someone help me understand what I should do on results day in a simple manner, would really appreciate it, and I am sure it will help others too."

Clearing success stories

But there are examples of students who used Clearing to go to a university which better suited them.

In a thread started by wastedcuriosity asking if you can choose your insurance if you get the grades for your firm choice, tiaal said: "On results day I got the grades for my firm and called the university and UCAS to see if I could get released so I  can go to my insurance instead but the only way was that I had to put myself into Clearing then call the insurance university and ask if I could apply through Clearing.

"It did take time for the university to release me which was quite stressful as I was worried the Clearing places would fill at my insurance university but luckily they didn't and I don't regret my decision of going into Clearing!"

Professor Richard Harvey, Academic Director of Admissions at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, said: “Although Clearing is less pressured than it used to be, it is still good advice to do some research now so that you have a shortlist of universities you might consider during clearing if your grades do not turn out as hoped."

He added: “Once you are in Clearing it is as simple as phoning one of your new shortlist and asking if they will take you. Most people use the phone as this is usually quickest and most flexible. If you have not visited then don’t skip that part – you need to be happy with your choice.”

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