Is it possible to predict what universities will do on results day?

thoughtful student

Worried about your grades and your chances of getting into uni?

These days spent waiting for your A-level results are some weird kind of limbo...especially if you're hanging onto a uni application that depends on the grades you get.

Your practical side knows your university place gets decided by how those grades come out. And you know you're going to find out those results before so very long.

But right now you're stuck in that 'not knowing' netherworld in between exams and results...and it's starting to get really annoying.

Pretty much everyone gets this, and it's at this stage where they start making wild predictions about whether they've got in or not, scouring uni websites and Clearing lists for clues of how entry requirements might have changed.

Of course, there's really no way of knowing until results day does finally arrive. But are there any predictable things that universities do that can help your plans ahead of that day? Let's take a look.

Universities can be flexible about their entry requirements

Every year, people get into their chosen university when they've narrowly missed their offer. The thing is (and this bit can be quite frustrating) you're not going to be the first person to see your exam results.

Universities will have received them several days before results day, so at that stage they already know whether you've made your offer or not. The reason for them getting this early heads-up is so they have time to decide on offered places. Yes, they will look at your grades. But if you've only missed out by on grade, you could well get your place based on other aspects of your application.

Your chances of being let in having missed your offer could be higher when:

  • You've only missed one grade, eg you were asked for ABB and got ABC.
  • The grade you missed isn't in a subject directly relevant to the course, eg the C was in French, and you want to study history.
  • It's not a GCSE grade. Grades for GCSE English and maths are usually pretty hard requirements, so if you miss the 4 or 5 the university is asking for, you probably won't get a place even if you achieve or exceed the A-level grades you need.

It's not worth emailing or ringing unis to ask about this before results are out – the admissions departments won't be able to give you an answer.

What you could do is cover your bases. Spend some time researching courses and universities you might be interested in if you do need to use Clearing. Then you're covered either way.

Over on UniGuide: guide to Clearing

Thousands of courses are in Clearing from July onwards

Until results day comes around, you can't be certain about all the courses that will appear in Clearing. Universities don't know for sure themselves until they've received the grades of all their applicants.

But Clearing opens on 5 July and there are thousands of courses listed from that time onwards. Taking a look through these can actually be a big help for those pre-results nerves - you can feel confident that you're keeping your options open.

More courses will be added on results day itself, and anyone who wants to get a place on any of these will have the whole morning to look around and make Clearing calls. Applicants can't add confirmed Clearing choices until 1pm on results day, so you have a bit of time to find what's out there.

Just bear in mind that some courses, such as medicine, veterinary medicine and dentistry, are almost never available in Clearing. Some universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge and LSE, don't release places into Clearing at all.

Almost every university will list at least some courses in Clearing

There's still an assumption hanging around that only 'lower-quality' courses or universities turn up in Clearing, but even a brief search through the listings will give you an idea of the variety available.

Pretty much every UK university has at least a few courses in Clearing (we've got a round-up of the highest ranked universities in Clearing over on UniGuide) and every year thousands of students take advantage of that to get their uni place directly through Clearing, skipping the rest of the application process entirely.

Whether a course or university is 'good' is totally subjective - a university that's perfect for one person might be the opposite for someone else. But for quick research on courses in Clearing, a mix of the government's Discover Uni tool, UniGuide's course search and subject-specific league tables can help you with the facts and figures.

On The Student Room, you can talk to other students who have already applied to that uni or are currently studying there to find out what they think and what they like about it.

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