Even if your grades don't go the way you've been hoping, you don't have to give up on uni
If you don't get the results you needed or don't want to accept your university offers, you can use Clearing to ensure you still find a university place in 2024.
There are thousands of places at scores of universities available in Clearing, including courses at some of the highest-ranking universities. Over on our UniGuide section, you can find a round-up of top universities in Clearing this year.
More like this on UniGuide: how Ucas Hub works on results day
What is Clearing?
- Part of the Ucas university application process
- A way for universities to fill the spaces they have left for the new academic year
- An opportunity for applicants without an offer to find a university place
- A second chance for those who don't want to accept the offer(s) they hold
Once your results are out, you can see if you're eligible for Clearing by checking your application on Ucas Hub. That's also where you will find your Clearing Number, under 'Application status' (universities will need this to access your Ucas application).
When does Clearing open and close?
Clearing starts on 5 July 2024 and continues up until 17 October.
Once you've received your results, you'll be able to make an application through Clearing.
In 2024, A-level results day is on Thursday 15 August. Btec results are released in the same week.
A-level applicants will be able to add a Clearing choice via Ucas Hub on 15 August. If you have your exam results and know you're in Clearing you can contact universities in advance to get invitations to add a university or course as a Clearing choice when the option appears on Ucas Hub.
More like this: 10 top tips for Clearing
Can I go through Clearing?
You're eligible for Clearing if you have applied in the current application year, you have not withdrawn your application and one of the following criteria applies to you:
- You didn't get any offers (or declined all you did receive)
- You declined your place using the 'decline my place' button on Ucas Hub
- You didn't meet the conditions of your firm and insurance choices, and they have declined to take you
- You're applying after 30 June. If Ucas received your application after this date, it will not have sent it to any universities or colleges and you will go straight into Clearing.
How Clearing works
Clearing is all about grabbing the phone and talking directly to universities. You can speak to as many universities as you like, to find out what courses they have and whether they would consider you for a place. You can receive verbal offers from more than one uni, before making your decision.
If you get an offer, the uni will give you a course code and institution code. They'll also tell you how long the offer lasts (normally up to 48 hours). You don't have to accept straight away; you can carry on calling around to see what other offers you can pick up.
Once you've decided on one, you need to enter the details on Ucas Hub by hitting the 'Add Clearing Choice' button and then filling in the course details. This counts as you accepting the offer, so when they confirm it will show as a uni acceptance on your 'Choices' page.
You can only enter one choice, and – here's the really important bit – you must have discussed your application with the university first.
Although the system will let you add in a course at any point, the uni won't accept you if you haven't already agreed an offer. That will mean you're locked out of adding any other choices until that original uni removes your request. Don't do it: you'll probably waste loads of time and you could miss out on the course you actually want.
Useful things to remember about Clearing 2024
- Just because you're in Clearing doesn't mean you've failed! Many people go into Clearing with high grades; many others choose to go straight into Clearing so they can talk directly to universities about their application.
- There are lots of places available. More than 66,000 students found a uni place through Clearing in 2022.
- There's a huge amount of choice. Unis use Clearing to fill up their final remaining places, so there are hundreds of top courses to be found.
- You can apply for any subject you like in Clearing, just take care to ensure you really want to study it for three or more years.
- Don't rush into a decision. Use the time you've been given on the uni offers. Do your research to make sure the course and university are right for you.
- Don't add a Clearing choice on your Hub unless you have spoken to the university and they have asked you to apply.
- Remember: you don't have to go to university this year. If you're not sure, you can always take a gap year and re-apply.
Getting ready for Clearing 2024
Clearing lists go live on Ucas Search on 5 July, and more will be added on A-level results day.
Taking a look at the universities offering Clearing places will give you an idea of what's available, and you can check the entry requirements to see which courses will be a realistic target.
Once you've found some interesting courses, dig a little deeper by checking the relevant uni websites. You want to make sure the course is suitable – for example, one uni's history degree may be very different from another's. You can find all the contact details you need in our Clearing contacts directory.
If you've already got your results and know you are in Clearing, you can start talking to unis about places. If you're waiting on results, draw up a list of the courses you like so that you're ready for results day.
Either way, once it's time to call up for places, you're going to sound informed and motivated. That's going to make you sound like a much more attractive candidate than someone who had never even heard of the course until 15 minutes before ringing the uni. Also, the more informed you are, the less likely you will be to make a bad choice in the heat of the moment.
This article on our sister site The Uni Guide is packed with advice to help you choose a Clearing university course.
How to use Clearing once you've got your results
If you missed your firm and insurance offers and they both rejected you
If you missed both your firm and insurance offers and Ucas Hub is showing that you were unsuccessful, then your Clearing number will show on Ucas Hub and you are already in Clearing.
If you didn't have an insurance offer, then the same applies to you if you missed your firm offer and it shows as unsuccessful.
Start phoning around universities with vacancies that you are interested in and provide them with your Clearing number. Admissions tutors will be able to see your full application and might make you a verbal offer.
If you missed your firm and insurance offers but either one decides to take you with lower grades then you cannot enter Clearing without first arranging to be released from your existing confirmed place (see below).
If you missed your firm and insurance offers and one or both are still showing as conditional
If you missed your firm and insurance offers but one or both is still showing as conditional on Hub then phone up your firm and/or insurance. If they tell you that you are unsuccessful but it isn't showing in Hub, ask them how long it will be before they let Ucas know.
Similarly if your firm or insurance say they're still deciding whether to confirm your place ask them when you will know. They aren't supposed to keep you hanging on for too long because it stops you from applying elsewhere through Clearing.
If they drag their feet over making a decision then contact Ucas, or if you don't want to wait any longer then you can ask them to reject you. Being kept hanging by your firm or insurance is one of the most difficult positions to be in, so don't be shy about seeking advice from Ucas or other students on The Student Room.
If you're waiting for a rejection to show on Hub you can still phone Clearing universities, but they won't be able to access your application until you are officially in Clearing so they probably won't be prepared to make you a formal offer without it.
If you change your mind about your firm or insurance
If you no longer wish to go to your firm and/or insurance but you met the offer (or they're accepting you with lower grades) then you'll have to phone the universities concerned and ask them to release you.
They'll probably want your reasons for doing this, but if you're firm about it they're not going to force you to attend a university you're not fully committed to.
They might not release you straight away and it can take up to a couple of days, so do this as soon as possible so you don't miss out on the best places in Clearing.
Ideally, if you knew that this applied to you then you will already have done it before results day. Once your release has been processed, your Clearing number will show on Hub. You can then start phoning around universities for places.
If you're not holding any offers
If you applied through Ucas before 30 June but are not holding any offers then you will have been entered into Clearing automatically. This will apply to you if you rejected all of your offers, or you were unsuccessful in all of your applications.
If you already have your exam results, you can immediately start contacting universities and colleges about the possibility of a place. If you're waiting on exam results, you should wait until you have these results first.
If you have not applied through Ucas yet, or applied after 30 June
If you apply through Ucas after 30 June then you will go straight into Clearing. You need to complete a Ucas application as normal via the Ucas website including all of the usual things such as a personal statement and a reference. The only difference is that you will not be able to choose five universities/courses to apply for. This will cost the usual £27.50 fee.
You'll get your Clearing number as soon as your application has been processed by Ucas. Again, if you've got your exam results, you can start contacting unis straight away — otherwise you'll need to wait until you get your exam results.
What to do once you're in Clearing and how to find Clearing places
For a comprehensive list of all the courses available in Clearing, your best bet is the Ucas website. Its listings are constantly updated. Most unis also have lists prominently displayed on their own websites.
And there's also Clearing Plus. This Ucas tool provides a list of universities with available Clearing places that have been specifically matched to you. This article on The Uni Guide goes into more detail about Clearing Plus.
The most important thing is not to rush into calling universities and making decisions. The first step in Clearing isn't applying on your Hub, it's approaching universities by telephone. Before you start doing that you need to prepare.
Start off by checking through the Ucas listings and noting down any courses which appeal to you. Rank them and make some notes on why a particular course and university interest you. Have a look at your personal statement to refresh yourself.
If you're applying for a different course through Clearing then think about what experiences you have which show your aptitude and passion for the new course. Have you done anything more recently that wasn't on your personal statement? Did you get any particularly good results?
How many universities can I apply to?
You can approach as many institutions as you like and can receive multiple verbal offers over the phone, but you can only add one Clearing choice on Hub.
That means you don't need to stop once you have your first offer. You can keep ringing other universities you're interested in and try to get offers from those too, then decide which to take up later.
Of course, for many people they will have their mind set on one university and don't need to look around elsewhere once they have their offer from that institution.
Whatever you do, don't add a Clearing choice on your Hub before a university makes you an offer by phone or email. If you do they may well just reject you, and until they reject you, you can't apply anywhere else.
Do universities accept lower grades through Clearing?
Some will, but many won't. It depends on many factors, including the subjects they are offering, how many places are still available, or whether there are minimum subject requirements for a specific course.
Since places are so competitive it is usually correct to assume that you still need to meet the entry requirements given on the university website and prospectus. The only way you'll know for sure is by asking them.
They may be willing to accept you with lower grades if you're enthusiastic about the course, or if you have relevant work experience, so make sure you really try to sell yourself when talking to the admissions tutor.
Contacting universities in Clearing 2024
Don't rush to contact universities, as you want to make a good first impression. Clearing places do go quickly but spending a bit of time preparing is always going to help you.
You're best off contacting unis by phone. Email addresses and webforms are also an option, but calling direct means you can ask all the questions you've got about the course. Replies may be made by email so check your emails (including junk mail) regularly.
It's important that you make the call, not your mum or your teacher. On results day it's a good idea to go home to make calls, if you can, as it will be quieter and you will have easy access to a phone and the internet.
Keep your notes, pen and Ucas details handy. Eventually, you'll need your Clearing number too. If you don't yet have your Clearing number you may still be able to talk to universities, but they won't be able to view your application and you won't be able to complete the final step of adding a Clearing choice on your Hub until you have one.
The universities will be very busy, so be prepared to wait. Initially you might just get through to an adviser who will take a few details. If your grades and experiences match what they're looking for, you'll either get called back by an admissions tutor or you might have to call them back at an agreed time.
You'll have a chat which won't be that formal but you should remember you're trying to impress them rather than wanting to be their new best friend. The best thing to do is show your passion. They want to know about you personally, so try to sell yourself as best you can.
This is also an opportunity to ask any questions that you have, for example you'll probably want to check what their accommodation policy is for Clearing applicants. If they make you a verbal offer, then ask them to follow it up with an email to confirm it, so that you have it in writing.
For expert advice on making a Clearing phone call, check out this video from The Uni Guide:
Where can I go to get advice?
The Student Room
People around you
It can help to get moral support and advice from people that know you. Talk to your parents, your teachers, and even your friends if they're not too busy panicking about their own situation.
If you're having any trouble with your Clearing application, you can call Ucas on 0371 468 0 468. Here are all of the Ucas contact details.
Alternatives to Clearing
Record of Prior Acceptance (also known as Direct Entry)
It may be possible to get a place at a university independently of the main Ucas system by applying directly to a university. This method of university entry is most commonly used by mature students who want to study locally and who are applying late but with a very clear idea of where they want to study.
You would first need to contact the university you wish to apply to and explain your circumstances. If they can accept you this way, they will give you a form called a Record of Prior Acceptance.
They should be able to advise you on how to complete it and when you need to return it by.
Not all institutions will accept applications this way, so it is strongly advised that you send an application through Ucas rather than relying on this method.
If you use this method then you can't change your mind and look elsewhere through Clearing; you are accepted at a single university and are committed to that university. If you change your mind you will have to take a gap year and re-apply through Ucas.
Taking a gap year and re-applying
At any time before starting university you have the option to withdraw your application, take a gap year and re-apply for the following year.
This may not be immediately appealing to you, but if you are not sure then it is usually a better option than studying a course at university which you won't be happy doing.
It is better to withdraw now than to drop out later once you are at university and have spent money on tuition fees, accommodation and living costs.
Sometimes the courses you're interested in just may not turn up in Clearing and by waiting a year you can apply to the full choice of courses and universities on an equal footing with everyone else.
A gap year can also be a good opportunity to add to your experiences, either through paid employment, traveling or voluntary work. If this sounds like something you're interested in, read our guide to how universities view gap years on our sister site The Uni Guide.
Most universities don't mind gap year students but they do want to see that you've done something productive with your time out. Gap years are less well-favoured for courses with high maths content, so you may want to do something to keep sharp.
You can resit your A-levels to improve your grades if you didn't get the grades you wanted, but it is a good idea to check the entry criteria of the universities you are interested in because some universities require that you complete your A-levels or equivalent qualifications within two years.