Get your head around the Clearing options
Finding out that you haven't got into your firm university choice can be stressful. We’re here to help you get prepared just in case things don’t go quite as planned on results day.
1. Do your research and be prepared for Clearing
The lead-up to results day can be really nerve-wracking, and on the day itself you might feel pretty disappointed if you don’t get the grades you needed for your top-choice university.
If the worst happens and your grades aren’t quite what you hoped for, you’ll have one less thing to stress about if you’ve already spent a bit of time researching other universities and courses you might be interested in attending.
It’s also worth getting a handle on how the whole Clearing process works – take a look at The Student Room's dedicated Clearing hub for loads of useful information.
When you’re researching other courses, think about things like the university’s location and the course content to help you focus on what you want to get out of Clearing. Keep a clear idea in your mind of what you're willing to be flexible about and what you won't want to compromise on.
When going through your options for Clearing, it's also worth checking things like what the accommodation policies are for Clearing applicants.
Of course, there’s lots of uncertainty around what university life is going to look like in September this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. You might want to get an idea of things like how much time you’ll be spending learning online at your laptop rather than sitting in a lecture theatre and how social distancing might affect all the fun stuff, like societies and freshers’ week.
The Office for Students has said that universities “must be as clear as they can” about how their courses will be taught in 2020/21 so that applicants “know what they’re getting”. Lots of universities have started to publish their policies on how they plan to teach next year, with many opting to offer a mixture of face-to-face and online classes. You should be able to find out more about individual universities’ policies on their websites.
You can also use The Student Room to speak to a university's official representatives and other students who are already at university to find out more information about the university or course.
2. Check the Clearing 2020 listings and Clearing Plus
Clearing opens on 6 July 2020 and closes on 20 October 2020. You can view any current vacancies on the Ucas website from 6 July onwards. Vacancies will be listed then and updated regularly until mid-September, but some will not be published until the morning of A-level results day 2020 (13 August).
Although the listings on Ucas will be updated constantly, things move fast on results day. Visit universities' own websites to double-check vacancies and, if you see something of interest, give them a call to see if the space is still available.
You’ll also be able to use Clearing Plus for the first time this year, if you want to.
Clearing Plus is a new, optional tool that you’ll be able to use within Clearing to get a personalised list of courses with available places that have been matched to you and the universities' contact details for you to get in touch with them. You can still also make your own list and phone the universities if you prefer to do it that way, though.
When Clearing opens and you sign into Ucas Track, you’ll be given the option to see a list of courses that have been matched to you under Clearing Plus. You’ll be able to use Clearing Plus from 6 July until the end of August.
3. Find a quiet place to phone universities
Clearing places do go quickly, but you have time to take a couple of minutes to compose and prepare yourself before you pick up the phone – you’ll give a much better impression to universities and colleges if you’re feeling calm and confident, after all.
Choose a quiet and comfortable spot to make the call from, and if you’re nervous have a drink of water close by just in case you need to clear your throat.
You might be using a landline to make calls, but it's best to give your mobile number to any universities who ask for your contact details to get back to you on. This way, they’ll easily be able to get in touch with you even if you’re not sitting by the phone.
4. Have your details to hand
This is the information that you’ll need to have to hand during your calls 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 and equivalent results, including module marks
- Your personal statement from your Ucas application
- Your log-in details for Track
- Your notes on the course and university and any answers you’ve planned to questions they might ask
- Any questions you want to ask them
- If you've called the university before, the name and details of whoever you’ve spoken to.
5. Make the Clearing call yourself
You’ll need to make the Clearing call yourself – your teachers or parents won’t be able to do it for you because the university won’t be allowed to talk about your application with anybody else.
You might feel a bit nervous about phoning, but remember universities are friendly and want to help. The university staff you speak to about Clearing places will even have had specific training to help you feel at ease during the call.
Make sure you have your notes about why you want to study the course with you, as well as a copy of your personal statement. These will help you remember what you want to say. Show them how enthusiastic you are about the course and the university and if you get flustered at any point just take a deep breath and start again.
Remember to stay positive and focus on your strengths, rather than talking about your negatives or things you didn’t do so well on.
6. Make notes during the Clearing call
Have a pen and paper handy to make notes as you go, otherwise you may forget what the person is telling you. This will also help keep you grounded and focused if you're feeling a bit anxious. If you're making a lot of phone calls, it can be really easy to get confused or forget something important.
It’s a good idea to write down job titles, names, dates and times as well as a summary of what you said and what they said. These details will be useful if you end up needing to get back in touch with the person you spoke to on the call.
7. Have some constructive questions to ask them
Clearing interviews aren’t just a chance for tutors to see if you’re right for their university, but also for you to work out if they’re the right choice for you. Do your research so you already know the basics that are easily answered on their website – this will give you more time to go over more complicated questions that aren't covered in FAQs.
Check whether the accommodation and bursaries you’ll have access to are affected by you being a Clearing applicant, as this can vary from university to university.
If social distancing rules allow it, you might also want to ask about open days and opportunities to visit the university so that you can have a look around. If not, you can find out about their virtual open days and any other online information they might want to point you towards.
Remember that asking questions makes you look keen, inquisitive and motivated – all good qualities that tutors will be looking out for.
8. Ask for email confirmation
If the university decides to give you a verbal offer, ask them to confirm their offer and how long it stands for in an email.
Having it written down in an email will leave no room for misinterpretation, and will mean you have evidence of the offer just in case there are any problems later on with your Clearing choice not being accepted by the university.
9. Be persistent and flexible
If at first you don't succeed, just keep trying. Even if you have an offer, you can keep calling universities and getting more offers before deciding which one to add as your Clearing choice on Ucas Track.
Things can change quickly in Clearing and, even if a university wasn't interested in you initially, there’s no harm in trying again if it still has free places a few days later. And if you end up on a reserve list, keep in touch with the university about it so they know you’re still interested.
You’re more likely to be successful at finding a place in Clearing if you’re flexible and willing to consider similar courses to the one you originally applied for. A lot of courses have similar content and you might be interested in joint honours degrees such as English and History. Check the course content carefully to see if it interests you and what options you have to change to a single honours course later.
10. Add a Clearing choice within the allotted time
You can only enter a Clearing choice on Track after 3pm on A-level results day (13 August 2020). Most universities will give you a time period that their offer will be valid for, typically around 12 to 48 hours. If you enter a Clearing choice after this period has passed then the university may reject you.
It’s really important that you only enter a Clearing choice on Track once you’ve spoken to the university or college and they’ve provisionally offered you a place on the course. If you enter a Clearing choice without discussing it with the university or college, they may take a while to reject you and this can slow down your application and waste valuable time while other Clearing places get 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 the university gave you. You won’t be able to add a Clearing choice until at least 3pm on results day, so there’s loads of time for you to make sure that you’re happy with your choice and comfortable with studying at your chosen university for three or four years.
Go back over your prepared notes to double-check where you’re flexible and where you’re not willing to compromise. If you’re not totally sure about where you want to go, you might be better off taking a gap year and reapplying rather than risk starting a course that isn’t going to be right for you.
For more information about Clearing 2020, head over to our Clearing hub. Alternatively, talk to people who’ve been through it before on the Clearing forums or take a look at this list of all the threads on TSR where you can get help and advice on Clearing 2020, including university-specific Clearing threads.