Ultimate guide to applying for clearing courses

A-level results day has rolled around, and it might feel like the end of the world if your grades aren't quite what you'd expected.

But that's not true at all, and there are loads of options available if you didn't get into the uni you wanted. One of the best things to look into straight away is look into clearing courses, which are spaces that universities haven't filled, and can be offered to candidates on or after results day.

Luckily, this year, there's more on offer than ever before, with more spaces available at Russell Group universities and in a wider variety of courses than previously.

If you're planning on applying through clearing today, here's a step-by-step guide to keep the process stress-free.

How to apply for clearing

  1. Clearing is open from July, but most people start applying after they get results. The service will be open on the UCAS website until September, but it's first come first served, so try and apply as soon as possible.
  2. Visit your UCAS account, which should say 'You are in Clearing' or 'Clearing has started'.
  3. Have a chat with any advisers or teachers who know you at school, who can give you some guidance on the best direction to take.
  4. Go to this search tool, and specify that you're looking for clearing 2017. Alternatively, if there's a university you had in mind, you can see available courses on their respective websites.
  5. It makes sense to start a shortlist, with all course details and contact numbers for each one.
  6. Before you start calling, have to hand your UCAS personal ID number and details of qualifications (including GCSEs). You should also prepare an explanation of why you want to study that course at that particular place. Get informal offers so you can decide what you're going to pick.
  7. When you've worked out what suits you best, click on the 'Add clearing choice' section, and fill everything out based on what you were told by the university over the phone.
  8. You can only do this one course at a time, so if they confirm, you're in! If not, keep trying with your next choices.

Things to remember

  • First and foremost, don't panic.
  • Secondly, call your first choice university to see if they will still take you despite missing your offer - persistence is key - have your personal statement and a convincing voice with you, and they might just take you anyway!
  • If not, start checking clearing - universities will continue to add more courses on a regular basis, so keep checking to find what you're looking for.
  • You might even find that your original course or one like it becomes available, so have a look just in case.
  • If your UCAS account doesn't yet say you're in clearing, it might be that you're still being considered by the courses you applied for, so get in touch.
  • There're no restrictions on the type of course you apply for. So, you don't need to stick to your original subject choice, for example.
  • Parents or teachers can't apply for clearing for you - this one's on you kiddo.
  • If you did better than expected, you can also apply to a different course through clearing. You will have to go through the UCAS adjustment period up to five days after you're confirmed on the original uni place. Find out how to do that here.
  • If you didn't get into the course you wanted and you'd deferred until 2018, universities can decide on a case-by-case basis whether you'll be accepted through clearing for next year.
  • If you got into the program you wanted, but have changed your mind, this will also be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Phone the uni you've been accepted at, and see if they'll allow you to do this.