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A Level Results 2017: What Is Clearing And How Does It Work?

Unexpected results don't have to mean the end of your uni dreams.

15/08/2017 12:32 BST

A Level results day is a stressful time - no matter how much revision you put in, there will always be a fear you have flunked your exams.  

But even if you do fall short of your expected grades, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on going to university. 

Last year, almost 65,000 people bagged themselves a place at university through clearing. 

But what is clearing and how does it work? 

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Almost 65,000 students got places at university through clearing last year 

What is clearing? 

Clearing is how universities and colleges fill empty spaces they still have on their courses.

While it’s used by many students to find a space at university if their A Level exam results haven’t gone to plan, it can also be used to make a new application if you decide to study in September after the bigger January deadline.  

When can I apply? 

If you are making a new application to study at university, you can apply for courses through clearing from the start of July. 

If your A Level results haven’t gone to plan you haven’t received any offers from your original choice of universities, you can use clearing from results day.  

Darren Staples / Reuters
If you're an A Level student, you can apply through clearing from results day 

How does it work? 

The first thing you need to do is to log into UCAS’s Track system. If you are eligible for clearing, you will be able to see a clearing number. 

You can then search for universities and courses using the UCAS search tool

If you find a course you like, get in touch with the university to see if they want to offer you a place. 

If they agree to take you on a student, go to the ‘Your choices’ section of the UCAS Track website and click ‘Add clearing choice’. 

Your chosen university will then be able to confirm your place. 

However, if you only applied for one course originally and paid the reduced £13 fee, you will have to pay an additional £11 to be able to apply for more courses. 

If you’re applying for university for the first time through clearing, you need to register and make an application through UCAS before going through the process explained above. 

Peter Nicholls / Reuters
You can search for clearing places through UCAS 

What is adjustment? 

Adjustment is very similar to clearing, but is often used by students who have done better than they expected in their exams to try and get a place at a higher-ranked or more suitable university. 

Students can use adjustment if they have met the conditions of their first choice university and have subsequently been offered an unconditional place to study. 

Like clearing, pupils wanting to use adjustment must register through Track and search for courses using UCAS. 

For students hoping to adjust, their original unconditional offer to study at university will remain safe until they confirm they want to study elsewhere. 

Much like clearing, if you only applied for one course originally and pay the reduced £13 fee, you will have to pay an additional £11 to be able to apply for more courses. 

PA Archive/PA Images
One student celebrates her results 

Top tips from clearing expert Hannah Morrish: 

  • Take a look at what’s on offer before results day if you think your exams didn’t go to plan - get a head start by creating a list of potential universities, courses and contact numbers 
  • Have a plan in place for results day - make sure you have your personal statement and details to hand in case you need them
  • Try not to stress - some of the best universities in the country have courses on offer through clearing 

“Life doesn’t always go according to plan and that’s why clearing was invented,” Morrish said. 

“Never forget, universities want you as much as you want them - it’s important to remember that,” she added. 

For more tips from Morrish, education community manager for The Student Room, read her blog on HuffPost UK. 

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