Top Tips for Clearing - How to Find Your Perfect University Place

15/08/2012 17:24 BST | Updated 15/10/2012 10:12 BST

Clearing is the last opportunity for those applicants who don't yet have a higher education place to be considered by institutions who still have course vacancies. It is primarily used by applicants who have applied after 30 June or by applicants who haven't achieved the grades required by the institutions they are holding conditional offers with. So this Thursday, 16 August, is very much 'D-Day' for many students.

I know that clearing can be a worrying time for students who don't get the A-level grades they were hoping for when they are published on Thursday - but my message is very clear: keep calm, and don't panic.

It's useful to explain the process, which is very simple. On A-level results day official course vacancy lists will be published on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website and in the Daily Telegraph. Students applying through UCAS will be able to check the status of their application on the track page.

UCAS track will tell you if you are eligible for clearing - if you are, an 'Add Clearing choice' button will appear on your 'choices' screen which you can use to apply for a course. Your Clearing Number will also be displayed. This number needs to be given to universities when calling the clearing phone lines.

If you have met the conditions of your offer then your place at your chosen university is safe. If you have achieved fewer points than you were expecting don't panic - you may still have been accepted at your first or insurance choice. Call both anyway, as they may still have given you a place. If not, UCAS will automatically notify you of your clearing number. If you don't get a place on the course of your choice you should be able to find another suitable course through clearing.

My advice is that students should begin preparing immediately if they think they may not have done as well as they had hoped for. It's never too early to start thinking about alternative courses and institutions. Speak to teachers and career advisers and research any new subject areas that you may be interested in.

On the day, students should always make the calls themselves and have their results to hand. They should also make sure their contact details are up to date on UCAS and be available throughout the results period to answer any questions about their motivations, interests and qualifications.

What is not reported so widely is that this time of year also yields an opportunity for students who have exceeded the terms of their conditional firm offer, and been accepted on to that course, to reconsider what and where they want to study without losing the option of their original firm choice, and find a course at another institution whilst still holding a place. This process is called 'adjustment' and has a different process to clearing.

Research at The Student Room, an online student community forum, has found that one in 10 students does not know you can enter clearing if you get better grades than predicted and apply to a different university - but this is an option.

At Bucks New University we are likely to have several hundred places available through clearing this year, although we won't be certain until after confirmation. We expect to have places available on most courses, ranging from business, furniture, sport and computing, to law, music management, psychology, and product design, but not on nursing and social work which are full.

At Bucks we will follow up our verbal offers with an offer letter explaining what students need to do to take up their offer. Students applying via UCAS will need to log into UCAS track and 'refer' themselves by selecting the course and the institution. We can arrange tours of the University within 24 hours of an offer being made.