Clearing is a system run by UCAS that matches up students to available university places once A-level and Scottish Higher results are released in mid-August. If you have got the grades you expected and have an offer in place, you don't need to worry about clearing. If your grades were either much lower or much higher than you thought they would be, that's when you need to get into Clearing 2013.
You are eligible for clearing if:
• You are holding no offers, because you didn't receive any, or if you declined the ones you did get.
• You didn't make your offers and so both your firm and insurance offers rejected you.
This year, the results are out on Thursday, 15th August. (It's been the third Thursday in August for years). DO NOT BE AWAY ON THIS DATE. You can't go through clearing from Ibiza or Hurghada - or even from a caravan in Margate if it doesn't have decent wi-fi and mobile reception!
It's important to realise that the universities get your results on the Monday of that week (12th August) and by Tuesday most of them know who they are going to accept and who they are going to reject. This gives them time to get a letter in the post, letting you know of their decision. Years ago, the only thing to do was to wait for this letter to arrive by snail mail but, today, things are a lot more instant and it's unusual to get to the end of results day and still not know if you have been accepted by your original uni choice.
On results day: What's likely to happen?
Two vital bits of information are issued on results day:
• Your A level exam results, including UMS marks
• The decision made by the university you chose in your application
It's a strange situation, but many students find out whether they have been accepted or not before they know their actual exam grades. It all depends on the post in your area, your school or college's arrangement for issuing results and your particular university's way of doing things. It also relies on the UCAS website not crashing. This did happen a couple of years ago, leading to confusion, frustration and a lot of upset students!
On results day: Keep track using UCAS track
The first thing most students do is check UCAS track because decisions will be posted there from 8am. Some colleges are trying to get ahead by posting their results online as early as 6am. Sometimes you will get a letter from your universities and, increasingly, they are sending texts too.
If you are in, celebrate! If you have met the requirements for your offer they are contractually bound to take you.
If you have dropped a couple of grades, don't despair immediately. Check your UCAS track to find out if you've been accepted or not. Check to see if the clearing eligibility sign comes up. If you know that you haven't made your offer, but haven't heard from your universities, you must make sure you have been rejected.
It's not well publicised but many students do receive offer confirmations from their top choice even if they get lower grades.
The only way is clearing
If you are not in, you'll be disappointed to say the least, but it's not the end of the world and every year it happens to tens of thousands of students.
Once you have official confirmation that you have been rejected from both of your chosen institutions, you are eligible for clearing. This will be confirmed on UCAS track and you will be invited to 'add clearing choice.' Then it's time for action. Lots of people will be going off to celebrate, but you can't - at least not yet!