12/08/2014 10:36 BST | Updated 11/10/2014 06:59 BST

Clearing Tips for Parents

'Clearing', the process that helps university applicants without places find institutions with courses that still have places available, can be one of the most stressful periods in the life of a student. It can also be hard on the parents: while you'll want to take a proactive role in helping your son or daughter, you'll have to let them take the lead when it comes to Clearing, whether you like it or not. Here are some tips to get you and your student successfully through the process.

Taking a back seat during the clearing process

When calling universities to find out whether they have places available, you'll have to let your son or daughter do the talking because it's the student they want to speak with, not you. If your son or daughter is disappointed with their results, you'll have to help them compose themselves so they can do the talking. Your student will need their UCAS ID and Clearing number, the course they are interested in studying, and their grades.

Though universities have access to students' grades even before the students themselves do, staff are not allowed to confirm grades for students as part of a results embargo agreed by all universities and colleges.

It's clearing for the universities as well

It's Clearing for the universities too and they will be just as motivated to fill their remaining places as students are to grab one. Don't be surprised to see entry requirements dropping from week to week or even day to day, and certainly don't be surprised if an institution you previously thought was unreachable suddenly lowers its requirements.

Using those parental taxi skills

When it comes to Clearing, the parental taxi service most definitely kicks into business once more. Most universities with courses in Clearing will hold open weekends starting the weekend after A Level results day allowing you to have a look around and sign up there and then if you have all the right paperwork with you. However, there's no need to wait that long, because unis won't turn you away if you arrive on their doorstep even earlier. They prepare well in advance for Clearing and will have all student ambassadors or staff ready to show you around. So if you can, get out and about early and beat the weekend rush

Getting released into clearing

Universities are allowed a certain window of time called 'Confirmation' to decide whether or not to offer your student a place. Every year, some universities hold on to students, usually on Conditional Insurance (CI) offers, for as long as possible before making a decision to release them. Also, students often make the mistake of applying via clearing to the first university they find with the course they want so that they have "a banker" and then when they find a better option, they then have to wait to be released by the first university. This wait can sometimes lead to the second, preferred university giving your place to someone else.

So what can you do about this? Get tough! Universities have no right to delay your release into Clearing if you don't want to study with them.

It's not all about A level results and the 14 August

Clearing actually starts at the beginning of July for non-A level, university-bound students, and if your son or daughter has their BTEC, HND, IB or other results, they can actually use clearing before August 14th. While universities may not be able to make formal offers until the Confirmation period opens, you can certainly line yourself up to be first in the queue for any openings.

Clearing call centres are often manned by students themselves

Your student's call will likely be answered by a student ambassador working as part of a large call team. If your son or daughter has an out-of-the-ordinary situation or question, they are entitled to ask to speak to a member of the admissions team who will always be on hand.

And finally

Once UCAS's clearing operation is complete, institutions with available places do advertise publicly, and some students still find places by direct application at that stage.

So keep a cool head, go into clearing well-prepared, and most of all, move over and give your student the driver's seat.

Pete Edge is Head of Admissions and Recruitment for Kaplan Holborn College.