Taking those first steps when applying to universities can be super daunting. You see the long…long….long list of universities and you wonder how on earth do I pick one?! After you manage to get past this stage, then comes the numerous forms and personal statements and then it’s off to visit the university open days. If you reach the unfortunate situation that I did where I didn’t get into any of my top five drama school choices, you’d go into the ‘Extra‘ of UCAS. This meant that you could pick one university to apply to (no reserves) which also meant that you were unlikely to be able to go for an open day.
Thankfully I found Aberystwyth University but if you find yourself in the last section of UCAS aka ‘Clearing‘, what happens then? What are the next steps in making sure you a.) get into a university and b.) get into a university that you like.
As it’s at that point on UCAS where clearing will soon rear it’s ugly head, I’ve been liaising with Communications Management who are a company of Educational Specialists. They put me in touch with the Director of Admissions at the University of Bedfordshire, Bob Cozens who told me all about the process of Clearing. So without further ado, if you or someone you know finds themselves in Clearing, show them this!


Step by step guide to clearing

Step 1 – Prepare
Try and plan for Clearing. If you are in any doubt about how your exams went, familiarise yourself with the courses that are on offer in the lead-up to results day. Universities will list their vacancies from July on the UCAS website and on the website of the Daily Telegraph. You can also download the Clearing app, where all vacancies are listed and updated hourly by UCAS. This may sound slightly negative, but if you do end up having to find an alternate course, you will be grateful for the groundwork.
In addition you should draw up a list of questions that you would like to ask should you need to reconsider your options. Think about accommodation – can the university guarantee it? What will it cost? Where is it? Who would you be living with? Think about the course – how is it structured? How much contact time will you have with lecturers? Is there potential for a year in industry and will the university support that?
Step 2 – Take Action
If, on the day, results don’t go as expected, the first thing you need to do is stay calm – don’t panic! Making the decision about where to go to University is important (remember the effort that went into the UCAS application in the first place?) so now is the time for clear thinking.
If your grades do not meet the requirements for either your firm or insurances choices, you will be automatically placed into Clearing and provided with a Clearing number. You will know that you are in Clearing when your application says ‘You are in Clearing’ or ‘Clearing has started’. If this is not the case but your grades are lower than expected – contact the university that made you the offer, they may still be considering you.
Log on to the official vacancy list – either via the Telegraph, UCAS or the app. If you did some forward planning, you may already have an idea of your options and which university you would like to contact. If not, now is time to assess, talk things over with your family or school careers advisor, and work out which option might be right for you.
Look carefully at the content of each course – a business studies degree at one university may differ vastly from a course with the same title at another university. Look at the location of the university – is this somewhere you would like to live?
Step 3 – Make the call
Draw up a shortlist of courses and prepare to pick up the phone. If you planned some questions in advance, have these ready to go. If not – now is the time to put some together. You should also have a list of your grades in front of you as well as your UCAS ID number – you don’t want a mind-blank in the heat of the moment.
When you get through to somebody, make sure you jot down some notes. Take down any important information relating to your questions as well as the name and contact details of who you are speaking to in case you get cut off.
If you meet the requirements, you may be made a verbal offer. It is advisable to try and attain a back-up as well as your preferred option, just in case that option is oversubscribed or the requirements change.
From 3 o’clock, you will be able to input your choice into UCAS Track. You therefore have at least until that point to keep researching before making a decision. How long your verbal offers are valid for will depend on the university, so bear that in mind if you are still undecided at 3 o’clock.
Step 4 – Confirm your selection
You are only able to input one choice into Track, so make sure you are 100% sure before proceeding. The university will then confirm your place – this will be displayed on ‘Choices’ in your application.
When your place is confirmed, your work for the day is done. You will receive a letter from the university notifying you if there is anything else you need to do, such as scan and send a copy of your exam certificates.
As these points have shown, the process of Clearing is far less stressful if you’re prepared for it. So if you have the slightest inkling that on Thursday 18th August when you open that envelope, things might not go quite as planned, do some research. Have a look at the vacancy list and investigate any options that look like a possibility. If it turns out to be a waste of time then great; if not, you’ll be grateful you did it.
 Bob Cozens
Director of Admissions at the University of Bedfordshire