Finding the right course for you in Clearing

Thursday 19 December 2019, UCAS advice


Finding the right course for you in Clearing

When it comes to contacting universities and colleges about courses in Clearing, it’s important to act quickly but that doesn't mean making a hasty decision. While you need to be proactive you also need to be sure that the course you accept is right for you. We asked admissions staff from universities and colleges to share their advice on researching courses effectively in Clearing  read on to find out what they told us...

Stewart Harper – Head of Student Admissions, Leeds Metropolitan University

Stewart Harper,
Leeds Metropolitan 
For those that are due to receive A level, BTEC or other exam results this summer, deciding what to do next may be an ever-present thought. The most important thing is not to panic; many universities still have places on a wide range of courses and we are here to help you.

Clearing isn’t a ‘second best’ option, but rather a process by which thousands of students each year find the course that is just right for them. As with the main UCAS cycle, the key is to make sure that you research the course and university, and if possible go and visit – we have opportunities to come and see our campuses on the Friday and Saturday after A level results for example, and that often serves to reassure applicants about the choices they are making.

It is difficult to get the same depth of research done in a few days as across the whole application cycle, so you can make a start now and see what vacancies universities are already advertising – our website also carries details of what UCAS Tariff points you need. You’ll need to consider the balance between different options within the same subject area – practical or theoretical, for example – that suits your own personal style or preferences.  

If you aren’t yet eligible to apply through Clearing (for example, if you are still waiting for your results) then keep a note of the courses or universities that attract you so that you don’t have to repeat the exercise, and if you are going to be away on results day take those notes with you – don’t forget that nobody else can do your application for you!

Doing your research now will put you ahead of the game and come September allow you to start on a really exciting journey!

Emma Powell – Admissions Officer, the Edge Hotel School 

Emma Powell,
It’s never too early to prepare 
If you don’t have a place, or think you might not get the grades you need, think about your options before you have your results. Most universities let you visit and speak to admissions staff, so you can start to weigh up your options before it’s time to make a decision. It’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan – or even better, several!

On the day
Check the Clearing vacancies on the UCAS website, and look on institutions’ websites – many have a dedicated Clearing page. This is why preparing beforehand is useful – if you have an institution in mind you can call them to ask about Clearing vacancies or find them in the vacancy lists. At the Edge Hotel School we ask students interested in applying through Clearing to call us first.  

Questions you should ask
Some universities might want to interview you over the phone so make sure you’re not in a rush! We understand it’s a stressful time, but think about why you want to study there, what the course is about and what your job prospects might be. Doing research will make all the difference to making a good impression. 
You need to make sure it’s the right course for you and the place you want to be for the next few years. As well as answering questions that admissions staff ask, it’s important to have questions of your own. How will you be assessed? How long will you be in lectures? What links are there with industry? What accommodation is available? Ask when you would start  the Edge Hotel School has start dates in January, May and September. 

Getting the place
Make sure you check your emails as admissions staff may contact you following your call with useful information about open days and how long you have to decide.

Amber Clabburn  Clearing Adviser, Kaplan Holborn College

Amber Clabburn,
Kaplan Holborn College
Research before results day, just in case
It’s a good idea to plan and research courses in advance of results day. That way you will already have options if you find yourself in Clearing, which means less stress and panic on the day.

Research similar courses to the ones you’ve applied for. Remember to consider the ‘additional extras’ the course may offer, such as placements or professional qualification exemptions. Most important of all: check that you meet the basic entry requirements – though these are sometimes altered in Clearing.

Researching on results day
If you find yourself in Clearing, it is important that you effectively research courses and institutions – after all, you are investing two to four years of your life at university or college.

There are many things to consider, so try not to rush the search too much. Chances are you know roughly what you want to study, so look on, institution websites and in the Telegraph to find institutions that have spaces in your chosen subject area. 

Be realistic when considering courses; ask yourself the basic questions e.g. Do you meet the entry criteria? Would you be interested in moving to or commuting to that location?

Questions for admissions tutors
Ask anything and everything, but stay calm. After all, it is the admissions tutor’s job to help you. And don’t worry if you think that you are asking something silly – chances are someone will have asked this before. Feel free to ask even the most seemingly insignificant questions if they help ease your concerns. Although Clearing is a busy period for any institution, the staff at the end of the phone will be pleased to help you. 

And finally...
Try not to rush your decision; whatever it may be. Speak to teachers, parents, friends – anyone who can give you advice from their own experience. If you make the most informed choice you can, it’s likely to be the right one for you.

Sophie Rowell – Admissions Co-ordinator, Nottingham Trent University 

Sophie Rowell,
Nottingham Trent University
Results day can be a daunting time, particularly if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped. If you don’t quite meet the conditions of the offers you hold, you can enter into the Clearing process. This is another chance to find a course of interest, now that you know your results. 

It’s beneficial for you to prepare for Clearing in advance of results day. Look at universities asking for slightly lower grades to do your course of choice, think about where you would like to live in the country, and have a think about which courses match your skills and interests. Some universities publish their Clearing vacancies early, and it doesn’t hurt to have a look at some courses which may be of interest. Parents and teachers may be able to suggest some universities that you hadn’t thought of previously, or courses that you hadn’t yet considered.

If you end up going through the Clearing process on results day, the most important thing is not to panic! There are plenty of spaces at universities up and down the UK, and it’s essential that you take your time to research the courses and universities thoroughly. Make sure that you call the Clearing hotline yourself, rather than getting someone else to call, and have your results and a pen and paper in front of you. Admissions agents are there to help you find a great place in Clearing, not to catch you out! 

We’ve put together some advice guides full of hints and tips to help you prepare for results day. From the ten golden rules for Clearing, to a step-by-step guide, we’ll talk you through what to expect on the day and how to approach the Clearing process. Go to to find out more. 

Rebecca Heron – Student Recruitment Manager, Lancaster University 

Rebecca Heron, Lancaster University
If you think that you might be in Clearing, then the best thing you can do is prepare in advance! Even if there’s only a slim chance, it’s always best to have a contingency plan just in case you don’t do as well as you expected. 

First off, make a list of universities that you might consider – check that they offer your course, and look at the entry grades. You might want to revisit some of the universities that were in your original UCAS choices – you could always give them a call to see if they expect your specific course to be in Clearing.

Next, list your preferred universities in priority order – that way you'll know which to call first on results day. Most universities will open early to cope with demand - the most popular will receive thousands of calls for a limited number of places, so it’s a good idea to make a note of telephone numbers and opening times in advance, and call as soon as they open in order to beat the queues.

Don’t make the call without having done your research first – at least know whether the course is available and what the entry grades are. Your experience could differ greatly depending on the university – some may just run through your grades, whilst others may conduct a telephone interview, so be prepared for either. 

You’ll have to make a decision quite quickly, but you still need to make sure that it’s the right choice - whilst you’re on the phone ask about the modules that you’ll be studying, and find out if accommodation is guaranteed for Clearing students. 

Try to visit the university before you accept an offer – most will have visiting opportunities in the days following Clearing, so ask when you call.


Sarah Temlett & Lucy Dixon – Admisisions Support Unit, University of Sunderland

Our top tips for Clearing: Sarah: “Don’t be shy! Whoever you speak to will want to help you and provide advice tailored to your qualifications and the courses you’re interested in. Places may be limited so don’t be afraid to sell yourself and show your passion for your subject. A conversation with an Admissions Tutor may be an informal interview so have your personal statement to hand – you may want to reference it. If you’re not sure about an offer you’ve received, it’s OK to think it over and call the university back. Don’t take too long as places aren’t held indefinitely, but don’t feel you have to accept it there and then.”

Lucy: “Make sure your phone is charged and that you’re somewhere quiet – you may have to make several calls and you’ll have lots of information to take in. Have a pen and paper to write down the names and numbers of people you have spoken to, as well as any other information. Have a list of your qualifications and experience so university staff have the best chance of finding a course for you. Don’t forget  the university may want to know about your GCSE or equivalent qualifications too."

Questions to ask during Clearing:
Sarah: “If you don’t meet the requirements for a course or there are no places, ask what else is available. Other courses may have different requirements, so there may be a similar course or a foundation course you can get on to. If you ask about a course with professional accreditation, for example social work, always ask the Admissions Tutor how much experience you need to have." 

Lucy: “Ask about the availability, location and cost of accommodation. We have fantastic accommodation here at Sunderland, with great broadband speeds and at reasonable prices. Ask about any financial help that’s available, including bursaries and scholarships. There's more about the scholarship package at the University of Sunderland on our website."

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