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Firstly, don’t panic! It’s only March and if you’ve applied to five choices and haven’t received any offers or you have declined all your decisions you may be able to use UCAS extra. UCAS extra let you apply for a further course between the end of February and the beginning of July and if you are eligible a button will appear on the choices section of your UCAS track page. 

You can then search for courses using the ‘show those available in extra’ button on the left hand side. To make sure you guarantee yourself a university for September, if you were unsuccessful in your initial application and applied to university with higher entry requirements than your predicted grades you might want to apply for courses with entry requirements more suited to your grades. If you've applied for high-demand courses, you may want to widen your search by looking at similar degrees or joint degrees. 

The webpage will give you information about the course, and you may want to get in contact with the university to check whether they’ll consider you and confirm that you think you are a suitable candidate and have a chance of being accepted. 

In applying you’ll use the same information, such as your personal statement, as you have with the other universities, however if you are looking at a different type of course which your personal statement isn’t tailored to you might like to ask the university whether you can send them further information directly. 

You can only apply for one course at a time. Once the application is made to the university they will come back with an offer or decline you. If they decline you or if you choose not to accept it you can apply for another course via extra. However, if you choose to accept it you can’t apply to anywhere else and have to wait for your results in the summer. 

Any don’t worry, if you don’t get a place through extra you can always apply through clearing when it opens over the summer. 

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Didn't get the grades you wanted? There's no need to freak out. Photograph: photos.com

What is Clearing?

Clearing is a way for universities to fill up their remaining places. It may sound like a last resort, but 10% of students obtained their university places through clearing in 2013. Universities tell you which courses still have places available and, in looking through these courses, you can find the ones you like the look of and apply to them. 

Clearing is available from July to September and you can use the service if you already have your exam results but have no offers. You may have been offered places but declined them all, you weren’t made any offers based on your initial application, you didn’t meet the grade requirements when your grades came out or you applied late, after 30th June. 

If you are eligible for clearing your application will automatically be entered, and check track to see whether this is the case for you. 

You can check the UCAS website for course vacancies throughout July and August, however A-level results day - the third Thursday in August - is when it all gets heated. 

Find a few universities and courses you like the look of and contact them directly. You can let them know why you think you are a suitable candidate, why you are applying to them, and why you want to study the course you’ve chosen. If possible, visit the universities you like the look of, as this gives you the best idea of whether you’re going to be happy there for the next three, or more, years - most universities now offer clearing open days so if you’ve not got into university, or if you think you might have missed your grades keep the last couple of weeks in August free so you can attend some open days. 

You can speak to as many universities as you like and you can receive as many verbal offers as the number of universities you contact. 

Note that the UCAS vacancy list is updated regularly and changes when places get filled up and places become available, so check the website regularly. 

If the university wants to offer you a place they will verbally give you a course code, institution code and a time period for which the offer is valid (i.e. between 12-24 hours). You then have to decide whether you want to take up this offer, and if you do you need to enter the details on UCAS track within the agreed time period using the ‘add a clearing choice’ button. 

In applying through clearing you don’t have to stick to your original subject choice - you can consider different subjects and let the admissions department know when you contact them.

Failing that?

If you don’t get any offers through university it’s not the end of the world. You may want to think about taking a year out and going travelling or re-taking your A-levels to improve your grades - both of which will give you something extra to talk about when you come to re-writing your personal statement. Or you may choose not to re-apply to university, and instead take a job straight away or look for an apprenticeship position. 

For more information, please see our Clearing and UCAS Extra pages.

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