Having applied to university during the current application year, Clearing is a process whereby those without a place are matched with unfilled vacancies and, hence, can gain a place ready for the Autumn. It is available to you if:

  • you applied after 30th June
  • you didn't receive any offers (or none you wanted to accept)
  • you've received your results, but you didn't manage to meet the conditions of your offers

It used to be seen as a last resort, however it now seen in a more positive light as many elite universities now use the system and it gives you the opportunity to think about what and where you want to study if you couldn't make the UCAS January deadline. However, Clearing is becoming more popular with more than 10% of students finding their course through the system (73,320 compared to the 706,435 students off to university).  

Application forms with glasses and a pen placed on top

Image Credit: flazingo/Flickr.com

How it works

The UCAS Clearing vacancy search goes live at midnight on the day you receive your A-level results. In this way, you can use newspaper apps or go to the universities' own websites to search for unfilled courses. 

It is worth keep checking the UCAS website as the Clearing list is updated continually; it is possible that you might not find your exact university or course because they are full, but some vacancies might appear later.

Once you've found a course and university you need to phone the university in person - you can then discuss yourself and your options with them, and if they like you they will verbally offer you a place. This offer will generally stand for 24 hours, which gives you time to think about your options and perhaps phone round other universities. Remember that this phone call is essentially a mini-interview, so work out beforehand answers to questions such as why you want to study on your chosen course at your chosen university. University hotlines open on the morning of A-Level results day and stay open for approximately 10 days. When calling remember to have to hand:

  • your UCAS number
  • your Clearing number
  • your full academic qualifications
  • your details (i.e. correspondence address, e-mail address)

UCAS' clearing service (Track) opens at 8am on the morning of A-level results day - if you are eligible for Clearing, your UCAS status will say 'You are in Clearing' or 'Clearing has started'. If your status has not been updated, your application may still be under consideration by your first choice or insurance choice university, even if you have missed your grades - phone up your university to see what your current status is, so you know what steps to take next. Once you have a verbal offer from a university that you want to accept, you can then add it through the website from 5pm the same day. You can only add one course, so make sure that you are 100% certain that it's the one you want to accept. 

If possible, once you've received an offer you may be able to attend a university open day before coming to your final decision - make sure you keep the week after A-level results day free so you can do so if you wish and be prepared to travel at short notice. 

Be prepared

  • If you think you might miss your grades or are planning on finding a university through Clearing, research universities and courses that interest you - you can then see whether they have a vacancy on A-level results day
  • Make a list of your academic and personal interests and achievements, linking them to the course you might like to study, so you can have them to hand when calling universities
  • Decide what you are going to do under the situations of 1. receiving the grades you wanted or 2. not receiving the grades you wanted 
  • Find your GCSE results so you can have them to hand when calling up universities 
  • Don't book a holiday during A-level results week



In the same way that you can use Clearing to find universities and courses if you haven't done as well as hoped in your exams, you can use Adjustment to reconsider your options if you've done better than expected. You can look at better universities than your first choice, a university you were initially rejected from, or a course that required grades higher than you were predicted to achieve. 

Scrabble tiles on a Scrabble board spelling out the word application

Image Credit: Christophe Beniot/flickr

How to use Adjustment?

If you wish to use Adjustment, click 'Register for Adjustment' in Track on UCAS. Adjustment starts on the day you recieve your A-level results until 31st August, however you'll only have five 24-hour periods (including weekends) within this time to use it.

Unlike Clearing, there is no vacancy list for universities, so if there's a university you're interested in ring them up and ask whether they've space through Adjustment. You can use the UCAS Clearing vacancy list to give you an idea of what is available with your A-level results. 

While you are looking for a place, your original first choice will be safe and if you don't find anything you like via Adjustment you are still guaranteed your original university and course. 

If you are offered a new place (verbally) and want to accept it, UCAS Track will be updated with your new university and course choice. Once this has happened your original first choice university will become null and void and you won't be able to change your mind. 

Be prepared

  • If you think you might obtain higher grades than anticipated research universities and courses that are of interest to you (perhaps even visit them) before A-level results day so you can phone them up straight away
  • Make a list of your academic and personal interests and achievements, linking them to the course you might like to study, so you can have them to hand when calling universities
  • Find your GCSE results so you can have them to hand when calling up universities 
  • Don't book a holiday during A-level results week

Remember that in choosing a new university through Adjustment you'll also have to re-apply for accommodation etc. and you're less likely to obtain your ideal halls. Also, if you've received better grades than expected, don't feel pressured to use the Adjustment system if you are happy with your first choice university - three years is a long time and it's better to be happy in a lesser-ranked university than it is to be unhappy in an elite university.