Clearing 2013: the ultimate guide

UCAS Clearing 2013

By Pamela Head,

It's coming up to A Level Results Day and so we at theunipod have compiled a handy FAQ guide to UCAS Clearing 2013 to get you through this difficult hurdle.

What is UCAS Clearing?
When does it start?
How long is it open for?
What do I need to apply through Clearing?
How does it work?
Can I apply through Clearing without UCAS?
Will universities accept lower grades if I go through Clearing?
I'm worried I will have to go into Clearing before results day, what do I do?
What do I do if I failed to meet my firm offer, met the conditions for my insurance but want to go into Clearing?
How many universities can I apply to through Clearing?
What do I say when I call up the universities?
Is there anything I should do to plan ahead?
Who can I speak to for advice?
What if I have better than predicted grades? Can I still apply through Clearing?
Can I defer a year?
What is UCAS Adjustment?
What is UCAS Extra?
What do I do about student accommodation?

What is UCAS Clearing?

The UCAS Clearing process is a way of matching students to universities with available places left after the A Level exam results day is underway. Courses in Clearing are a combination of those taken from students who failed to meet the conditions on their offers and those the university has held back to fill specifically with Clearing students in the hope of scooping up some star pupils.

When does it start?

Thursday 15th August 2013; A Level Results Day. Scottish students can begin this process on the 7th August however, as their results come out earlier.

How long is it open for?

Until 20th September 2013.

What do I need to apply through Clearing?

You'll need your UCAS number to begin with, and then your Clearing number, which you can get from UCAS once you've been released from your firm and insurance choices; though don't panic if you don't have this yet.

An 'Add a Clearing Choice' button will also appear on UCAS Track, which you'll need to confirm your place through UCAS officially.

How does it work?

On results day, it's a good idea to pick up a copy of The Telegraph, as it is the only newspaper that will have a complete listing of the 2013 Clearing vacancies if you're set on applying to uni through Clearing. The vacancies will also be listed on the UCAS website.

When you have decided on a course you're interested in, then YOU need to call them up, not family or friends, as it is you they're interested in and your application and details they're dealing with.

You can informally contact as many universities as you like by calling them up and discussing your application. You can only enter one choice on UCAS though so make sure you've fully decided on which university you want to firm.

Once you have decided, the university will give you a course code and an institution code, and you enter the details on Track using the 'Add a Clearing Choice' button in much the same way as you did for the rest of your choices.

Can I apply through Clearing without UCAS?

There is a method called "Record of Prior Acceptance" (RPA) that some universities will use. But not all universities will accept applications from this route, so to have the best chance of being accepted you should apply through UCAS.

Even if you do choose the RPA route, universities may still want to receive a reference for you.

Some universities will allow you to apply to them directly without UCAS, but they all recommend you use the service, as it will save you having to enter your details repeatedly for every Clearing place you apply to.

To apply through UCAS, you will need to pay a £15 administration fee and then wait for your Clearing passport, wherein you will be entered directly into Clearing.

Will universities accept lower grades if I go through Clearing?

Some will, some won't. If they are experiencing a lot of demand or are a highly ranked university, then it's likely they won't, as they know they will fill their places by sticking to the same grade requirements.

Usually a university will judge you on how you portray yourself when you call up, however, and may make you a lower offer if you sound enthusiastic about the course, already have experience in the subject area or anything else to demonstrate your dedication - so make sure you sell yourself as much as possible.

I'm worried I will have to go into Clearing before results day, what do I do?

The first thing to do is speak to your school. They will be able to give you advice on what to do next and help you search for alternative courses to enable you to continue on the same career path.

If you want to be proactive and get a rough idea of what to expect, you can also search the universities you're interested in and see what they are asking for in terms of grades for the course. It's no guarantee that they will lower the grade requirements when entering Clearing so it's good to aim at those you could meet outside of Clearing.

Make a list of the courses in Clearing you're interested in so you know what to look for when you pick up that hefty copy of the Telegraph Clearing listings on results day.

If you think you've found a course you really want to study, then do some research about the university itself so that when you go to apply, you make yourself stand out from the crowd by showing a real interest in their institution.

What do I do if I failed to meet my firm offer, met the conditions for my insurance but want to go into Clearing?

Your firm offer will have released you upon you failing to meet the conditions so this part is relatively simple. However, with your insurance choice, you will need to call them and ask them to release you from your offer before you can enter Clearing.

You will need your Clearing number and this won't be released until you have declined all offers and entered Clearing officially. You can still phone around universities and speak to people before this though – you just won't be able to officially apply to any courses until this is done.

If you take this path, you might not actually be eligible for up to two weeks after Clearing has opened so the process may take longer than normal, but this is only a possibility.

How many universities can I apply to through Clearing?

You can informally phone as many as you like, but you may only enter one choice into UCAS. Make sure that you have spoken to the university on the phone and they have told you to apply for a place.

If they haven't and you enter it on Clearing, then it complicates the situation as you then have to wait for the university to release you before you can enter another choice.

While this may not seem like too much of a problem, it could mean the difference between you getting the choice you want, and it being taken by someone else while you wait to be released.

What do I say when I call up the universities?

The first thing to do is make sure you're prepared. Research the university and the course you're applying for before you call so you can show them that you really want to study there. A lot of students panic when they fail to meet their offers and start calling any university they think will take them, so your passion for the subject and university is important.

A useful tip is to also look at the modules listed under your course, and tell the application team why you're looking forward to studying them. An in-depth knowledge of the course itself may impress them and cause them to ask you to apply.

It may also be a good idea to have your personal statement to hand in case you get flustered and panic.

Above all, stay calm and cheerful. You are selling yourself so don't let any stress get to you. If you've done your research and got the grades, you're in a strong position.

Is there anything I should do to plan ahead?

Yes. Lots! In fact, to emphasize the importance of being prepared to ensure you don't miss out, we have put together a guide to being prepared for Clearing 2013 for you.

Who can I speak to for advice?

Your school is the best place to start for this one. They've helped countless students before you with their university deliberations and have the experience and expertise to give you some good advice.

If you have any family or friends currently at university who've gone through Clearing themselves, they're also a good bet. They'll know what the process entails and are good to speak to before results day as they'll be able to answer any niggling questions or fears you might have. You can read my personal experience of Clearing here.

What if I have better than predicted grades? Can I still apply through Clearing?

If you have better than predicted grades and this means that you've met your firm offer, then you'll have been automatically confirmed as taking that place as you agreed to a contract when you made that university your first choice.

You will not be able to enter Clearing in this case as this only appears if you've failed to meet your firm and insurance choices. However, all is not lost for you if you feel like you could have done better and were a bit over-cautious when applying.

UCAS Adjustment is a special service designed to help those students who have achieved better grades than anticipated. Through this system, you can apply to higher ranked universities to see if you can better your place. It won't affect your firm choice place if you are unsuccessful and is purely a way for students to see if they can do better with their firm grades.

Can I defer a year?

You can defer a year but universities usually expect to deal with applications for entry for the current year through Clearing.

You will need to contact your university directly and ask to defer your place as soon as you know, though they may say no as they will have factored in your place into the overall number of students and places they have available.

If your heart is set on deferring, it may be a better option for you to reapply through UCAS in September. This way, you will have a choice of all courses and universities available, rather than just the limited number available through Clearing, and will have the added benefit of knowing your actual grades instead of working from predicted grades.

If you apply for a course that wants the grades you have and are successful in the application process, you will be given an Unconditional offer, which takes the stress and worry away for the remainder of your gap year.

What is UCAS Adjustment?

This system is intended to help students who have done better than they expected or under applied. This means if you applied to universities looking for CCC and you managed to get AAA, you can change once you pay the UCAS application fee of £23.

Entering this process does not mean you will lose your firm choice – that is protected. This is just a way for you to be able to see if you can get a place at a more highly ranked university. If you find something you like and accept, your firm choice will release you. If not, you remain at your firm choice.

The Adjustment process is open from results day to the 31st August 2013, but you will only be given five days to find an alternative course, so if you feel this is the path for you, try to make sure you register before 27th August!

What is UCAS Extra?

UCAS Extra is a way of applying to more universities if you have received no offers from your original five choices or if you have changed your mind about the universities you applied to. You must hold no offers to use this service, and it runs from February to early July.

You can apply to any course through Extra, so if you have changed your mind about the subject you want to study, this is a way to change that.

It is important to note, however, that certain subjects never come up through Extra, like Dentistry or Medicine, so you must be sure before you decide to take this path.

You can only apply to one university at a time through this system, and must wait for the response and make a decision to accept or reject before you can apply anywhere else.

Declining offers you have in the hope of getting something 'better' through Extra is a very high risk strategy and not recommended. You can search for courses using the UCAS website, ticking the "Extra courses only" box when you enter the search function.

What do I do about student accommodation?

Some universities offer accommodation to Clearing students and some only offer guaranteed accommodation to those who listed them as a firm choice and did this before a certain date. It is important here to do your research and find out which of these your university is.