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Clearing 2021: a guide for parents

As results day looms, learn what you can do to support your child on their big day (including how Clearing works if they need to find a new uni place)...

While you’ve probably spotted billboards talking about ‘Clearing’ or stories in the news about increasing and decreasing pass rates, it’s time to separate fact from fiction and do your own prep ahead of your child collecting their results.


What's Clearing?

Ucas Clearing is a handy option for those students who want to go to university but don’t receive the grades they needed to get into their first or insurance university choices.

It’s also an opportunity for those who don’t get accepted by any universities in their initial Ucas application.

Clearing allows students to view all the remaining university vacancies at universities across the UK starting that September. In 2020, more than 70,000 students found a place at university through Clearing (source: Ucas).

What is Clearing? Courteney Sheppard from UCAS explains more in this video from our sister site The Student Room.

How parents can support their child on results day

1. The day before results day

If your child is nervous about their results, it’s a good idea to think about their 'plan B' in advance of results day, and to discuss Clearing with them as a worthwhile option (in the most tactful manner possible, of course). They may want to read about student Megan’s journey through Clearing.

Encourage them to have plans in the days leading to results day (or even make plans with them). This way they'll be distracted in the run-up to the big day (rather than sat around overthinking about it).

We did a lot of talking as a family. It's an obvious thing but we reassured her that she had tried her hardest, and whatever the outcome, we were proud of everything she had achieved. We also planned a few treats in the run up to results day like a trip to London, [going to the] theatre, etc to try to take her mind off it. We also used the time to discuss alternatives eg different subjects, different universities or even a year out to rethink what she wanted to do/possibly retake exams, rather than just settle for a course that she wasn't enthusiastic about.
Julie, Portsmouth | Parent

Make sure they get enough sleep the night before as it can be a long day, whether their results go well or otherwise – whether they’ll actually sleep is another question!

On the day, if your child doesn’t get the results they need, they may well panic. It’s important they prepare in advance by locating their:

  • Ucas ID number and log-in details for Ucas Track – results day isn’t the day to be resetting passwords
  • personal statement

If they do have to go through Clearing, they will need both of these. If they have to make a Clearing call to a university, having their personal statement fresh in their mind should really help sell themselves as the perfect candidate over the phone.

Our results day preview has more information about what to have ready.

If they're nervous about speaking to an admissions officer on the phone, perhaps practise a mock call with them to put their nerves at ease. Read our advice on how to make a Clearing call to universities.

Want more advice? Check out this video from Northumbria University.

2. On the day, if your child doesn’t get the grades they wanted

It’s important to remain calm and positive:

Double-check their first and insurance choices

Before your child enters the Clearing process, if they have narrowly missed the grades they needed, remind them it’s always worth phoning their firm and insurance university choices to see if they’re still willing to offer them a place.

He had a great interview with the principal of the faculty at his first choice university. She was so impressed with him she gave him her mobile number and advised him to call her if he did not get the grades he needed, and she would help to get him on the course.
Tracey, Bicester | Parent


Students can go to the Ucas website's Clearing section to see what courses are available. Once they’ve picked some courses they like the sound of, it’s time to do some quick research with our course search to see if the course meets their needs. It’s important that they don't panic, rush their decision and pick the wrong course for them.

Ideally your child will already have a few courses up their sleeve before results day, so they can check if these have vacancies straightaway. Here are some pointers to organise their search for an alternative course.

Clearing is open until late October, although some course places will be snapped up quickly. 


Essential information

When your child finds a course they like, they need to make a note of the:

  • course name
  • course code
  • course details of the course they’re applying to


Making the call

They will then need to call the university to see if they can get a place on the course they’ve chosen. This may be a short phone call to confirm their grades and accept the place, or a longer conversation with a mini interview over the phone with some challenging questions.

[My daughter] practised a [Clearing] phone call interview just in case she needed it. We had phone chargers, pens, paper, subject tables and personal statement printed out at the ready. 
Gill, St Albans | Parent

It’s worth asking them to read how to make a Clearing call to universities.

Keep a phone charger handy for longer calls (and perhaps a light snack and drink too).


Accepting a course

Once they have decided whether they want to accept a course, they will need to update this online through Ucas Track.

They will also need to make sure they let their student finance body know about the changes to their university choices they can update this online. It’s important they do this as they may be entitled to more maintenance finance depending on where they’re now heading eg if they were originally going to live at home but will now be living in halls in London).

For more detailed help and advice to support your child, go to our dedicated Clearing and results day area.

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