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Top 10 tips for Ucas Clearing 2021

Clearing can be a daunting prospect. Here's some advice to help get you through it, with wise words from 10 students who've survived to tell the tale...

What is Clearing? Read our ultimate guide to Clearing.


1. Persistence pays off

If at first you don't succeed, just keep trying. Even if you have an offer, you can keep calling universities and getting more offers before deciding which one to add as your Clearing choice on Ucas Track.

Things can change quickly in Clearing and, even if a university wasn't interested in you initially, there’s no harm in trying again if it still has free places a few days later. And if you end up on a reserve list, keep in touch with the university about it so they know you’re still interested.

Do not take no for an answer. I was rejected around eight times by universities - and even by the university I currently attend before my persistence paid off. You have to be assertive and think of the phone call as an interview. First Year Economics Student | Cardiff University

2. Be an early bird

Clearing opened on 5 July 2021 and closes on 19 October 2021. All the current vacancies have been up on the Ucas website since 5 July, although many will not be published until the morning of A-level results day 2021 (10 August) and they will be updated regularly until mid-September.

Although the listings on Ucas will be updated constantly, things move fast on results day. Visit universities' own websites to double-check vacancies and, if you see something of interest, give them a call to see if the space is still available.

I missed my insurance choice by a couple of marks which was devastating. My advice for people going through Clearing is to get on the phones as soon as you know you're in Clearing, as places go like hotcakes.

You need the internet and a phone: internet to search for and research unis offering your desired course (or a similar one) and a phone so you can call each of them up straight away to see if you can get a place. You will be put on hold, or the lines may be too busy for you to get through in the first place - so while you’re waiting, keep researching. It’s all a panic but I was finally offered places at two different universities. Second Year Archaeology Student | University Of Wales and Trinity Saint David

3. Be prepared

Clearing places do go quickly, but you have time to take a couple of minutes to compose and prepare yourself before you pick up the phone – you’ll give a much better impression to universities and colleges if you’re feeling calm and confident, after all.

Choose a quiet and comfortable spot to make the call from, and if you’re nervous have a drink of water close by just in case you need to clear your throat.

Make sure you also have all the details you'll need to hand: 

  • The phone number for the university and your own contact details
  • Your Clearing number from Ucas Track
  • Your A-level, AS-level, GCSE and equivalent results, including module marks
  • Your personal statement from your Ucas application
  • Your log-in details for Track
  • Your notes on the course and university and any answers you’ve planned to questions they might ask
  • Any questions you want to ask them
  • If you've called the university before, the name and details of whoever you’ve spoken to.

Be prepared. This is the most useful bit of advice for Clearing students. Have a list of the unis you are going to ring up, their Clearing phone numbers, and times the Clearing lines actually open. All this information should be readily available on individual uni websites. Do this research well before the day, and make sure you actually would like to go to these universities. As soon as the lines open, start calling - and do not be put off if you're rejected by the first few you try. Second Year Psychology Student | Roehampton University

4. Keep an open mind

You’re more likely to be successful at finding a place in Clearing if you’re flexible and willing to consider similar courses to the one you originally applied for, as well as other universities. 

A lot of courses have similar content and you might be interested in joint honours degrees such as English and History. Check the course content carefully to see if it interests you and what options you have to change to a single honours course later.

Don't be put off just because you're not very familiar with a particular university. I ruled out some choices I had come across on the first day, but after doing some research into what the courses were offering as well as looking more into the univiersities themselves, I felt more confident to apply to those options the following day. Third Year Maths Student | Keele University


Watch our video for Clearing tips from the experts

5. Speak to the right people 

Have a pen and paper handy to make notes as you go, otherwise you may forget what the person is telling you. This will also help keep you grounded and focused if you're feeling a bit anxious. If you're making a lot of phone calls, it can be really easy to get confused or forget something important.

It’s a good idea to write down job titles, names, dates and times as well as a summary of what you said and what they said. These details will be useful if you end up needing to get back in touch with the person you spoke to on the call. 

It was a stressful time but the advisers I spoke to on the phone at Queen Mary were really reassuring and helpful. One tip I would give: don't be afraid to ring up universities straight away, as they are there to help. I took a little while to ring up, which probably hindered the process and made it more stressful overall. Also, if you have not met your grades, make sure you ring your original and insurance choices to see if obtaining a place is still possible. Third Year Biology Student | Queen Mary University Of London

6. Sell yourself

You might feel a bit nervous about making Clearing calls, but remember universities are friendly and want to help. The university staff you speak to about Clearing places will even have had specific training to help you feel at ease during the call.

Make sure you have your notes about why you want to study the course with you, as well as a copy of your personal statement. These will help you remember what you want to say. Show them how enthusiastic you are about the course and the university and if you get flustered at any point just take a deep breath and start again.

Remember to stay positive and focus on your strengths, rather than talking about your negatives or things you didn’t do so well on.

And Clearing interviews aren’t just a chance for tutors to see if you’re right for their university, but also for you to work out if they’re the right choice for you. Asking questions also makes you look keen, inquisitive and motivated – all good qualities that tutors will be looking out for.

Do your research so you already know the basics that are easily answered on their website – this will give you more time to go over more complicated questions that aren't covered in FAQs.

Be cool and calm - if you're going through Clearing, have an idea of what you might want to say to sell yourself. Write it down beforehand if it helps as a script / aid but don't robotically read it out. You may be speaking with the head of your course, so ensure there's something special you can highlight about why you are passionate about gaining entry to their course. Second Year Human And Social Geography Student | University Of Brighton

7. Hang on in there

You can only enter a Clearing choice on Track after 3pm on A-level results day (10 August 2021). Most universities will give you a time period that their offer will be valid for, typically around 12 to 48 hours. If you enter a Clearing choice after this period has passed then the university may reject you.

It’s really important that you only enter a Clearing choice on Track once you’ve spoken to the university or college and they’ve provisionally offered you a place on the course. If you enter a Clearing choice without discussing it with the university or college, they may take a while to reject you and this can slow down your application and waste valuable time while other Clearing places get taken up.

The most stressful part of Clearing for me was the wait between finding out if my application had been successful or not. It was over two weeks after results day that I finally found out that I had got in - during the period in between, I didn't know what was going on and whether I was going to university at all. First Year Computer Science | Middlesex University

8. Keep calm and carry on

Lots of people find university places through Clearing every year – in 2020, more than 70,000 students were accepted through Clearing.

There are still plenty of options available to you, so there's no need to panic – chances are, you'll be able to find a course you love through Clearing. 

My sixth form was really good on results day, but I did get upset when I thought I hadn't got a place anywhere. My advice would be not to panic. So many people I know didn't get into their first choice unis, but I don't know anyone who didn't manage to get in anywhere - and all of them ended up loving where they went to. First Year English Literature Student | University Of Central Lancashire

9. Get all the help you can

Don't forget that your teachers are there to help if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed or confused by all your options. 

If you're struggling to settle on a new university or course, you can also use The Student Room's dedicated university forums to speak to a university's official representatives and other students who are already studying there to find out more information about the university or course.

I went to pieces when I found out I hadn’t got into Newcastle University - both my first and second choices were for there. My form tutor soon calmed me down on exam results day, sat me down and got me in front of a computer. She told things to me straight, helped me research other options and this really helped me to calm down and focus. I wouldn’t have been able to sort things out if she hadn’t been there to help me. Second Year Environmental Sciences Student | Northumbria University

10. Don’t make a rash decision 

The lead-up to results day can be really nerve-wracking, and on the day itself you might feel pretty disappointed if you don’t get the grades you needed for your top-choice university.

If the worst happens and your grades aren’t quite what you hoped for, you’ll have one less thing to stress about if you’ve already spent a bit of time researching other universities and courses you might be interested in attending. 

When you’re researching other courses, think about things like the university’s location and the course content to help you focus on what you want to get out of Clearing. Keep a clear idea in your mind of what you're willing to be flexible about and what you won't want to compromise on.

The most important thing to look for if you go through Clearing is the course - get this right first to make sure you'll enjoy your studies and do well. The uni you go to doesn't matter so much - if you're on a course you love you'll still end up having the best time of your life. I didn't choose the right course and so now I am having to do another first year on a different course. But even though it's not ideal, even changing courses isn't the end of the world either. You've always got the option to start again if you want. First Year Maths Student | Aston University

I would advise not jumping to take the first course place you're offered - try and take a bit of time to think about it properly before committing. Most universities will give you 24 hours to think it through if you ask. Also, don’t just rush into a course because you think it's a good university - research the course properly and think carefully if you will enjoy it. Third Year Biology Student and Queen Mary | University Of London

Want more advice? Here's what some other students had to say

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