Student life

What is Clearing and Adjustment?


Now that you’ve picked up your A-level results and logged onto UCAS track, you’re now likely to be either awash with relief or still just as stressed out as you were this morning.

If it’s the latter, then it could be because you didn’t the grades you needed to go to your first or second choice university, which means that now’s the time to start considering UCAS Clearing.

Alternatively, if you’ve done much better than you expected, then you might be considering UCAS Adjustment – which still comes hand in hand with a small element of stress!

Whichever it is, take a deep breath and don’t panic - you might just be in a much better position than you think.

What is UCAS Adjustment?

If you've met and exceeded the conditions for your first choice university, then you may be eligible to go through UCAS Adjustment to look for an alternative course. Adjustment is usually available from A-level results day until 31 August - although these dates may change, so it’s best to keep up to date by visiting the UCAS website.

If you’ve done better than you expected in your exams, UCAS Adjustment gives students the opportunity to apply to undertake a more competitive course, or to attend a more prestigious university.

Although it can be tempting to jump at the opportunity of a potentially better course or university, it’s a good idea to talk this through with your friends, family and teachers before making any rash decisions. Try to remember why you put your first choice university down originally - did the open day make you fall in love with the campus? Have you got a place at the swankiest halls of accommodation already lined up? Think carefully before you change where you go to study, as you might end up regretting it further down the line.

What is UCAS Clearing?

Sometimes the unexpected does happen, and you may not get the results you want or need to go to your first (or even second) choice university. But that’s what Clearing is for, and there are thousands of great courses available to choose from - so it’s by no means a second-rate option when it comes to choosing a course or university.

In fact, by midnight on A-level results day in 2017, 11,180 students had secured a university place through Clearing (in comparison to just 5,570 in 2013), showing that this method of obtaining a place at university is increasing in popularity year on year.

Essentially, if you were given a conditional offer of a place at university but your exam results didn't go to plan, then you can use UCAS Clearing from results day to try and obtain a place on an alternative course. Clearing is usually available from July to October each year, but, similarly to Adjustment, you will want to check these dates on the UCAS website, as they are subject to change.

If you’ve applied to university through UCAS, then you can use Clearing under the following circumstances:

  • You didn’t receive any university offers (or chose not to accept them)

  • You didn’t get the A-level results you needed for your first or second choice university

  • You’re applying after 30 June (please note that this date may change each year)

You will also need to pay a fee to enter into the Clearing process.

Remember, going through Clearing is nothing to be ashamed of. Universities are keen to fill their courses, so there’s a good chance that you’ll find something that suits you – you may even prefer it to your original choice of course!

When preparing yourself to start calling universities, it’s a good idea to check out all the listings before picking up the phone, as there could be more than one course at the university you're calling that would suit you. Arm yourself with all the information to get the most out of each phone call.

Equally, it’s important to remember that, as eager as universities will be to fill their courses, there will still be a selection process in place - so it’s important to make a good first impression. Take the time before picking up the phone to make sure you have all your results and relevant information to hand. Print out your UCAS personal statement and highlight the key points so that you're prepared. Bear in mind that you will need to obtain a verbal offer from a university over the phone before you will be able to apply for their course through UCAS track. Failure to do so could cause delays with your application, so make sure you fully understand the process before you get dialling.

The beauty of Clearing is that it gives you the opportunity to branch out, so don't just restrict yourself to universities. Further education colleges also have fantastic higher education opportunities, offering degrees and other qualifications validated by UK universities, but taught closer to home.

Applying for Clearing and Adjustment

When choosing a university, whether it’s through Clearing, Adjustment, or right at the start of the application process, it’s important not to forget the practicalities. Consider the cost of living, accommodation choices and transport options when deciding where to go to university. Would you prefer a campus or a city? City centre or rural outdoors? How easy will it be to get home should you need to?

Whatever you decide to do, make sure to do your research, keep calm and remember - you’re in control.

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