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Guide to clearing

UCAS ClearingIt’s the day teenagers love and loathe in equal measures. This year’s A level results will be out on Thursday August 16 and youngsters up and down the country are gearing themselves up to discover how they fared in their exams.

On the day itself, some will be celebrating stellar results but others may have missed their grades and will be wondering how to secure a prized university place.

So as results day looms, how can you help your teen to prepare?

For a start, remember that if your son or daughter doesn’t quite achieve the grades they need for their university offer they still have lots of options. The Clearing system gives them the opportunity to get a place on a similar course, either at the same university or a different one. It also enables universities and colleges to fill vacant places on their courses and allows students who have changed their minds or who haven’t yet applied to look at the different options on offer.

If there’s a risk that your child may not meet the terms of their university offer, start doing some research as soon as possible. Encourage your son or daughter to be proactive and mull over different courses they’d like to do. They can use Clearing to find a place at university if they didn’t receive any offers, declined any offers they did receive, didn’t meet the conditions of their offers or applied after June 30.

Clearing is available from July to September each year so students who already have their exam results but didn’t receive any offers can use Clearing now. Those with conditional offers who find that their exams haven’t gone according to plan can use Clearing from A level results day on August 16, when clearing vacancies will be listed in UCAS‘s search tool. Vacancies are updated regularly by universities and colleges so keep looking at the site. Some courses might be full but other might have vacancies later on. The golden rule is to keep checking.

Dos and don’t for students:

  • Ask for Clearing advice from your school, college or careers office. They will be able to talk you through alternative courses, subjects and universities.
  • See what courses are available. UCAS publishes the official vacancy list online and they are available in The Telegraph newspaper too.
  • If you’ve missed your required grades, contact universities or colleges you’re interested in as soon as possible (students should so this, not parents). You’ll need your UCAS Clearing number (given on the welcome and choices pages in Track) and your personal ID number.
  • Try and get informal offers over the phone, perhaps from a variety of different universities and colleges. If you have time, arrange a visit. Most universities will be happy to meet you and show you around.
  • Once you’ve made a decision and your university has given you the go-ahead, add your Clearing choice in Track. This counts as you accepting the offer and UCAS will then send a confirmation letter.

Dos and don’t for parents:

  • Encourage youngsters to do as much research as possible, preferably in advance. Time is of the essence when it comes to Clearing and if there’s a chance they might miss their grades it’s a good idea to have an idea of other courses they’d like to do and other universities they’d be prepared to consider.
  • Be supportive and calm, not panic-stricken or judgemental. We’ve heard of many instances where students find a course through Clearing that they prefer to their original choice.
  • Don’t call Clearing on your child’s behalf. They need to do it themselves.

Remember that there’s a wealth of information on the UCAS website – There’s also an Exam Results Helpline, supported by the Department for Education and run by UCAS from its Cheltenham HQ. The helpline covers everything from what to do if students haven’t got the grades they need to help with Clearing and information on apprenticeships and vocational courses. It is available in Scotland from August 7 and to the rest of the UK from August 16. The number to ring is: 0808 100 8000.


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