Universities use Clearing as a means of filling any places remaining on their courses, so if you've not managed to find a suitable course yet, discover what you need to do to apply

What is Clearing?

In 2016, UCAS declared that a record 64,900 students had secured their university place through Clearing.

Clearing is a UCAS service that allows universities to fill spaces on courses that aren't yet full, while students without offers are given a second chance to pursue their higher education aspirations.

When does Clearing 2018 open?

The service is available from July to September each year meaning you can enter Clearing from A-level results day onwards.

Vacancies are updated regularly, with the majority added from results day. You can pick up the phone and call university hotline numbers between Thursday morning and late afternoon on this day. As opening times will vary, it's best to check with the individual university for details.

For 2018 entry, Clearing vacancies will be displayed in UCAS's search tool from Thursday 5 July 2018. Applications will then be accepted until 20 September, with 23 October being the last date for you to add your choices, and for universities to make their final decisions.

Can I use UCAS Clearing?

If you were late applying for university (after 30 June), haven't received any offers, had conditional offers but didn't get the grades you were expecting, or you've decided not to take up an offer, this could be the ideal way to find a place on a new course.

Even if you meet the grade requirements for your insurance offer, you may still be able to negotiate a release from your university choice to be eligible to find a course through Clearing.

If you've previously registered for Track and your results have updated, you can be sure you're ready to use Clearing when your status changes to either 'You are in Clearing' or 'Clearing has started'.

How does Clearing work?

While some universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, don't take part in Clearing, the UCAS Clearing website listed 41,000 course vacancies from top universities on A-level results day in 2016 - an increase of 4,000 on the previous year.

However, it's up to you to identify courses of interest that still have spaces available. You'll have to contact the relevant universities directly to confirm whether they'll offer you a place.

You can even consider applying for courses in subjects you hadn't originally applied for, and to universities that may have previously rejected you earlier in the year.

Trained advisers are on hand manning university hotlines to guide you through the process. You'll need to gain permission from a university before you can add the course to Track.

Once you've received a verbal offer, it's been added in Track and confirmed by the university, your place is guaranteed.

Read more about how Clearing works on the dedicated UCAS page.

How do I apply through Clearing?

Any places on courses that universities haven't managed to fill are listed on the UCAS website and these can be found via their search tool (by clicking the relevant Clearing tab). The official vacancy list is also published in The Telegraph newspaper.

To apply, fill out your details as normal (this includes your university personal statement). Once submitted, you'll be invited to use the Track service and be given a Clearing number. From there, you'll need to follow the steps and look for a place.

You'll need to give the university your Clearing number and personal ID number, so they can view your online application. Verbal offers are usually made over the phone, and you should only accept one.

Remember, you'll only be able to add one choice at a time. If the university doesn't confirm the offer, you can look again.

If you only paid the reduced fee of £13 to choose one course in your initial UCAS application, you'll be charged an additional £11 so you're eligible to apply for multiple courses through Clearing.

If Clearing doesn't go to plan for you, there's also an optional direct contact service available. By signing up, universities are given permission to get in touch with you regarding suitable courses. They can then contact you from 16 August (A-level results day 2018) until mid-September.

You can only use this service if you're not waiting on any decisions from universities, you don't currently hold any offers, you applied by 30 June and you've paid the full application fee.

How do I find accommodation after accepting a Clearing offer?

Anna Brennan, head of campus services at the University of Bedfordshire, offers some top tips on sorting out your university accommodation after securing your course place through Clearing. He says:

  • There's no need to panic, as plenty of people are in the same position as you and universities have accommodation teams available to help.
  • Know your budget in advance and have a deposit ready. Don't waste valuable time discussing student finance options with your parents or working out how far your money will go after you've been offered a place - have this all sorted beforehand.
  • Be open-minded. Don't go in with a fixed idea of what you want - it may not be an option and the alternative may even turn out to be better.
  • Prioritise. Create a checklist of your main priorities, in order, so you know where you're prepared to compromise.
  • Make full use of social media. Use Twitter, Facebook and relevant smartphone apps to find others who are in a similar position to you.
  • What do you need to know? Have a list of questions ready to ask a member of the accommodation team.

How do I secure my student loan?

If you accept an offer through Clearing or Adjustment you need to make sure you get your student loan. Richard Brailey, information and guidance officer at The University of Sheffield, explains the process…

Once you've got your offer, it's time to turn your attention to planning for life as a student. One of the more crucial aspects of this is your student loan application.

The process for this will be different depending on whether you applied for university in the initial application phase, or whether you are using Clearing and Adjustment for your first application.

If you've already applied for funding but you've changed your course or the university you're attending, you'll need to let Student Finance know. It's easy to update your details, but you should do it as soon as possible as it may affect the amount you receive.

Follow the steps below to update your application online:

  1. Log into your Student Finance account.
  2. Go to 'Your Account'
  3. Select 'Change your Application'
  4. Then select 'University/College and Course'.

Meanwhile, if you've decided to go to university this year and you haven't applied for finance yet, you'll need to apply now to give yourself the best chance of receiving your loan in time for the start of your course. You can register and apply online.

It is possible that you won't get all of your funding in time for the start of your course, but Student Finance will do their best to make sure you receive some support shortly after you register. If you face a delay in your funding, contact your university to let them know.

Whether you have already applied or not, students from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will need to apply or update their details at the relevant website.

Read more about student loans and finance, including student bank accounts.

Clearing tips

Susie King, head of admissions at Middlesex University, offers her advice on how to navigate Clearing. She says:

  • Don't panic if you don't get the grades you were expecting. Be prepared to shop around for suitable courses.
  • Listen to advice from parents and teachers as well as university academics and programme leaders when considering courses through Clearing.
  • Prior to results day, speak to admissions advisers on the likelihood of spaces being available on your chosen course. While they won't be able to confirm exact numbers, you'll get a good idea and this will help you prepare.
  • Consider retaking your exams if your heart's set on a particular subject. Speak to your teachers - they're perfectly placed to offer guidance on resitting, or if there are universities that might take you for a similar course with lower entry grades.
  • Be ready to answer questions on your reasons for choosing a specific course (as well as your academic ability), as universities will want to know you're the right fit. You may even be asked to speak to a programme leader about the course, or be invited for a university interview.
  • Be aware of dates and times, including the fact that most courses won't close until the end of the first day of Clearing. Hotlines will stay open until September, giving you time to discuss your options with those closest to you.
  • Take notes when talking to universities, jotting down reference numbers and words of advice, while having your UCAS number to hand.
  • Only when you're 100% sure on a decision, put in a formal offer via Track. This can be done after 5pm on results day, so use your time to research, browse websites, view virtual tours, check social media channels and get a feel for the university and area.
  • Be patient. With hundreds of applications to process, it can take up to a day for your chosen university to make a decision and respond. If you haven't heard back by the following day, give them a call to find out about your place.
  • Don't worry that you applied late, as you'll still receive a welcome pack and your university will make sure you're all set for freshers' week.