Coronavirus update for prospective university students
If you're concerned about how the current COVID-19 situation will affect your chances of landing a university place for the 2020/21 academic year, it's important to follow the latest government guidance.
However, Universities UK has already confirmed that students accepting an unconditional offer should still be in a position to explore other options during Clearing.
For the most up-to-date information on university applications and COVID-19, visit GOV.UK - Department for Education (DfE) and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
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, find out what you need to do to apply
What is 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.
In July 2019, UCAS declared that a total of 66,770 students managed to secure their university places during the 2018 Clearing cycle.
When does Clearing 2020 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 phone the university hotline numbers from Thursday morning to late afternoon on this day. As opening times will vary, it's best to check with the individual university for details.
For 2020 entry, Clearing vacancies will be displayed in UCAS's search tool from Monday 6 July 2020. Applications will be accepted until Monday 21 September, with Tuesday 20 October being the last date 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 and find a course through Clearing.
How does Clearing work?
While some universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, don't take part in Clearing (though Cambridge now participates in Adjustment on A-level results day), the UCAS Clearing website lists thousands of course vacancies from top universities on A-level results day - for instance, over 30,000 courses were available in 2019.
However, it's up to you to identify courses of interest that still have spaces to fill. 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 at UCAS - What is Clearing?
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 - where you can browse vacancies according to subject, location or university. The official UCAS Clearing 2020 list is also published in The Telegraph newspaper.
To apply, fill out your details as normal (including 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 £20 to choose one course in your initial UCAS application, you'll be charged an additional £5 so you're eligible to apply for multiple courses through Clearing.
If Clearing doesn't go to plan, 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 13 August (A-level results day 2020) 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 add Clearing choices?
If you've previously registered for Track and your results have updated, you're ready to use Clearing when your status changes to either 'You are in Clearing' or 'Clearing has started'.
From this point you can visit the 'Your choices' section and click 'Add Clearing choice'.
You'll then be able to enter the course details.
Only once you've been granted permission by your chosen university should you add a Clearing choice.
How do I secure student finance after Clearing?
If you accept an offer through Clearing or Adjustment, you need to make sure you get your student loan, explains Richard Brailey, information and guidance officer at The University of Sheffield.
The process for finance will be different - depending on whether you applied for university in the initial application phase, or whether you're using Clearing and Adjustment for your first application.
If you've already applied for funding but have 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 this as soon as possible, as it may affect the amount you receive.
Follow the steps below to update your GOV.UK - Student finance application:
- Log into your account at GOV.UK - Student finance login
- Go to 'Your Account'
- Select 'Change your Application'
- Then select 'University/College and Course'.
Meanwhile, if you've decided to go to university this year and you still haven't applied for finance, 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 (see GOV.UK above).
While it's possible you won't get all of your funding in time for the start of your course, 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.
Read more about student loans and finance, including student bank accounts.
University Clearing tips
Susie King, head of admissions at Middlesex University London, gives her advice on how to navigate the Clearing process:
- Don't panic if you don't get the grades you were expecting, you can 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.
- Speak to admissions advisers (prior to results day) 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 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.
- Use your time wisely to research, browse websites, view virtual tours, check social media channels and get a feel for the university and area. Only when you're 100% sure on a decision should you put in a formal offer via Track.
- Be patient as 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. Even though you applied late, you'll still receive a welcome pack and your university will make sure you're all set for freshers' week.