Clearing: how to apply

by Alix Leonard

Hi, I’m Alix, one of the Digital Content Ambassadors for Lancaster University. I’ve just finished my third year studying English Literature, and am part of Lonsdale College.

Today I thought I would share with you a step-by-step guide on applying to university through clearing. If like me, you didn’t meet the conditions of your original offer, or are worried about this happening to you, then this little guide will take you through the clearing process. Hopefully, you will see how straightforward this is – anyone can have a second chance, and you can be sure to find the best place for you, despite things not going to plan!

Who is clearing for?

The Clearing system is available to all applicants from the morning of your results day. For the International Baccalaureate, this falls on Monday 6th July 2020; for A-Levels, this would be on Thursday 13th August 2020. If you already have a UCAS account and haven’t received any offers, haven’t met their conditions, or have not firmly accepted any, you will be automatically enrolled into the clearing system. If not, you will need to make a UCAS account in order to apply.

You can find your clearing number on the Track home page, under the section ‘My Status’. Remember to keep this number at hand, as you will need it throughout the process.

Using the search tool

After doing this, you can use the UCAS course search tool to find courses that have places remaining in your chosen subject. This doesn’t even have to be related to the course you originally applied for. You have the option to choose any, provided that places are still available! You can even choose to search specifically by university, if there is a place you would rather study at (though I would personally recommend searching by course to see what options are available to you in your chosen field).

When doing your search, you’ll find the contact details under each available option. Some universities will have a clearing-dedicated phone number, others will have an online application process. Each University will have a different system, and they will clearly explain how you can contact them in order to apply.

Gathering information

When conducting your research, make a shortlist of the courses you would like to consider. Check the requirements for the clearing application, and gather all your relevant information; this might include your UCAS ID number, clearing number, your exam results (IB, A-Level, and/or GCSE), details of your relevant work experience, portfolios, any questions you might have, and a copy of your personal statement. If you’re applying to a completely different course from the one you previously applied to, or are a first-time applicant, chances are you will be required to write one for your chosen course. I’d recommend writing one as soon as you know what course you would like to apply for, as this is most likely necessary for the clearing application process.

Universities often have tips for Clearing and Adjustment on their websites – so be sure to read through those to find out more about clearing at the University you’re applying for!

Contacting the Universities

Once you’ve gathered all your information and made a shortlist of the courses you’re interested in, start contacting the Universities. You will need to contact them directly yourself using the contact number they provide in the clearing search list, or by completing the application. If you're calling, the admissions staff member will then ask for your clearing number to view your Track screen, look at your application, results, as well as the personal statement. You can offer to send them a copy of your new one, if this is the case. If you are eligible for an opening, the admissions member will ask you questions to see if you’re a good fit for the course. While you don’t have to do an interview as part of the clearing process, these questions will act as a mini-interview of sorts. Remember that they are not designed to catch you out, but to see if you would be a good fit for the place.

Receiving an offer

Following this, you might receive a verbal offer from the University, or they will ask to call you back or email you with their decision. When this happens, you need to contact the University directly to accept their offer, and then update your Track screen by clicking on the option which allows you to add a clearing choice. Make sure you keep a record of any offers that are made, and ask how the University would prefer to confirm the offer, and within what timeframe. After this, you’re all set – congratulations on getting your place!

A sunset view of Lancaster's colleges

Final thoughts

This is a stressful time for any students taking their final year exams – I remember myself eagerly waiting for my results, desperate to know whether or not I had made it into my University of choice. The important thing is to try not to worry – which is easier said than done! But as someone who went through this process, I can confidently say that things really did turn out for the better. Clearing gave me a second chance at going to University, despite not meeting expectations, and to take a leap of faith by applying to a course I was genuinely passionate about!

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