Digital ambassador Alix

Clearing: choosing the right university

by Alix Leonard

As is the case for anyone applying to University, whether through the normal application process or through clearing, everyone has experienced a similar level of uncertainty – including myself. To help you through this process, I’ve decided to dedicate a post to my Clearing series, where I’m going to share with you some of my experience and tips in narrowing down and deciding which University is right for you.

Your clearing options

The first step you should take when deciding what University you should apply to is to see what options are available to you through Clearing. Using the UCAS clearing search tool, you can look up the course that interests you, and find a list of Universities that have available places in your area of study. This will come up alphabetically, so be sure to scroll through all of the different options to find everything that’s available to you – don’t just stick with the first few results that pop up!

screenshot of university league tables

Using League Tables

You can look at the course-specific league tables in order to find out where your University ranks – I would recommend using different sources, as each league table ranks Universities differently. You can filter your searches by region, University group, student satisfaction, graduate career prospects, or even research quality. This will really help you determine the quality of the course you’re applying for, as well as the University in general.


I’d also recommend looking at online forums, news articles, and the Universities’ websites to further research your potential University choices. This will help you piece together the overall vibe, as well as offer interesting perspectives from the students who are currently studying there.

Try to also research the town or city in which you’d be studying. It’s important for you to know what type of place you’d prefer to study; whether it be a large or small city, a small town, it’s accessibility to other parts of the UK, each location has its own perks and downfalls. You could visit the location, navigate the streets on Google maps (especially during lockdown!) or find out what landmarks or famous sites are around the area.

Lancaster Castle

Visit the Campus (if you can!)

An Open Day on campus

One thing that I found extremely helpful in narrowing down my University, and helped ease my anxiety at applying to somewhere I was not expecting to go to, was to visit the campuses. If this is something you are able to do, I would strongly recommend you go to the Universities’ official websites, and check to see if you can book a guided tour. If this option isn’t available to you, you can always go up to the campus and walk around yourself from the outside. This will really help you get an overall vibe, and see for yourself what the facilities are like. I’d also recommend you take a quick walk around the city centre, as you might like to spend weekends around there!

Given the current coronavirus situation, however, it might be impossible for you to organise a tour in person. Most Universities will have set up a Virtual Open Day for their students – so you can explore the facilities from your own home.

Final thoughts

Clearing can seem like a daunting experience to go through, especially if you’ve just received your results and found out you didn’t meet the conditions for your offer. If you’re applying to University through clearing, and are struggling to decide on where to go, my advice would be not to worry! Though this is definitely easier said than done, remember that everyone has been in the same boat, and you can always find a place that will match your living preferences. Choosing a University through clearing is, after all, just as important and exciting of a process as normal applications!