Getting into university through UCAS Clearing doesn’t have to be a scary process. Follow these tips to make the most out of this opportunity . . .

The UCAS Clearing process allows students without a university place to apply for courses that are still available at institutions with vacancies. Long considered a ‘last resort’ for those who haven’t met their expected grade requirements, in recent years Clearing has experienced an image boost.

Despite this, the process of Clearing remains misunderstood, which can lead to missed opportunities. Chris Ellicott, registrar and director of Student Services at Bath Spa University, shares his insight on how to clearing can be a positive experience.

In the past Clearing has had a lot of stigma attached to it. Schools, parents and pupils have seen it as a second-rate option; the only way to secure a space if results come back with lower grades. This has changed in recent years, and universities have seen a big increase in students taking places via Clearing.

This is for several reasons. However, for many, Clearing is a necessity due to unexpected lower grades. For a young person who had their heart set on a particular future it can be a difficult period of adjustment. Parents can also have a tough time with the process, as it is largely up to the applicant to do the leg work to secure a Clearing opportunity. This can be daunting, so preparation is key.

There are things that parents can do to help. If your child didn’t achieve the results they were expecting there are a few key issues to address.

– The course is obviously number one, and not all popular subject areas will be available. This can be a blow but Clearing gives students the chance to think about a joint honours degree, combining two interesting subject areas that they may not have thought about. Or, they might find a related course that includes elements of the course they originally wanted to study, with some extra elements they hadn’t considered. Not getting to read a top choice subject can open up a world of possibilities and broaden potential career options.

– Location is also an important consideration. Applicants will have researched the local area of their top choice university – the transport, safety and route home for the holidays and it will be a huge knock to find that that research will go unused. However, many cities have more than one university, so remember to explore whether that is a possibility. It’s also worth considering whether a local university would be the best option, especially after exam results shock. As well as being in a supportive, familiar environment, which many of our local students here at Bath Spa find positive, staying local has the added practical benefit of cost savings on rent and bills.

– Armed with a good understanding of what they want out of the different elements of university, applicants then need to hit the phones as soon as possible. Clearing advice centres at individual institutions are well equipped to handle student queries. This year at Bath Spa University we expect our call centre to be very busy all day. We’ll have over 40 staff on the phones who will be on hand to offer guidance to people who might be upset and anxious. Remember, it must be the applicant who phones – parents cannot do this on their behalf.

– Asking the questions that matter is crucial, and if students can, try and get to a Clearing open day to have the opportunity to visit the campus and start to connect with a new university and feel excited about what is to come.

The best piece of advice I can give is to view Clearing as a positive opportunity, rather than a forced choice. Most Clearing students find they enjoy what they end up doing and the process gives them the chance to secure a place on a degree which could change the course of their whole life. A positive attitude from everyone involved is a vital part of making Clearing a good experience.


Main image: Bath Spa University