Clearing 2015 – A step-by-step guide

UCAS clearing

Around 300,000 students will receive their A-level results on Thursday, and like every year, thousands of students will suddenly find themselves thrown into the Clearing system.

If you are among them, remember – ending up in Clearing is no reason to panic. University Clearing is there for anyone who has applied through Ucas but is without a place after receiving their results, whatever the reason.  Over 61,000 students found a university place through Clearing in 2014, according to UCAS – a not-insignificant 9% of all university admissions that year.  So there is a good chance you will too, provided you are flexible and get your research right.

Here is a simple, step-by-step guide to Clearing should you need to get involved on results day:

1. Check Track

On the morning of results day, log in to Track on the UCAS website to see if you are eligible for Clearing. It’s a myth that Track is updated at midnight on results day. Only the Clearing 2015 Vacancy Search goes live at midnight; Track opens at around 8am.  If you’re eligible for Clearing, it will say so and you’ll be provided with a Clearing number which you should take note of so you can proceed (the universities you call up during Clearing will ask you for this).

2. Browse courses

You can browse Clearing 2014 vacancies at any time on results day, but you can’t make a formal choice until around 5.00pm when, if you’re eligible, an “add Clearing choice” button appears on your Track “choices” screen. However, you should call universities or colleges much earlier in the day to secure a provisional offer. Discuss your options with those who know your academic background and have been advising you up to this point. You might also find it helpful to talk to careers advisers on the Exam Results Helpline (0808 100 8000).

3. Be ready to act fast

Vacancies can be filled extremely quickly, and if you’re not around at the start of Clearing places on your chosen courses may have gone by the time you call the universities or colleges. Admissions staff will want to speak to you, not your parents or advisers.

4. Prepare to contact admissions staff

When you have found a course you like, call the university’s admissions office to confirm that places are still available and discuss the course demands. You should prepare for that phone call as seriously as for a job interview. Be ready to ask tutors intelligent questions about the course requirements, and make sure you are a good fit for them. You might want to ask how the course is taught, what assessment model is used, what materials you’ll need to supply, and about the accommodation arrangements. Admissions staff will ask for your personal ID and Clearing number to confirm they can consider you in Clearing (you’ll find these on the “welcome” and “choices” pages in Track). They can then view your complete application immediately on Ucas’s secure online system.

5. Add a Clearing choice in Track

If an admissions tutor offers you a provisional place, you’ll probably be given a deadline for making a formal commitment to the course by adding a Clearing choice on Track. You can only make one choice at a time. Before accepting an offer, research the course requirements and university carefully. You are committing to years of study and should feel confident that you’re doing the right thing.

6. Confirm or pick another course

Ucas tells the institution that you have entered its details on Track. If you are successful, you will see the acceptance in the “choices” section and Ucas will send you a letter confirming your place and giving further guidance. If you aren’t successful the “add Clearing choice” button will be reactivated so you can add another choice, and still more if necessary up until October 22. Vacancies in Clearing are a shifting landscape as people turn down offers and places are filled, so keep looking at the lists.

7. Consider applying again next year

If you can’t find a course in Clearing that matches your aspirations you can always apply again for next year. Courses for 2014 are already available to browse on the Ucas website. You can start work on your new application right now, although you won’t be able to submit it until mid-September.

8. Finding university accommodation

Once you’ve found a place through Clearing, the next challenge is sorting your university accommodation. This blog post from NUS will give you some tips on how to get applying (and why you really don’t need an ensuite bathroom…).

John Orchard a friend who is the Education Outreach Officer at the University of Essex, wrote some comments from his perspective as someone who works at a university and will be answering clearing phone calls this week:

  • It is SO important to read up on courses and universities BEFORE making any phone calls. We don’t mind answering specific questions but it’s really important that students have a good idea of what they’re applying for before they ring.
  • If you’re applying to a university through clearing find out if they have a clearing open day or tours running and make it a priority to go if at all possible.
  • Please be patient with us. We will process applications and get a response to you as soon as we can Sometimes taking time out to reflect and re-applying the following year is the best thing. Rushed decisions are more likely to be wrong decisions.
  • Please be patient with us. We will process applications and get a response to you as soon as we can”

The education admission system is broken

School Admissions

Today was one of the two big dates for parents in the education calendar.  Today is national offer day for primary school places.  Parents around the country having been receiving emails notifying them of their child’s place of education for the next few years.  Earlier in the Spring, on 3rd March, parents received notification for secondary school places.

The news has a big impact on the family’s day to day life, and if we believe the media the decision will have long lasting effects on our children’s life chances.  These days, even for primary or infant and junior schools parents do incredible amounts of research.  When I was a child everyone just went to their local school – choice only kicked in for secondary school and beyond.

Now everyone scours league tables, reads OFSTED reports, goes to several open days/evenings, and look very carefully at the class sizes, specialisms and facilities.  Today’s report from the National Audit Office is official confirmation of what many parents have known – or feared – for the last few years: the shortage of school places is reaching alarming levels. The report said one-in-five primary schools was full or near capacity with London accounting for more than a third of all extra places needed.

The current education admission system is broken.  We see families buying that house in the ever-shrinking catchment area to make sure their children get in?  Others employ tutors so their children can pass entrance exams or the 11+?  Others sign in at church every Sunday when they have no sense of faith.

Every parent wants the best for their children.  Whilst most schools within the UK will provide a good education to all children it is hard to avoid the facts – we know that public school educated people dominate the upper echelons of UK society; politics, sport and the arts (The Guardian).  Then there’s selective state schools. 29% of Labour MPs went to grammar schools (The Sutton Trust).

As a children’s and youth worker, and a school governor, I still believe that education is more than just pure academics.  We need to develop well rounded adults, and whilst it is now near impossible to find employment without a GCSE grade C in English and Maths it is important that the education system supports children’s interests, support friendships between different social, economic and religious backgrounds.

Today for me is a reminder that education has become too focussed on a narrow band of results and league tables that cause stress both for parents and teachers.  We need an education system that truly values and encourages children rather than allowing economically affluent parents to in effect gain priority over other parents.