Myth-busting the Clearing process

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The UCAS Clearing process, designed to place students in university places which have not been filled following A-Level results day in August, comes with a lot of preconceptions.

Many of these are simply not true.

So we’ve decided to sort the rumours from the truth, the myths from reality, and give you an honest, representative view of this stage of the UCAS application process once and for all.

Myth No.1: Clearing is for people who have bad results


Not at all. Many students who get better results than predicted find a course at a higher-ranked institution than their original choices through Adjustment, which is part of the Clearing process. Equally, some students who get top grades – and meet their firm choice’s offers – may suddenly decide that the course or institution is not for them, and find an alternative through Clearing.

Students with good results may not have even applied originally through UCAS at all — for them, Clearing is simply a way of applying to university late; not, as many people think, a back-up option for when you didn’t do as well as predicted.

Myth No.2: You can’t get a place at a ‘good’ university through Clearing

students SOAS clearing

If by ‘good university’, you mean institutions that rank highly in league tables, that’s untrue — most universities in the UK participate in Clearing. The exceptions are Oxford, Cambridge, and a number of Russell Group universities such as UCL. Each year, the majority of universities end up with spaces on some courses, due to fewer applications, programme changes, or deferrals, and Clearing allows them to fill these spaces. Year on year, the universities and degrees available inevitably change, but you are guaranteed to find a wide selection of top-ranking universities from across the UK taking part. SOAS is taking part in Clearing this year, and is currently ranked 37th best university in the UK.

Myth No. 3: All of the popular programmes will have filled up before Clearing

lecture SOAS

Which programmes are deemed ‘popular’ changes each year. Of course, there are some, such as Law, Economics, Medicine etc. that consistently receive high application numbers, but this does not mean that they won’t be available through Clearing. Did you know that MP David Lammy studied Law at SOAS — a place he got through Clearing?

Clearing may even lead you to find a course you’d never considered before, at a university you’d perhaps not even heard of. Although many students try and find a degree through Clearing similar to the one they had already applied for through UCAS, others may decide to take a completely different path when they see the variety of courses that are available.

Myth No.4: If I don’t call the Clearing hotlines as soon as they open, I won’t get a place

Student phoning Clearing hotline SOAS

Many people think that on results day, you must call up university clearing hotlines at the crack of dawn, or risk not getting a place. Although it is true that the early bird catches the worm, it’s worth spending a bit of time thinking about which universities and programmes in Clearing you are interested in, rather than rushing and making a bad decision. You’ll be doing this degree for at least three years, so consider your choice carefully. Clearing continues well into September, so you if you don’t manage to get a place on day one, don’t panic.

You may not even have to wait until August to find a course this way. Most people are unaware that Clearing actually starts in July — if students have no offers, or didn’t apply for a university through UCAS originally, they can go through Clearing before the results day rush.

Myth No.5: Students who go through Clearing generally don’t get student halls accommodation

Student accommodation SOAS clearing

Not every student applies for halls of residence accommodation, and so there are often places in halls available for Clearing students. At SOAS, all students who apply through Clearing are guaranteed accommodation in SOAS halls. Even if you don’t manage to get a place in university accommodation, often spaces open up within the first term. Failing that, you can always connect with other soon-to-be-students and try and find private accommodation.

What next?

SOAS students clearing

Last year, more than 73,000 students were accepted through Clearing – the highest number ever recorded. Some of those students will have achieved better grades than predicted, some worse, and others may have not even thought about going to university beforehand. Ultimately, this is a great way to get a place at university — if you’ve not yet got any offers, think you may want to change course, or haven’t even applied yet, give Clearing a go.

Register your interest in Clearing at SOAS.

Check out our student story to hear about the experience of a current law student that joined SOAS through Clearing last year.

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