Your 10-step Clearing preparation plan
Clearing gives you a great opportunity to find the best course for you if your exam results surprise you, you don't get any offers, you change your mind, or you're just starting to think about uni.
Most students wait until they get their exam results before they think about Clearing, but there are plenty of things you can do before you apply to prepare yourself, even if you think you know what grades you're going to get.
1. Plan for different outcomes
You can’t predict the future, but you can make plans for getting different results than you expect.
Consider a few different outcomes so you have something to base your Clearing preparation on. For example, some scenarios where you do better than you expected and some scenarios where you don’t do quite as well as you hope.
For each outcome, write down possible grades so you can match these to course entry requirements.
2. Research universities and courses before you get your results
Universities publish their Clearing vacancies from 5 July 2023 (although some get published later). You can't apply until you have your exam results.
This gives you a bit of time to research universities and courses based on the different exam results you wrote down in the previous step.
To help you in your research, we've created a free Clearing help sheet (PDF). You can use this to write down the details and contact information for courses that you're interested in, so that you have them ready for results morning.
Starting your research
Approach your research as if you're applying for university for the very first time.
Consider all the courses you're interested in studying, even if you didn't apply for them the first time.
Maybe you’ve picked up interests in the months since your initial application. Maybe you've decided that instead of taking psychology you'd rather focus on forensic psychology, or even a completely different subject like economics or sport and exercise science.
Clearing is the perfect time to ask yourself these questions.
Attend some open days
Most universities will be holding in-person undergraduate open days this summer. If you haven't yet had a chance to visit universities you're interested in person this is your chance. Pay some visits over the summer and you'll have a better idea of where you want to be in September.
We're holding two open days this summer.
Shortlisting courses and universities
Make a shortlist of your possible course options and bookmark or save the links to course web pages.
As well as checking the entry requirements, you can rate courses on things like quality of teaching, availability of scholarships, course content, location, accommodation options, facilities, the learning and personal support, and anything else that's important to you.
Remember that entry requirements can change during Clearing. Keep this in mind if you like a course but don't quite meet the entry requirements.
Considering a gap year
You could also consider taking a gap year if your results surprise you.
This gives you time to gain work experience in your chosen field and apply again when you know your exam results, either next year or through ‘deferred’ entry in Clearing if your chosen course and university allows it.
3. Make space in your diary
Clearing day can be competitive and the best courses fill up quickly. So it's best to be free on the day you get your exam results and for a few days afterwards.
Let friends and family know in advance, book time off work, and try to make sure you won't be travelling. If you are on holiday don't worry, you can call us from abroad or contact us using our form.
4. Write down university Clearing contact details
Once you've shortlisted your courses and universities, note down their Clearing contact details so you have a list to work from when you get your results.
We've included space for contact details in our free Clearing help sheet (PDF). Just download it, print it off and write down all the details so you're ready for results morning.
5. Prepare your finances
You don't have to wait until you get an offer from a university before you apply for student loans and other student finance. When you complete your finance application just put down the university and course you want to do. Once you have an offer you can go back and update your account with the correct details.
You don't need to wait until you get an offer to apply for student finance – apply as soon as you can.
6. Follow your shortlisted universities on social media
Expect to see information about the research they do, student case studies and experiences, and loads of photos to help you picture yourself there.
You can also contact them on social media to get quick answers about courses, student life and how to get your place. Some unis will allow you to direct message current students during Clearing so you can get insight from those already studying there.
7. Prepare questions to ask
Having questions ready to ask when you contact universities helps you get all the information you need to make the right choice.
Here are a few examples of what you might want to ask:
- What accommodation can I apply for?
- What are the typical living costs in the town/city?
- What learning, personal and career support is there?
- Am I eligible to apply for bursaries?
- Are there any Clearing open days coming up so I can visit the university?
- Will I need to come in for a face-to-face interview?
8. Dig out your personal statement
It probably feels like you wrote your personal statement ages ago. It's a good idea to refresh yourself on what you wrote when you first applied for courses to remind you of your qualities.
Also, think of any achievements or experience you’ve gained since you first applied. Mentioning these when you contact universities in Clearing could give you an advantage.
9. Prepare answers to common Clearing questions
When you contact universities, there are some common questions advisors ask. Most are just a formality, so don't be nervous.
The best thing to do is to prepare your answers to the questions below. Some universities might not ask them all, and other universities might have a slightly different set of questions for you.
- What qualifications do you have and when did you get them?
- Why are you interested in this course?
- Why are you interested in the University?
- Why do you think you didn't get the grades you were expecting?
- Why are you applying for a different course?
10. Take a step back, and relax
As we've seen, there’s loads you can do to prepare for Clearing, so try not to feel overwhelmed. Take your time when researching, and make as many notes as you can to prepare yourself.
If you're reading this before Clearing, you’re already ahead of the game. But if you are feeling a little stressed, or you want to know how to help a friend who's anxious about their results, follow our tips below. And while you do that, have a listen to our special Spotify playlist to keep you energised and positive.
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