A-level results day is a stressful time for students as they await results which will determine whether they secure a place at their preferred university or not.
Unfortunately, things don't always go to plan and many students find themselves narrowly missing the grades required.
While many still secure places at their insurance (second) choice, there are some pupils who miss the mark (quite literally) altogether and need to enter UCAS' Clearing process to find an alternative institution.
Similarly, students who perform better than their predicted grades are able to use Clearing to find an alternative university.
Here, we run through your questions about the Clearing process.
What is Clearing?
Clearing is the process by which universities and colleges fill any remaining places they have on their courses. It can be used both by students who missed the grades they needed to get onto their preferred course, if they didn't get the grades they needed. However, Clearing is also an excellent way for students to secure places they previously thought were not possible due to their lower-than-actual predicted grades.
When does UCAS' Clearing process open?
It is a myth that Clearing opens on A-level results day. The 2022 Clearing process has been open since July 5 and remains so until October 18.
Any student can apply for a course using Clearing, as long as they are not already holding an offer from a university or college, as long as the course still has places.
Which universities are accessible through Clearing?
The vast majority of universities in the UK have courses available through Clearing, including some of the top institutions in the country. The Russell Group represents 24 world-class, research-intensive universities – and 17 of them had at least one course available through Clearing in 2022.
Some universities announce whether they have places available when Clearing opens, while others wait until results day (on Thursday 18 August).
Can you switch your course in Clearing?
"Even if you applied for marine biology but you’ve now realised that food science is your calling, there’s nothing to stop you from contacting universities to ask for a place," say UCAS.
However, it is important to note that you are only eligible for Clearing if you have no offers.
If you get your grades but change your mind about your course, you can decline your place online and enter Clearing. However, UCAS suggests that students only do so if once they have spoken to an teacher or adviser and are absolutely certain of their choice, as once you've decline your place, you can't get it back.
If you have had conditional offers but miss your grades and decide to study something else, you do this through Clearing, too.
Are only a limited number of subjects and universities available?
No. It used to be unheard of for oversubscribed courses like medicine to be on offer through Clearing, but this has changed.
1,015 applicants were accepted onto Medicine and Dentistry courses in 2019 through clearing - so all the more reason to keep a close eye on vacancies as you may get lucky.
St George’s, University of London, have offered medicine places through Clearing for the past six years.
Can you re-apply to a previously rejected university?
Clearing allows you to apply to any university with vacancies, even if they rejected you the first time round.
If you spot a course you like and meet the entry requirements, call the admissions team and talk to them about your opportunities.
Is Clearing only for students with low grades?
Absolutely not. According to UCAS: "Some students have declined their offers, others might not have received any – perhaps if they applied for particularly competitive courses."
Students who applied to university after the UCAS application deadline (June 30) are automatically entered into Clearing.
Are there any universities you cannot get a last-minute place at?
Oxford and Cambridge do not offer places through Clearing.
This article is kept updated with the latest information.