It’s not always clear how you are chosen - some people think it is more or less a lottery. The situation is obviously different on a highly competitive course at a popular university than it is on a hard-to-fill course somewhere less popular. On some courses, you will be accepted if you apply with the minimum entrance qualifications. But on some top courses, where all applicants have straight As, universities are using extra admissions (or aptitude) tests to help admissions tutors decide.
Each university has a target number of places that it must meet precisely - if possible with teachable students. They adopt one of two ways of going about it (or both): they can make a large number of conditional offers so that the exam results do the choosing; or they put more reliance on admissions tests, interviews and references.
After the summer results are known, universities that have missed their target numbers may accept applications they would have rejected earlier in the year. Do not lose heart if you have not yet got a place; keep badgering admissions staff - even after the beginning of term.back to top
You may be offered a place in one of two ways - unconditionally or conditionally.
Some offers are expressed so badly they are almost incomprehensible. If you don’t understand an offer, contact the university to find out precisely what it means - you can’t afford not to know.
Once the universities have made decisions on all your choices, the ball is back in your court and you reply to your offers online using Track. After this, you cannot keep more than two offers through UCAS (only one, if your offers are all unconditional).
This means you may have to turn some down. If you still have exams to take, make your best guess as to what grades you will get and compare these with your offers. One strategy is to accept your first-choice course whatever the offer, together with the course that has made the lowest offer as a fall-back. Another is to accept the two lowest offers to give you the maximum chance of a choice later.
Don’t accept any university you have not visited and would not be happy to attend.back to top
If you do not get the grades or points to match your offer, all is not lost. You are not alone - over 47,000 people find their place on first-degree courses in Clearing.
To start, check whether your chosen course will take you in spite of your results. If you have only missed your offer by a grade or two, use Track and telephone the course tutor (not UCAS). If everyone else has met their offers, the course will be full and the tutor will be inflexible. If hardly anybody did, the admissions tutor may be glad to take you. So don’t just assume they don’t want you; speak to the course tutors - you may be lucky.
If not, you’re into Clearing. Don’t panic but be prepared to move fast.back to top
So this is how Clearing works.
Many people take the wrong decision in Clearing. These are the students most likely to drop out in their first year or be dissatisfied with their university experience. Don’t compromise on your basic criteria: eg if you know you can’t stand big cities, don’t accept a place in central London just because it’s on offer. Use this website to make sure you only accept the right sort of place for you.
Good luck!back to top
Tough, but not the end of the world. You can think about the following immediate options:
This is not as silly as it may sound - there are plenty of second chances at university for mature students with indifferent A-levels (or none). You will almost certainly be able to come back to education later - thousands do. About 25% of current undergraduates started their degree courses when they were over 21.back to top
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