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The University of Southampton

Be Clear about Clearing and Adjustment: top tips for getting your place at university

Published: 15 August 2018
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Information, advice, guidance and access to direct support is available via the University website.

Clearing and Adjustment – the activity sparked by the release of A-Level and other results to students in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and further afield – should not be viewed as a time of failure but of opportunity for thousands of applicants.

For those who achieve better exam results than they’d anticipated - and for the increasing number of students who wait until they receive their results to apply for university in the first place - there is certainly plenty of opportunities within UK higher education for them to secure a highly-valued place at a university of choice.

Nick Hull, Head of Admissions at the University of Southampton, explains that Clearing is not only for applicants who have missed their grades and should not be looked down on. He’s also mindful of the many applicants who could be eligible for ‘adjustment’ if they perform better than anticipated in their exams and could potentially ‘trade up’ to a different university once the results are released.

“Clearing is not about failure, and certainly should not be looked down upon, but should be viewed as an opportunity for an applicant to move forward and build on their exam results and other contextual information to secure the place they want at university,” says Hull. “Lots of people actually now apply for the first time only when they have their grades so the whole picture of Clearing and Adjustment has changed from what it used to be and will continue to evolve for the foreseeable future.

“Almost every university will have vacancies available in Clearing and students who enter via this route are treated no differently from any others who enter higher education in the UK,” he continues. “It is true that universities receive a huge number of enquiries in a short time frame once the A-Level results are published, so to help reduce stress levels we have introduced an early sign up form for applicants to register their interest with us, answers to 'Frequently Asked Questions' about Clearing, and profiles of three students who successfully applied to Southampton via Clearing. We aim to make quick decisions whether students apply online or by phone.

So what if a student achieves higher grades than their first choice had required? “In these cases, it is possible that applicants could be eligible for ‘adjustment’ - a process where applicants who exceed all parts of their firm choice university’s offer can “trade up” which is something we’d certainly be happy to discuss here at Southampton,” Hull continues. “We also know that over the application cycle, people develop and change – every year applicants want to talk to us after their results are known because they’ve had a change of heart about the subject they wish to study or they want to be closer (or further away!) from home after all. We welcome the chance to speak to applicants in this position – but if they are holding an offer elsewhere it is essential they talk to that University or College about being released. This is a fairly common occurrence but one that needs to be properly co-ordinated so you don’t end up without a place anywhere.”

If someone finds themselves in Clearing, Hull advises that success depends upon being prepared and offers these five tips to reducing the stress and hassle that Clearing can bring.

“Last year we welcomed scores of students through Clearing who are now having a really positive and successful experience here which all started by following some essential guidance from the start,” he concludes.

Further information on Clearing and Adjustment is available on our website including course vacancies, profiles of students who came to the University of Southampton through Clearing and much more.

Hear directly from our students who successfully arrived in Southampton through Clearing.


Tips for Clearing success

Here are Nick Hull’s top five tips to being successful in Clearing and Adjustment:      

1. Plan Ahead

Decide which universities you are going to contact, ask yourself the following to questions:

  • Would I be happy to attend any of the universities whose offers I’ve declined?
  • Would I be happy considering any universities I’ve previously ruled out?
  • Which other universities offer my course?

2. Think about why you made your first choice. What made it stand out? Was it that

  • it ranked highly?
  • the course content suited me best?
  • the campus and facilities stood out?
  • the location (both distance from home, and whether in a city centre or a campus environment)?

 Whatever the reasons, these will help you narrow down what you are looking for in a university experience.

3. Create a shortlist

Shortlist your top 5 or 10 universities – ensuring you’ve covered a range of different grade requirements
Compare the things you loved about your first choice university with your shortlist to identify which options suit you best
Take note of all the contact details ready for results day
If the universities have pre-register online forms – sign up to stay up to date with clearing opportunities

4. What to do on Results Day if your results are unexpected

  • First check if any of your shortlisted universities have places in your preferred subject and if you meet their grade requirements
  • Have your UCAS personal ID and ideally your clearing number ready
  • Contact the Universities of your choice online or by calling in
  • Ensure your phone is fully charged and you are ready to answer call backs
  • Talk to your teachers and advisors at your school or college, they have an excellent wealth of experience to help guide your decision

5. Don’t Panic

Stay calm - and remember if you don’t get the grades you wanted there are lots of great opportunities through Clearing.

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