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A Level results day, 13th August, is likely to be more stressful than ever due to the uncertainty caused by Covid-19. To help students planning to go to university during these challenging times, our experienced, professional careers adviser Georgina Lindsay has this advice on the Clearing process this year.  

Getting organised

Reduce your stress by preparing ahead:

  • Make sure that you are available on results day.
  • Keep the day and following days free if possible.
  • Make sure that you know the arrangements for getting your results.
  • On the day check UCAS Track from 8am. Hopefully you will get the results you expected but if you are not accepted by your firm choice or insurance choice you will go into Clearing.

What to do if you go into Clearing

  • UCAS Track will confirm that you are in Clearing and issue you with a Clearing number.
  • Clearing Plus will match you to courses using what UCAS knows about you from your application, and what universities are looking for in a student. This is a great new tool from UCAS as it will sift the courses for you to find the top 50 matches for you to consider.
  • A word of warning though – don’t solely base your decision on the Clearing Plus tool. You should still check the main search tool on the UCAS website (the only official list) for any courses that Clearing Plus may have missed.
  • As always, research any courses you are interested in via the university’s website or social media to ensure you have considered all aspects of the course.
  • You can add a Clearing choice on UCAS Track after 3pm on results day but don’t do this without speaking to the university first (see tips below).
  • If you need support, speak to your school or college careers adviser or contact the National Careers Service Helpline.

Contacting universities

Before you contact them:

  • Shortlist all the universities which interest you and have vacancies.
  • You can contact as many universities as you want but you will only be able to add one choice to Track so it is vital that it is the right choice.
  • Find out if you can contact them via social media or webchat if you are nervous about making a telephone call as some universities now offer this option.
  • Read the universities’ websites and social media channels and if possible do a virtual visit (see more on this below).
  • Write a list of all the questions you want to ask.
  • Consider the following:
    • The course - are you willing to be flexible regarding what course you study? Would you be happy with a joint honours like History and Law if you can’t get onto a straight Law course?
    • Course content – what are the modules? Is a sandwich year included? How much coursework and exams are involved? What careers the course can lead you to? What have graduates on the course gone on to do?
    • How will the course be taught - online, face to face, blended? This is especially important at the current time (see more on this below).
    • Location - how important is the location to you?
    • Accommodation - do you want to live on campus or a shared house? is accommodation available on campus for 2020-2021 in light of Covid-19? (see more on this below).
    • Fees – do you want to live at home to keep costs down?
    • University’s reputation – does it have to be a Russell Group? These are highly competitive universities and so may not feature hugely in Clearing in which case, do you want to defer to next year?
  • Be prepared to justify why you want to study a particular course – how did your A’ levels relate?

Contacting universities - make sure you have to hand: 

  • Your Clearing number (allows the universities to view your complete application on UCAS).
  • Your Personal statement.
  • Your list of questions.

Before accepting an offer

  • Take the time you need and don’t feel rushed into making a decision.
  • If you are made a verbal offer, request that it is emailed to you so you know how long you have to decide.
  • Tell the university that you need to discuss with family and friends before deciding.
  • Ask the university to email you further details about the course and contact details for the course leader to speak to so that you are making a fully informed decision.
  • Ensure that the university provides you with accommodation options and details on how the course will be delivered before you accept an offer.

Adding a Clearing choice

  • You will generally be given between 12 and 48 hours to make a decision. You may be made several offers informally but can only accept one choice.
  • When you sign in, if you’re eligible for Clearing, in the ‘Next Steps’ section you’ll be given an option to ‘Add a Clearing choice.’  Once you have entered the university’s details and the university accepts, the acceptance will be displayed in the Choices section of Track on UCAS. You will be sent a letter confirming their place.

Changes in light of Covid-19

Due to the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought, there are things you should check out with universities you are considering prior to results days, such as how the course will be taught and whether you can live on campus. 

Course delivery:

Universities had to confirm what teaching methods they will be using for the next academic year by 18th June and put details on their websites. We have heard in the news that Cambridge University will be undertaking all virtual learning for the whole of 2020-21 whereas some others are leaning towards a blended approach of virtual and face to face.

Think about the pros and cons of each method and how they will suit your learning style. Will a virtual service mean less distractions enabling you to focus more? Do you struggle with working alone and like to work in groups? How will practical degrees like dentistry or engineering be delivered? How can you still get a university experience if the course is being taught online?


You will need to decide if it is important to you to live on campus to get the university experience you are looking for. If you are being encouraged to live at home and all lectures are online then it’s a personal decision as to whether it would meet your needs. You may feel this is a reason to defer your entry for a year whereas others might feel that they can cope with this for the first year and then hopefully things will be back to normal by the second year. 

Virtual Open Days:

One positive of the pandemic is the ability now to attend open days from the comfort of your own home. There are a multitude of benefits to these virtual visits including tailoring the tour to suit you, seeing all the facilities, trying out a virtual lecture and meeting students who are currently studying at the institution. Check the dates here on UCAS or on the university’s website.

Other sources of help and information

UCAS - a variety of help is available online and on social media

National Careers Service - exam results advice and Helpline

Telegraph Clearing website

What Uni - new feature allows you to find courses and apply to those universities that have signed up

Considering alternatives to university? Take a look at the following;

Not Going to Uni, Appenticeships, MilkroundYear Out Group 


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