Could the UCAS Clearing system help you find a university or higher education course in Suffolk or beyond?

Keep your eyes peeled for courses similar to the one you intended to study, and others that may be r

Keep your eyes peeled for courses similar to the one you intended to study, and others that may be related - Credit: Archant

For thousands of Suffolk students, weeks of nervous waiting is nearly over as they prepare to open their A-level results on Thursday, August 13.

Basketball players at UCS

Basketball players at UCS - Credit: Archant

The past few weeks will have been daunting. Thinking about prospects, the future and whether they’ll get the grades to help them achieve their first choice university and a place on that course they so desperately want.

The most important thing to remember when you get less positive results is not to panic because the UCAS clearing scheme is available to open up a world of other opportunities.

Last year, around 61,000 students were placed at universities through clearing.

This guide, put together with UCS, will give you more information about the process and choosing the right path for you.

UCS is one of the educational institutes that still has vacancies for courses starting in September

UCS is one of the educational institutes that still has vacancies for courses starting in September 2015 - Credit: Archant

So, what exactly is clearing?

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This scheme, run by UCAS, and is used by a variety of students – those who haven’t got the grades needed for their chosen universities, those who haven’t applied for university before June 30 and even those who have surpassed their expected grades.

It is available from July to September but it is mostly used by students after exam results are published.

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You are eligible for clearing if you’ve already applied for university through UCAS and you’ve:

• Not received any offers from your university choices

• Have declined your offers or missed the due date to respond

• Have not met the conditions of your offers

• Have declined a changed course, a changed point of entry or changed start date

• Have paid the full UCAS applications fee

• Have applied after June 30 – in which case you will automatically be entered into clearing.

• Clearing can also be used for students who have surpassed their grades and want to find out if there are any courses with higher entry requirements that they can get on to.

The process

So, you’ve discovered you’ve not got the grades you need to get into your chosen university.

What should you do?

• First of all, call your chosen university and your insurance choice.

If you only just missed the grades you needed for your conditional offer, you may find they will still offer you a place.

If not, you could also ask if they have spaces on any related courses.

• If you have no luck there, then clearing may be the route for you.

If you’re eligible, you’ll see an ‘add clearing choice’ button appear on your UCAS track screen.

You’ll also be able to get your personal clearing number on this screen.

You’ll be able to log in from around 8am on the day to see if you have been accepted or are eligible for clearing - but you won’t be able to make a formal clearing choice until around 5pm in the afternoon.

Course vacancies available through clearing are advertised on the UCAS website and in the press, so keep your eyes peeled.

When searching for available courses, look out for the ones that immediately interest you but keep an open mind.

There are lots of subjects out there – some of which may be similar to your first choice, some of which may provide a slightly different route into your subject.

A joint honours degree may be an option too.

Note down the courses that interest you and do your research.

• Once you have identified the courses and universities you are interested in, you will need to speak to the admissions staff there and see if they would be willing to take you.

• Before your call, make sure you have your exam results, course choices and clearing number to hand, as well as your personal statement.

• Remember that lines can get very busy, so be prepared to redial.

They may also want to call you back, so make sure you’re available to speak on the phone.

• During the phone call, the lecturer will probably ask you questions about your background, your studies, as well as your interests and experience.

If possible, show you’ve done your research – if you’ve noticed one of the tutors on the course has written a book, for example, mention it.

If you’ve already studied something related to one of the course modules, talk about this too.

Show enthusiasm and motivation and try not to be despondent.

• At the end of the call, the tutor will usually tell you what they’ve decided.

Make sure they will send you a written confirmation of an offer.

• If they do make you an offer, remember you don’t have to accept it straight away.

Ask them how long the offer will be open for, and if possible, try to visit the university before making your decision.

• If the tutor says there’s not enough space, consider asking them if they will offer you a place for the following year.

• If you have been informally offered a place and you want to be formally considered for it, enter the details of the university and the course on your UCAS track screen.

Remember, you should only do this if you have spoken to the university and have been given a provisional offer.

• The UCAS system tells the institution that you have entered its details on Track.

If you are successful, you will see the acceptance in the ‘choices’ section.

UCAS will also send you a letter confirming the place and giving further guidance.

What is adjustment?

As mentioned, clearing isn’t just for students who have done worse than they expected, it can also be useful for those that have done better than expected.

It allows you to reassess your options and gives you the chance to go to a university with higher requirements.

You are eligible for adjustment if you have paid your application fee in total and you have surpassed your expectations.

You are not eligible if you are confirmed at your firm choice but did not exceed the conditions of the offer, you have a confirmed place on a changed course offer or if your original offer was unconditional.

You also cannot adjust your insurance choice.

The adjustment process runs from A-levels results day (August 13) until August 31.

However, individually, you only have a maxiumum of five calendar days (including Saturday and Sunday) within this time to use it and to register and secure an alternative course.

It starts when your conditional firm offer changes to an unconditional firm offer or on A-Level results day, whichever is later.

If you do not become eligible to use adjustment until less than five days before August 31 you only have the remaining time before August 31 to find a place.

If you want to find an alternative course, you must register to use adjustment so that universities can see your application.

If you do not find an alternative place you will remain accepted at your original choice.

To use adjustment you must register in Track.

There is no vacancy list for adjustment – you need to check the course details at different universities and contact the admissions office to talk about possible vacancies.

Once you’ve given them your personal ID number they’ll be able to see your application.

Remember not to verbally accept an offer until you are sure you want it – you only have one adjustment offer.

If you’re both happy, your track screen will be updated with the new choice.

If you don’t find another option you’ll keep your original choice.

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