A-level results day is always emotional. For some, excellent grades secure their place at university. For others, unexpected results cause disappointment and a change of plans. However, there is room for negotiation with universities. Natalie Lancer from MyUniApplication.com explains UCAS’s processes of ‘clearing’ and ‘adjustment’ and how a setback can be turned into a step forward.

Generally, students who meet their offers from university, go to their conditional firm choice (first choice university). They can, however, choose to get onto a different course through Clearing.  If they exceed their offer, they can choose to try to get on a course requiring higher grades, using UCAS’s Adjustment service, within five days of their first choice university accepting them. However, this is a bit misleading as a course requiring higher grades may not necessarily be a good fit for the student or make them more employable. For example, a typical offer to study Chemistry at the University of Manchester is ABB, whereas an offer to study Psychology is AAB. If a student meets and exceeds the offer of ABB for Chemistry, it does not mean that they should aim for a course with higher grades. Grades needed do not necessarily reflect the prestige or utility of a course. Indeed, the grades required for different subjects change every year, so you cannot be sure that ‘trading up’ in one year, will still be viewed a trade-up in future years. Also, there may not be spaces on a different course.

The golden rule when considering Adjustment is ‘advice and availability’. Do not change course unless if you have talked it through with a careers professional or teacher. Remember you have already spent a lot of time researching your chosen degree and university. If you do want to change to a different degree, you must speak to the university departments directly to see if they have spaces. There is no published list for Adjustment in the way that there is for Clearing, so you have to do a lot of the leg-work yourself. You need to tell them that you are looking for a space via Adjustment and be able to explain why you would like to change to their course and attend their university. This needs to be well-thought out in advance. Think very carefully before accepting a place verbally, as once this has been done, the university will add you to their cohort through UCAS, and your original first choice will be lost.

Clearing is much more straightforward. UCAS and The Telegraph publish lists of universities with spaces on their programmes, from results day onwards. Again, the universities need to be telephoned directly for you to ask them about the possibility of joining a course. They will ask you lots of questions about your grades, your motivation for study and they will tell you verbally if they will accept you onto the course. You can shop around, look at various potential courses and receive many verbal offers. Once you are sure which one you would like to accept, you have to add the course and university to your UCAS application. It is important that you do not do this unless a verbal offer has been made to you. You are only able to add one course at a time through Clearing so make sure you discuss your choice with a teacher or careers professional.

Be aware that it may be difficult to secure accommodation for courses selected through Clearing and Adjustment and, in some cases, you may decide to take a gap year rather than rush the decision-making process.

Natalie Lancer is the founder of MyUniApplication.com.  She can guide you with all aspects of your university application and give you expert guidance on personal statements and interview technique.

For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at natalie@natalielancer.com. www.myuniapplication.com


Natalie’s top tips for A-level Result’s day:

  • Make sure you have access to a quiet area to make telephone calls and use the internet as you will have to spend time talking to the universities if you use Clearing or Adjustment.
  • It is best to be in the country for A-level results days as if you get onto a different course through Clearing or Adjustment you may want to visit the university before committing yourself to spending at least three years there.
  • Before you make your phone calls, make sure you have prepared answers explaining why you want to study their course.
  • Find out if accommodation is available if changing course at this late stage.
  • Talk to a professional adviser such as Natalie Lancer, before making any rash decisions, as university and course choice, can have profound implications on your future.