A Parent's Guide To Clearing

parents getting clearing help after exam results

Results day is a stressful event for all involved, kids and parents alike.

Your child's results will determine what university they get into, and what path they can follow should they not receive what they were expecting.  

But fear not! One third of students get their university place through Clearing, and although the experience can seem daunting, we're here to guide you through it.

What Is Clearing?

Clearing is the process by which universities and colleges fill any available places on their courses.

Should a student not meet the entry requirement for their chosen course, or not receive an offer from a UK university, they are automatically entered into Clearing.

Clearing has been open from July 6th 2020, but your child won't be able to apply for any courses until they get their grades. The date on which they receive these varies depending on what qualification they've taken (see a little later in the article for exact dates). It closes on October 20th, so you and your child will have plenty of time to find a suitable place should you need one.

In the meantime, you can research which universities are offering Clearing courses and note down any options that your child would be interested in. You can then contact those universities directly on or after results day if your child's grades aren't what they expected, and if the course still has places.

UCAS have also introduced a new feature this year called Clearing Plus. If, on results day, your kid finds themselves automatically enrolled in Clearing, they'll be matched to both courses and universities according to their application. This will show on their UCAS Track. They can then get in contact with universities if they're interested, if they meet entry requirements, and if the course still has places.

Will Coronavirus Affect Clearing 2020?

As with most things, yes, the coronavirus pandemic will impact your child's results and may therefore determine whether or not they need to go through Clearing.

August's results will be based on estimated grades rather than summer exams. Final decisions will have been made by teacher assessments of the term-time performance of each student. This may affect a student's result either way.

As a result of coronavirus, the government placed a temporary cap on student numbers. Basically, only a pre-set number of new students were accepted during the main application cycle. This inevitably affects the number of places the university may make available during Clearing 2020.

When Would Your Child Use Clearing?

There are a variety of instances in which your child would go through Clearing. These are:

-If they didn't get into either their firm or insurance choice universities, or didn't receive any offers - conditional or unconditional - when they first applied (before 30th June 2020).

-If they don't want the places they've been offered, and choose to self release into Clearing to look for alternative university places. Or, if they change their mind about the course to which they originally applied, and want to look for a different one.

-If they were unsure about university in the initial application round and hadn't applied by the deadline of June 30th 2020, but upon receiving their results decide to do so.

-If they got better grades than anticipated: there's a chance your kid could get a place at a different university that requires higher grades through Clearing.

Be aware that universities may lower their entry requirements in order to fill spaces on courses, which provides potential for students to gain access even if their grades aren't what they had hoped for. Similarly, more spaces on Clearing courses will become available in August, as A-Level results day draws closer. It's always worth checking!

A Level students getting exam results

What Is Self-Release?

Self-release is a process into which students can enter if they have applied to university via UCAS but change their minds about their chosen course or institution before they receive their results.

Students release themselves into Clearing so as to apply to a different university course. This can be done via UCAS Track from 6th July 2020.

If your child opts for this, be sure to check that they've thought through this decision thoroughly; if they self-release, their existing university place will likely be offered to other students, and they'll have to reapply for accommodation and update their student finance application.

On Results Day...

There are different results days for different qualifications.

A Level: 13th August 2020, with results available from 6am.

International Baccalaureate:  6th July 2020.

Scottish Highers: No later than 4th August 2020.

On the day, you'll receive notification of your child's final grades. These will affect whether or not they move into Clearing.

There are several eventualities:

1) If they don't get the grades for either of their firm or insurance university choices, they will automatically be moved into Clearing, and will be given a Clearing ID number. Their application will be moved into Clearing Plus, as detailed above, which will match them to various Clearing courses.

2) If your child had not previously applied to university, but decides after receiving their results that they want to apply, they can go through Clearing to find a course. They don't necessarily have to go through UCAS Clearing to do so; some universities allow students to apply directly to them and go through a process that's called 'Record of Prior Acceptance'. This basically means you avoid paying UCAS Clearing application fees. Check on a case-by-case basis, as different institutions follow different protocol. This is a good reason to have done the research in advance of results day, so that you know which university offers what process of application.

3) If your child exceeds the requirements of their university offer and changes their mind about the university or course to which they had initially applied, they go through adjustment. Students will release themselves into Clearing, where they can search for available courses and apply. If they get a new offer through this process, they can use their UCAS Track account and accept the new place. If not, their original place is still available to take up. Adjustment runs from A-Level results day (13th August 2020) until 31st August 2020. Students will only have five days from the time of their release in which to find and secure a new offer - this is another good reason to have researched alternative courses and universities in advance of results day.

Top Tips!

Research, research, research: If there's a chance your child might change their mind about their course or university, or if they hadn't applied to university and decide that they might want to go after receiving their results, it's vital to do the research before results day, so that it's not a panicked rush on the day.

Why you? Get your child to note down some points about themselves, why they're applying for a particular course, and why they're the best fit. These are the questions they'll likely be asked on the phone when calling the Clearing hotline on the day.

Be prepared: Apply as soon as your child has their results, and be available on results day. Ensure phones are charged, and a pen and paper is ready. It's critical that they also know their UCAS  Clearing number and Personal ID number. These are found on their UCAS Track profile.

Consider alternative courses: Remember that in Clearing, a student doesn't have to apply for the same subject to which they applied initially. They can switch courses, if they have a good reason to do so, or change their mind about their course of study.

Get calling: As soon as your child has their results they need to get calling, as vacancies at higher-ranked universities will fill quickly. Ensure that they are calling and speaking for themselves - unless they have a disability or anything that prevents them from doing so.

Be persistent: Keep phoning! If that's not working for your child, try sending an email. Persistence is key.

Think clearly: Once your kid has a potential offer in Clearing, encourage them to take their time in considering if this place is the one they want to take up. It's critical not to dither for too long, but it's also worth calling different universities and getting a few offers. They can then decide which is right for them.



At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.

Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.

Sponsorship & Advertising Policy

Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.

We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.

Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.

We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.

Read our Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Get The Kidadl Newsletter

1,000 of inspirational ideas direct to your inbox for things to do with your kids.

Thank you! Your newsletter will be with you soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No items found.