How to use lockdown to get a head-start on Clearing

Results day can be stressful at the best of times – and adding a pandemic to the mix adds an extra dose of uncertainty. Check out our Clearing Survival Guide below – including the main dos and don’ts, and how to use your lockdown time to get a head-start!
How to use lockdown to get a head-start on Clearing
Published on: 16 Oct 2023

How will you get a head-start?

Don’t panic!

The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably left many students feeling worried about landing a university place for the autumn. But the good news is that the normal admissions process will take place – including Clearing. Every university is different, but the vast majority have said they’re hoping to start the first semester as normal, although some lectures might be online or split into smaller teaching groups.

It’s also important to remember that going through Clearing isn’t the end of the world – in 2018, over 65,000 secured a uni place this way, so it should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a negative.

Understand the process

The Clearing process may seem a little scary, but it’s actually quite simple. In short, it’s a UCAS service that allows universities to fill spaces on courses that aren't yet full, with students being able to find a last-minute place. And it’s not just for people who didn’t get the grades – it also allows those who have accepted unconditional offers to explore other options. This year, Clearing will run between 6th July and 20th October, with most vacancies likely to appear on A-Level results day on 13th August. Check out UCAS or individual university websites for Clearing hotline numbers.

Understand the new Clearing Plus system

New for 2020, UCAS has introduced a new Clearing system: Clearing Plus, which will simplify the process by matchmaking eligible students with universities based on their grades and course interests. Clearing Plus will be an addition to the current Clearing system, so you can still browse all of the available courses using the usual search tool.

Do your research

Don’t resign yourself to a fate of being in a state of panic on results day – use your lockdown time to prepare for all eventualities. Start by looking at what other universities and courses are out there, so you can focus your attention if the results don’t go your way.

Take notes and make a shortlist of unis with the same (or similar) courses, so you know what to look out for in Clearing. If there’s a university you’re particularly interested in, you could even speak to their admissions team before results day – they should be able to give you a good idea of whether there are likely to be spaces available on a particular course.

Accommodation is the second most important factor when choosing a university so make sure to do some research into the student halls options available too.

Consider other paths

A contingency plan doesn’t necessarily mean sticking to your original course, or even going to university at all this year. Be open-minded, and explore all of the options so you aren’t forced into making a snap decision on results day.

According to, Ofqual is looking to run an extra set of exams in the autumn for students to sit if they are unhappy with their results, and universities are said to be willing to offer delayed starting dates for students taking these exams.

You could even look at taking a gap year to get some work or voluntary (or life) experience, and resit your exams next year.

Attend virtual open days

One effect of coronavirus and lockdown is that Clearing-specific open days will move online. Look out for virtual open days through university social media pages and websites. These virtual open days may include video tours, live presentations and Q&A sessions, meaning you can still get a good feel for the uni, lifestyle and local area.

Don’t book a holiday

It probably goes without saying (and is perhaps unlikely at the moment due to the pandemic) – but we’ll shout it from the rooftops anyway: do not book a trip over the results period!

Keep your important docs close at hand

As results day approaches, make sure you have your UCAS number, Personal Statement and GCSE grades close by (plus your clearing number and A-Level grades once you have them), so they are in easy reach if you need to make calls on the day.

Get ready to sell yourself

And talking of your Personal Statement, make sure you give it a read before results day to jog your memory on what you put down at the time – especially your strengths and skills. This will help you make a good impression if you have to call a Clearing hotline, and will hopefully help you convince the university that you're the right fit for them! You could also practise what you’ll say in a phone interview and be ready to answer questions on why you want to do a specific course.

Keep calm

Last, but certainly not least, stay calm and don't rush your decision. By taking the steps above you should be more than prepared for what to do if you don’t get the results you expected. Keep your notes and important documents close by, and make sure you have a notepad and pen (and a back-up pen!) and phone charger handy. Good luck!

What’s next?

So, you’ve found your perfect university and course through Clearing – congratulations! Next up – finding somewhere to live. Here at Sanctuary Students, we want to give you the best possible welcome to your new university, and we’re here to help if you’ve had a last-minute change of plan due to Clearing.

If you’re looking for hassle-free living with free Wi-Fi, all-inclusive bills, on-site security (not to mention booking for just £1!), then come and live with us. Your accommodation with Sanctuary Students will be more than just a room – you’ll be surrounded by a friendly team, great facilities and a fun-filled events calendar.

Discover the Clearing rooms we have available using our accommodation page.