Blog 🍎 School 21st July 2021

The New Counsellor's Guide to Clearing & Adjustment

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James Leach

James is senior content marketing manager at BridgeU. He writes and directs content for BridgeU's university partners and our community of international schools

Why Clearing & Adjustment can be a valuable opportunity for students to apply for UK universities and courses they may not previously have considered.

If there’s one thing more nerve-wracking than applying to university, it’s students  receiving their final grades and exam results. 

Students applying to university in 2021 have had additional challenges – their final years of secondary school have been disrupted and made all the more challenging by the ongoing effects of COVID-19. All the uncertainty and trepidation that students (and their counsellors) usually experience on results day will be heightened. 

COVID-19 has meant that some exams and standardised tests across the world have been cancelled again this year, with many students instead relying on teacher-marked coursework and estimated grades. 

This upheaval has meant that many students are worried about the effect COVID-19 will have on their chances of securing a place at their chosen university. We saw last year how many students lost out on places, and ended up being awarded much lower grades than they expected.  

With the UK’s successful vaccination programme, it has been predicted to continue to be one of the most popular destinations for international students. Many may even make last-minute decisions to go to the UK over countries where the COVID-19 response has been different.  

That’s why, perhaps more so than any previous year, Clearing and Adjustment will be a crucial resource for UK university applicants who find themselves having to re-think their undergraduate study plans. 

Clearing & Adjustment are fairly well known to domestic applicants in the UK. But we appreciate that, for our wider international school audience, they may be less familiar.

What do the terms ‘Clearing’ & ‘Adjustment’ mean? How can international students benefit from using them? And what tips do UK universities have for 2021 students who might be thinking about applying with these processes? 

We’ll explore the basics of Clearing and Adjustment – what they mean, how they work and why they can open up unforeseen opportunities for your students. 

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What is Clearing?

Put simply, Clearing is designed to match students with places on UK universities’ courses that haven’t been filled yet. Clearing is run through UCAS, the UK’s university application system. 

UCAS considers a UK university applicant eligible for Clearing if they meet any of the following criteria: 

  • A student applied after the 30th June. 
  • A student is not currently holding any offer from a UK university or college. 
  • A student doesn’t have a confirmed place at a UK university after their exam results are published. 

What is Adjustment?

If a student has met and/or exceeded their UK university offer requirements, Adjustment gives students the opportunity to look for an alternative course. UCAS runs Adjustment until the 1st September. 

Adjustment is completely optional and it’s worth noting that, if a student doesn’t find a new course, they will still keep the one they originally got accepted to on exam results day. Though it’s also worth noting that Adjustment has a stricter time limit than Clearing, with students only being given five days to find and apply for another course. 

Unlike Clearing, Adjustment vacancies aren’t advertised openly, so students will need to call admissions offices for particular universities and enquire about course vacancies directly.

Claim your free international guide on Clearing

We’ve compiled valuable information to help your students get the most out of Clearing.

How can international students use Clearing & Adjustment

International students can use Clearing to apply for a university place, provided they applied to university through the UCAS system. 

While the dates and deadlines for international students applying through Clearing are the same as UK domestic students, there are a number of considerations that your international applicants will need to take into account. 

As they apply to university through Clearing, they might need your help organising any of the following.

It’s always helpful if someone is with the student for support, if possible. So this could be a school counsellor or a parent. It’s important students keep a clear head because emotions can sometimes run very high during Clearing. This is an important decision, it shouldn’t be rushed.” 

Andy Durban: Deputy Head of International & EU Student Recruitment, Queen Mary University of London

Applying for a student visa

Some of your students may need to apply for a student visa. This can take time, and COVID-19 may have affected the processing of visas. This may affect whether students can start learning at a UK university in person.

Additional test and exams

Students may need to take an English language test (e.g. TOEFL/IELTS) or some other kind of entry test. It’s worth encouraging students to check their chosen university’s entry requirements very carefully! 

Additional interviews

It’s worth remembering that your students applying through Clearing might be introducing themselves to a UK university for the first time. So a UK university might require international Clearing applicants to attend an interview over Skype or Zoom.  

Securing last-minute accommodation 

If any of your students are applying through Clearing, they will understandably worry about finding somewhere to live. Most universities will send students accommodation information after offering them a Clearing place. 

But when students receive offers through Clearing, they will need to act quickly to secure accommodation. It’s possible that some places in halls in residence may have been filled already. 

Note: Different universities might display their Clearing vacancies for international students differently. For example the University of Liverpool has a specialised International Vacancy Service to help international applicants find Clearing places. 

What are the benefits of applying through Clearing & Adjustment?

Some students might be under the impression that the courses available in Clearing are the ones nobody else wanted. 

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. 

We know better than anyone what a huge decision university is for students and when results come in it can feel like there’s a lot at stake. 

For UK applicants, Clearing & Adjustment are a great opportunity for students who may have missed their original offer conditions, or who have had a change of heart about their original university choice. 

A Student’s Experience of Clearing: The University of Plymouth

Applying Through Clearing & Adjustment: A Step-by-Step Guide

In order to make the most of Clearing, it’s important for your UK applicants to be prepared from the moment they get their results. 

Let’s briefly look at some of the crucial steps that make up a successful Clearing & Adjustment strategy, and how counsellors can support it. 

Step 1: Revisit the research

When your students applied to university, you and/or your school’s counselling team will have helped them research potential destinations and draw up an application shortlist. 

When results day comes, students applying through Clearing will need to go back to the drawing board – and they’ll be coming to you for help! 

Applicants will need to weigh up all the usual considerations when researching a university. What’s the campus like? How are classes taught? What social activities are on offer for international students?

A Step-by-Step Guide to Clearing: The University of Exeter

Step 2: Searching university vacancies

Students can look for available Clearing vacancies through the UCAS Search tool. These vacancies are updated regularly, so it’s important to stress to any and all of the Clearing applicants in your school that persistence is key. 

If you’ve helped your students put together a Clearing/Adjustment shortlist, then using the UCAS search feature is a useful way to refine it. Course vacancies will be in high demand, so as well as persistence, adaptability is crucial. 

As well as the UCAS search feature, many universities will also advertise Clearing and Adjustment vacancies on their own website. So if some of your students already have a university in mind, going through the university’s website might also be a good option! 

Remember to impress on your students that Clearing is a chance to explore different possibilities and pathways. They may come across a course they’d never considered or a different degree within the same subject area. They might decide to pursue a joint honours degree where once they had considered a single honours course. 

As we said before, it’s important for students to be open to the possibilities that Clearing and Adjustment can offer! 

One thing I would stress is that places are likely to fill up quickly. So it’s really important to be as ready as you can, so you can call the Clearing hotlines as early as possible!

Andy Durban: Deputy Head of International & EU Student Recruitment, Queen Mary University of London

Step 3: Make sure students are prepared

This might sound like obvious advice, but it’s vital that when they begin contacting universities, students have everything they need to hand. Many UK universities recommend that students have their UCAS Personal ID number and their grades in front of them before they contact a university. 

As we said before, international students who apply through Clearing might have to go through more steps than their domestic counterparts. 

Before students can add a university in UCAS Track, they will need to call that university to discuss available course vacancies. 

As we mentioned previously, universities may want to interview international students who are applying through Clearing, or at least ask students questions to gauge their suitability for a course. So it’s useful if, when contacting universities, students have their original UCAS Personal Statement and any relevant school transcripts/portfolios to hand. 

We’d also encourage students to make notes of any questions they might have about the university/course. 

Note: We’ve put together the 15 questions that your students need to consider before starting a university application. Read them here

Step 4: Adding choices in UCAS Track

Once students have confirmed their Clearing place with their university, students need to add this to their UCAS Track account. When signing in to UCAS Track, students will be asked to ‘Add a Clearing Choice’. 

UCAS asks that students who have been accepted on a place through Clearing then enter the course details. 

It’s important to note that once a student has added their Clearing choice in UCAS Track, this counts as accepting a university’s offer. UCAS Track only allows students to enter one Clearing choice at a time. 

Note: Remember that Adjustment works slightly differently in terms of deadlines. A student only has five days to look for a new university place in UCAS Track. Once that five day limit is up, any Adjustment information entered in Track will disappear, and students will keep their original place. 

Step 5: Talk to existing university students

We call this Step 5, but if your students can do this earlier in the process then it’s even more valuable and will help them to make more informed decisions about their Clearing options. 

Whether it’s talking to existing students in person, or via some kind of Facebook group or online chat function, it’s really worthwhile for students to get as much of a taste of campus life as they can. 

If there’s no way for students to talk to students directly, then encourage your students to take a virtual campus tour, or read some of the blogs that are written by existing students. 

Many universities will have FAQ pages and blogs where students share their experiences of Clearing, so your students will know they’re in good company as they make such big decisions under considerable time pressure.

And finally…encourage students to engage with universities at every step

This is more of a general piece of advice, but it’s really important for students and counsellors to engage with universities every step of the way – universities actively encourage it! 

Clearing & Adjustment may feel very daunting, but it’s important to remember that universities want to hear from students, and will always be on hand to answer any questions or concerns that you or your students may have during the process. 

We understand more than anyone that choosing a University is a big decision. Thousands of students join Coventry every year from all over the world because of our academic rankings, campus community and the excellent support from our International Office. We are with you every step of the way.

Ryan Bennett Barlow: International Officer, Coventry University

We speak from experience when we say that UK universities value and celebrate their rich and diverse international student communities! Clearing is another opportunity for them to meet talented and ambitious students such as yours! 

Get started with BridgeU

Book a demo to see how BridgeU can help your students explore a wider range of humanities & social science degrees.