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Clearing: How to Negotiate with Universities and Get the Best Possible Offer

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With results day coming up for A-level students in the UK, students should make themselves aware of the options available to them if they don’t get into their university of choice. One of these options is Clearing.

Clearing is the process where applicants are matched, through UCAS, to university places that haven’t yet been filled. During the process, students call universities to discuss potential course options.

Clearing is expected to be busier than ever this year. UCAS have predicted a record 80,000 students will use Clearing to find a university place, which its chief executive predicts will be “probably the busiest yet.” This is at least partially due to the disruption of COVID-19, which has impacted gap years, internships and placements, and has led to many students studying online

Pete Edge, director of admissions, access and participation at The University of Law gives us some insider tips on how to get the best possible offer when talking to universities during Clearing.

Use Clearing Plus as a supplementary tool

Use Clearing Plus as a supplementary tool

This year UCAS have introduced a new Clearing Plus system, which automatically matches applicants to suitable universities. Students have the option to use this new system if they choose.

However, Edge indicated that this new system is still quite limited in scope and will be developed further in the coming years.

“My advice would be to use it as a supplementary tool, but not as a replacement for your own diligent research,” said Edge. “It will, however, give you options you perhaps haven’t considered, which you can then research more.”

Do some research beforehand

Clearing this year runs until 20th October 2020, but universities will exit Clearing once they no longer have free spaces. You can find about a university’s closing dates on their website. This short window to apply means it’s vital to do some preparation in advance.

So, when should you start preparing for Clearing? Doing some research before you receive your results is advisable, Edge revealed, even if you think you’re likely to get your required grades. This will ensure you’re completely prepared if you do go into Clearing. 

“Treat it exactly like you would have done when you when you made your initial choices in the main cycle,” he advised. 

He suggests creating a scoring matrix to compare courses and universities. “You can include things that matter most to you and then see which university and course combination comes out on top,” explained Edge.

You can hear more about students’ experiences with Clearing on the University of Law's website.

Ask targeted questions

Clearing

“Ask targeted questions rather than generic ones,” Edge advised. “I’d suggest asking if there are any events you can attend to get a better idea about the course and institution, and whether you can speak with an academic or current student as part of that.”

For example, the University of Law are running a virtual Successbury Festival the week after A-level results, to help students understand more about the university and what they do.

When you call universities during the Clearing process, you’ll often be speaking to a student who is assisting with busy helplines. You can use this to your advantage by asking for their own opinion of the university, recommended Edge.

“Getting honest insight from students is really valuable information to have when making your choice,” he said.

Know why you want to study the course

Universities may ask several questions when you call them during the Clearing process.

Edge said: “Aside from wanting to know your grade profile they’ll be keen to understand any extenuating circumstances behind why perhaps your grades don’t match your potential.

“If you speak with an academic, they might also want to understand your motivation for their course, so make sure you can speak passionately about your subject of interest.”

Look for an institution that fits you

One mistake students often make is trying to negotiate too hard to get a place in a specific university or course. Edge revealed that this negotiation is often fruitless, as universities have already decided what level of student they’re happy to take and will do their best to stick to this.

He said: “You’re better off investing your time searching for an institution that wants you rather than trying to twist the arm of one that doesn’t”.

“Universities won’t advertise their Clearing levels publicly as it is a very competitive marketplace,” said Edge, “so you will need to do your research as to what is available and then use your scorecard matrix (explained earlier) to work out what matters to you.”

Take time to consider any offers

Before accepting a university place through Clearing, fully consider the offer and decide if it’s the right place for you.

“My advice would be ‘don’t rush’," said Edge. “Do your research and then if you’re confident in what you’re doing, add the institution as your Clearing choice and start to look forward to the next chapter in your life.”

It’s important to remember that the best university offer for you won’t necessarily be the same as for your friends, Edge added.

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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