Tips & Tricks blog


by | Jan 20, 2020 | A-Level, UCAS, University | 0 comments

What’s the difference between Adjustment and Clearing?

Both are mechanisms offered by UCAS to help you find the right university course, usually when your results are not what you expected. Adjustment is for students who achieved higher grades than those entered in their UCAS application, and want to take a shot at universities that were previously out of reach. Received lower grades than you expected and missed your conditional university offer? Clearing may be the way to go.

Choosing either option is never an easy decision and, depending on your situation, you may want to consider a totally different path. We’ll dive deeper into both Adjustment and Clearing to help you make the right decision.

What is Clearing?

Clearing is there to help you if you:

  • Are not offered a place at university by either your first or second choice courses
  • Are applying to university for the first time (it’s not too late!)
  • Have not been offered any places
  • Have received offers that you no longer wish to accept
  • Have been offered a place but changed your mind about your course

One of the most common concerns when applying through clearing is that you’ll have to settle for a course that you aren’t interested in. This doesn’t happen as much as you think it does.

Universities up-and-down the country offer thousands of places through Clearing and, in all likelihood, you’ll find a course that is very similar to your first choice!

How do I apply through Clearing?

Through UCAS. You’ll need to have access to Track and a Clearing Number. You will also need to use their course search to find courses that might interest you.

Talk to your school or college’s career advisor if one is available, or a knowledgeable teacher. They are often best-placed to give you on-hand tips about applying via Clearing. It is also a good idea to call the University you are considering applying to via Clearing, as they can help discuss the course you are applying to and your application.

The UCAS website has great advice on how to apply to courses through Clearing and even has a search function to help you find available courses.

Remember, Clearing is a safety net to help you get onto a course and into University. However, if you have not been offered a place on your first-choice course and believe this is down to a bad day at the office when it comes to your A-Level exam, you could also consider retaking your A-Levels.

There is no shame in attending University a year later than your friends. There will be others who do the same due to retaking their A-levels, or who have deferred starting to take a gap year.

What is Adjustment?

What if you achieve higher results than expected? Some people don’t work that hard during the year and underperform in their mock exams, then end up with predicted grades that don’t reflect their actual ability. If they then get into gear a few months before exams, many end up with better grades than their teachers expected.

This is where Adjustment comes in.

Adjustment allows you to apply for courses that require higher entry requirements than those you have already applied to. For example, you may have been predicted to achieve BBB, but when results day comes around you discover you have actually achieved AAB.

Adjustment gives you the chance to apply to courses and Universities that previously seemed out of reach. The best bit is that applying through Adjustment will not affect any of your previous offers!

How and when to apply through Adjustment

Take note, that the deadline for applying for Adjustment 2020 is quite tight, with the window being between 13 August 2020 (A-level results day) to 31 August 2020.

With this in mind, if you think you have it in you to achieve higher grades than predicted, it might be worth attending the Open Days of Universities that require higher marks to get in, just in case.

As with most matters concerting university applications, good old UCAS is the first place to go if you are considering applying to a course through Adjustment. They even have a dedicated webpage that takes you through the process. Please note that if you have only applied for one course previously (at the discounted rate of £20), you may have to pay an additional £5 in order to apply for more courses.

Why Adjustment may not be for you

Even if you achieve higher grades than expected, it is important to remember that Adjustment is an option available to you that you do not have to take. Well-meaning family members and teachers may push you to look at courses with higher grade boundaries, but if you already have your heart set on a particular course at a particular university, stick with your decision.

Ultimately it is you who will be paying the fees back and spending three years of your life at the place, so make sure you do what’s right for you!

Clearing and Adjustment are there to help you

Whether you have exceeded your own expectations or if things have not gone quite as well as you thought, there is help and support available to help you still go on to higher education.

Adjustment and Clearing are processes to help with this but don’t forget to talk to your support network too. If you are worried, make sure that you speak to your teacher, careers rep or even someone at your preferred University.


Can you go through clearing after a gap year?

Yes. If you’ve already been accepted for a course, you could defer, making things easier for your return. If your gap extends beyond nine months, you might find that you can’t get financial support when you return - contact the appropriate NUS for advice.

Do Russell Group universities do clearing?

Some do; while others don't. Those that do might offer clearing on a handful of subjects. Check here. The following Russell Group unis offer clearing: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Durham, Exeter, Glasgow, King’s College London, Leed, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Queen Mary (London), Belfast Queens, Sheffield, Southampton, York.

When can I apply for clearing 2020?

If you don’t already hold an offer from a college or uni, you can apply through clearing from 6th July to 23rd October (in 2020). If you haven’t previously applied for this year, you can use clearing after 30th June.

How do I prepare for clearing?

Search for vacancies through UCAS. When you find a course you’re interested in, give the uni a call to make sure they still have vacancies. If they offer you a place and you’d like to accept it, then complete the details of the offer in Track. You can accept only one offer at a time.

Can I go into clearing if I have an offer?

No. Clearing isn’t an option if you have an offer for a course and you meet the entry requirements. If you didn’t get the grades for your offered course and the offer is retracted, then you can go through clearing.

Will universities accept lower grades in clearing?

Many universities are prepared to offer places if you don’t meet their entry requirement. If you sound passionate about the subject when you speak to them and are right for the specific degree, they may still offer you a place. They might accept you on your UCAS points as opposed to your final grades.



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