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The university clearing process explained

What is clearing?

Clearing is a system that universities in the UK use to fill places that they still have available on their courses. It matches universities with unfilled places with those students who still don’t have an offer.

This happens outside of the normal application window, and it’s a good option if you have changed your mind in terms of the course you want to study, if you are applying outside the normal application dates, or if you did not achieve the grades that you expected.

Although clearing is specific to the UK, there are other countries with similar processes. Such countries include Australia, US, Canada and other European countries.

University clearing around the world

United Kingdom clearing process

Clearing in the UK is done through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), or directly through the university you want to apply to. There are pros and cons to both methods:

Applying through UCAS
Streamlined process: centralised system where students can see all courses available and apply to multiple universities through one platformIndirect interaction: there is less direct interaction with universities. There is a possibility of delayed responses and might limit clearing opportunities.
Detailed course listingsApplication fees
Consistency: application process is the same for all courses and universitiesWaiting periods: longer waiting period for responses, which might be stressful
Application management: applicants can manage their choices and offers all in one placeMultiple steps: filling out forms, obtaining references and writing a personal statement
Support and guidanceTime-consuming
Applying to Universities Directly
Immediate contact: communicate directly with university and might speed up the process Lack of guidance: no support to navigate the process 
Immediate offers: universities may be able to immediate make offers during emails of phone callsLess comprehensive: might miss out on the whole list of course listings 
Personalised interaction: can help clarify specific questions and concernsTracking challenge: have to keep track of multiple applications in different platforms

Timeline and key dates:

Key datesAction
4 JulyLast day to add an extra choice to your application
5 JulyClearing opensStart researching clearing courses
24 JulyReply to your offers
6 AugustSQA results are published
15 AugustA-levels are published
21 SeptemberDeadline for applications for 2024 entry
21 OctoberLast day that you can add a clearing option to your UCAS Hub

Similar processes in other countries


In Australia, the process of late applications is flexible and varies depending on the institutions. In contrast to the UK, there is no centralised process system, which means you have to apply for every university through their website, and keep an organised document with the process of each application.

In Australia the main application deadlines are in December, with the academic year starting in February/March. Some universities allow late applications, usually until January, and in some universities, even up until the start of the course. Of course this varies from university to university, as well as course availability.

Main rounds of offers are released in January, while late round offers are released between January and February, depending on when you applied. Some institutions will be making offers until the start of the academic year. Around February-March is the start of the academic year and orientation period.

Universities that allow late applications:

UniversityApplication deadline
University of SydneyAllows application through January
University of MelbourneAccepts late applications depending on course availability
University of QueenslandAllows application until the start of academic year
University of Western AustraliaAllows applications through January

United States

Many universities in the US have rolling admissions. Rolling admissions is when colleges evaluate student applications when they are received, instead of waiting for all applications to a deadline. Universities will continually review incoming applications until all the slots for the incoming classes are filled up. This means that you can apply as late as August.


Canadian universities have different processes to manage late applications, and they can also differ between institutions and provinces. Some universities, like in the USA, use the rolling admission process.

In provinces like British Columbia and Ontario, they have centralised systems, which makes it easier for students to keep track of their applications and universities they want to apply to. However, they also have stricter deadlines, though there is the possibility of flexibility for less competitive programs.

In contrast, provinces like Manitoba and Alberta handle the process through individual universities; this eventually leads to personalised processes and different deadlines.

UniversityApplication systemLate application deadline
University of OntarioOUAC for undergraduate programsFirm deadlines, but some faculties may consider late application
University of British ColumbiaEducationPlannerBCAvailable for less competitive programs
McGill UniversityUniversity’s portalSome programs may consider on a case-by-case basis
University of AlbertaUniversity’s portalMay accept for non-competitive programs
Dalhousie UniversityUniversity’s portalTypically accepts depending on program availability

EU countries


Application deadlines differ between undergraduate and postgraduate programs. While main application deadlines for undergraduate programs are mid-january to early april, for postgraduate programs may vary by institution and program, but generally between march and june for the september intake.

In regards to late applications, undergraduate programs are between late June and early July for remaining places, while postgraduate programs may limit late applications in the summer months.


In Germany, semesters have two different starting seasons: winter semester and summer semester. For winter semester, the deadline applications are mid-july for most universities, while late applications may be considered in august and september if there are still empty spots.

For the summer semester, application deadlines are mid-january, with late applications being considered in February and March.

Who uses these processes?

Clearing is used by a wide variety of students and is a very commonly used method of application to university.

Students who use clearing to find a place at uni may be those who didn’t receive required grades or qualifications, students who decided to change courses or universities last minute, and also students who didn’t receive an offer from their original applications.

When do these processes happen?

Late applications usually happen after the main application deadlines have passed, and in the months closest to the start of the academic year.

These will typically last from mid-August until mid-September in the UK, and may vary in other countries, extending into the summer months before the academic year begins.

Universities will review late applications almost immediately to fill the remaining open spots. Applicants will be notified shortly after their applications are reviewed, and will then have to enrol quickly.

Important things to remember when using clearing

  • Prepare in advance: look through courses and universities you want to apply to and make a list of them. Also helps to put them in priority order for when they are published.
  • Free up your day for when the results come out and apply as soon as you have your results.
  • Consider other courses: by having a wide range of courses to choose from, you could even apply to do a joint course, having two subjects merged into a single course.
  • Immediately start calling universities, as it is super competitive and open spots can be filled quickly
  • Always phone the university yourself as this can give a more personalised response and it gives you higher chances of getting accepted.

How do these processes work?

1. Research available courses

  • Many countries have centralised systems, as mentioned above (eg. Parcoursup in France, UCAS in the UK, and Hochschulstart in Germany). This will make it easier for you to find available courses and keep track of your application, as well as in the process of applying to universities.
  • You can visit individual universities websites to find what you need to apply and what courses they have available. The universities will most likely change their website informing that they have the clearing option open.

2. Contacting universities

  • Go to the university’s website and find contact information for the admissions office. Sometimes, universities also have a specific phone number for the clearing season, which is written on the courses website.
  • Start reaching out to universities by either email or phone, and ask about their availability on the course you wish to study. Prepare yourself to explain why you are applying late and what is your situation. Think of this part as a job interview.

3. Preparing for applications or phone calls

You will need to gather documents and information for when you call the universities to apply through clearing, so make sure you have these at hand:

  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or cover letter
  • Academic transcripts
  • Proof of language proficiency (if required)
  • Identification documents

Prepare to be asked questions:

  • During your phone call, be prepared to answer questions such as your background, both academic and personal, why you’re interested in the program and why that university, what you expect to get out of the program and so on.

4. Submitting your application

  • The phone call is just the first step. You will then have to submit your documents and fill any required forms with specific instructions from the university. Do this carefully, as it can delay your application or even lose you the place.

5. Accepting an offer

  • Keep an eye out for an email from the university or in the application portal, depending on where you applied. If you do receive and offer, follow the instructions they give you to accept it. This will involve confirming your place, saying you do want to stay at the university, and something even paying a deposit. And last but not least, complete your enrolment as soon as possible, as there is a deadline, and without it you will not be registered for classes.

FAQs about university clearing

Can I apply late if I meet my original offer but want to change courses?

Yes, you can apply to change courses late, even if you meet your previous offer. However, the process may change by country and institution, so make sure to check that.

Can international students use these processes?

Yes, international students can use them. However, don’t forget to take into account things like the visa and language proficiency requirements. 

How does accepting a late offer affect students’ finance applications?

Accepting an offer late can impact your students’ finance application in a few ways:

  • Deadlines: check the deadlines when applying for funding, as late applications may miss the deadlines and delay the approval of funds.
  • Changing finance applications: if you decided to change courses and had already applied for a finance application, make sure to update it with the information of your new course. If you do not know how to do this, contact the finance provider to help you.
  • Institutional financial aid: some universities have allocated a budget to finance late applicants. Do not be afraid to ask the admissions office when you are applying to the course.

What happens if I don’t get any offers?

If you don’t receive any offers, you still have options such as taking a gap year to work or travel, appeal and ask the university for feedback, consider doing online courses to improve your qualifications and prepare for the next application phase.

Applying to universities, especially during the clearing period can be stressful. The best way to get through this smoothly and without enduring too much stress, is to prepare beforehand, and know where and what you want to apply for.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to universities, as this will give you an advantage in the process. And last but not least, just be yourself and follow your heart.

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