What’s Clearing, anyway?

Clearing Made Clear

The first time I applied to uni through Clearing, way back in 2008, one school had me write my choices in a little box on their website and hope for the best. Another school posted me a form.  A form. I don’t think I even mailed it back to them – which makes me wonder if maybe it wasn’t some sort of test. If you can be bothered to mail us this form, you can be bothered with school. Spoiler: I wasn’t that bothered.

When I applied through Clearing to Staffs in 2014, I made a phone call. It took minutes. One moment I was in a dead-end job in a call centre, the next I was buying new stationery and a school bag. Because why not, right?


That said, just because Clearing has gotten easier doesn’t mean it’s gotten, well, clearer. Both times I’ve been through it I didn’t really understand what it meant. Now that I’m two years past applying, I can tell you exactly what it doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean you weren’t good enough. And it definitely doesn’t mean anyone’s better than you.

You want to know what Clearing is? It’s when universities fill up the empty spaces on their courses. If they have 40 spaces and 80 people apply, and only 38 of them get the grades, well, guess what – 2 out of those 42 students are going to get that place through Clearing. That means 40 students might be offered another course, or they apply through Clearing to another university altogether.

It’s absolutely nothing personal; it comes down to letters and numbers. Predictably, if you apply for a place later than other students, you kind of end up at the back of the queue.


In that way, Clearing is a bit special. You can stand out. Having grades a little below what one course needs means you might be in a really strong position for another course that’ll take you to the same place. If you’re coming from employment, those experiences and that commitment will make you stand out as well. You want to know the best bit?

You don’t even have to jump though any hoops. You just have to apply.

There is a place for you, even if it’s not where you planned it to be at first. The important thing to remember is that there are infinite resources out there for you, not the least of which is Staffs’ own Clearing Made Clear page. You can talk to a real person about where you can go next, and what options are open to you. Having to go through Clearing isn’t the end of the world – but it might be the start of something really special.

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About Siân 28 Articles
I'm Siân, I'm 27, and I'm a third year Creative Writing student. I'd like to be a full-time writer when I grow up, but a career in editing or teaching would do in the meantime.

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