When do you check your emails?



If it looks like you'll be doing the Clearing scramble, make sure you don't end up with egg on your face.

What is Clearing, officially? Clearing is a system, managed by UCAS, in which candidates who do not achieve the conditions of their offer(s) are matched with institutions that have unfilled places on their courses.

What Clearing really is:
Lots of students without university places phoning and emailing lots of universities with places but without students with everybody trying to find the best match and trading off whether what they’ve got is better than what’s still out there. Meanwhile, UCAS stands in the middle waving bits of paper.

It’s a bit like speed-dating with a blind matchmaker. Or going to the January sales to look through the stuff no one else wanted in the hope of finding a bargain. It could happen, but you might also end up with a purple lycra top and shoes that don't fit.

The Clearing system intends to cure two headaches hung-over from the applications party. Headache one is the candidate without a place at university. Headache two is the university with too many places and not enough students. The idea is that these two aching barnets are somehow mutually soothable. Clearing is supposed to be Anadin.

If a candidate fails to get the grades to get into their chosen university, then they can choose a place left unfilled at another institution by getting in touch with the university directly and trying to persuade them that they’re the perfect shape to fill the vacancy.

Meanwhile, the universities need to fill as many vacancies as possible and, depending on how desperate they are, they might try to pick and choose the best applicants.

Up until now UCAS have provided a certificate (called a ‘Clearing Passport’) and the candidate sent this to their chosen university as a sign that they’re taking themselves off the market. However, as of 2009 this will all be done electronically.

UCAS insists the system is well organised, efficient and run by friendly people. Push regards it as more of a free-for-all, with all the good manners and orderliness of a bunch of people with diarrhoea queuing for the only loo. The highest flunk rates are among students who secure a place through Clearing, which speaks volumes.

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