Traditionally clearing was always seen as something you went through by speaking to a university on the phone. The Ucas website would be your first port of call to search for the universities or courses that you were interested in, you would select the ones that appealed the most and then start making phone calls to secure your place.
However, things are starting to change as technologies advance and universities are providing even easier, more instant ways to get in touch and apply for a place. Instead of solely offering places on the phone, universities are now using social media to advertise courses and offer places through clearing for students.
In the first instance, social media is a great place for students to gain an unofficial view of their prospective university. By searching through a university’s Twitter or Instagram feed you can start to build a picture of the university: what lectures are like and what students like to do for fun.
In the lead up to A level results day and on the day itself, universities will ramp up their social media presence. It’s the time that universities can really show their personalities with gifs, puns and endless funny posts inciting students to join them through clearing.
Additionally, many universities will host student takeovers on their social media feeds, where students post images and share their day-to-day routines. There might be certain hashtags that you can follow as well that reveal candid accounts of student life. These are particularly useful for prospective students to be able to see what a university is like through the eyes of a current student.
It is also possible to take virtual tours of universities on social media or on university websites, which can help you to get a good idea of what the campus looks like without having to actually go there. For students going through clearing, this can help you decide whether the campus is somewhere that you would feel comfortable living and studying.
Getting a clearing space
In terms of getting through clearing itself, social media is increasingly becoming a popular method for students to have a more informal chat with universities and to even apply for a place. Universities will now advertise which courses have clearing spaces and students can message universities directly through Facebook or Twitter – Snapchat and Instagram are also used by some institutions.
Clearing on social media is becoming more popular with students because it can help to eliminate some of the stress associated with clearing. It is a quicker method of getting in touch with universities and helps to bypass busy phone lines, which can often delay students while they are trying to make a decision.
Birmingham City University was an early adopter of using social media for clearing, having been offering students places this way since 2015. Students were asked to send a message to the university on Facebook and Twitter with their name, contact details, number of Ucas points and the course they were interested in. Today, you will find that most universities in the UK provide some kind of clearing process on their official social media accounts.
When messaging most universities you will usually be required to send over your name, date of birth, Ucas ID, email address, A level grades (often in Ucas points depending on the institution) and the course you would like to apply to. Some universities may ask for additional information, such as the first line of your address or your GCSE grades.
Another way that universities are using social media and mobile technology to entice students through clearing is with the use of apps. Often modelled to look like dating apps, they allow students to swipe through courses until they find the one that appeals to them. One such example is the University of Salford's “Match Made in Salford app”.