While most of us now expect life not to run smoothly in 2020, it still seems unfair that so much confusion fell on the UK’s young people in the University Clearing chaos triggered by the exam results fiasco. When it comes to Clearing, there’s still a lot to play for.

Clearing this year was unlike any other. Far more competitive from a Google Ads perspective, it saw an army of frustrated students turning to new sources of information and advice.

At an individual level, the resilience and initiative shown by so many has been impressive. Throughout the clearing process The Student Room, the country’s biggest online student community, has seen a 21% increase in conversations across the platform compared to last year, as students turned to each other to share their feelings, swap notes and help each other out.

What the students say…

But the experience has left its mark on this generation. The Student Room’s own research among Year 13s (i.e. current year school leavers) shows that the process is still unsettled:

  • 90% have lost all trust in key decision-makers.
  • 40% feel their college or education provider isn’t helping them enough.
  • 80% feel their mental health has been impacted by the uncertainty and confusion.

Many are still unplaced and undecided. What this means in practical terms, a month on from A-Level results day, is that Clearing still isn’t over.

On the day of Clearing itself, more people were turning to call universities direct, compared with last year. Fewer people were clicking on ads. According to IDP Connect, this is likely linked to uncertainty in relation to grades.

When ambiguity and anxiety are rife, and people have complex questions, people just need to hear a human voice.

If we look at Google’s numbers for the day itself, it’s hard to disagree:

They saw a huge increase in searches between 8.00-9.00 am on results day, followed by a lull, and then another spike in the evening. Call volumes were high, but these were calls for advice, not to confirm applications.

Amid the uncertainty, there was an unsurprising increase in search terms related to taking a gap year.

And then, on the 17th August, after the U-turn, searches spiked again. 

Clearing 2020 – still all to play for

All of this means that Clearing is bigger than ever. According to UCAS, there are more placed students this year than last year – 495,000 vs 508,000 (results for 22 days after Clearing day).

And it’s not over yet.

The Student Room saw a 25% increase in postsin the late-Clearing phase (24 – 30 Aug 20 vs 2019 YoY). Many students are still unsure on what their options are, or what they should do next.

There’s a lot still to play for, and an active market of student seekers to welcome into their new future.

Although lasting effects are hard to gauge from here, the younger brothers and sisters of this year’s school leavers have not failed to notice what’s going on.

The Student Room polled new Year 13s – the university applicants of 2021 – and noted:

  • They are more proactive, fastidious and forward-planning than their predecessors, already exploring their application and Clearing options.
  • Many are already writing their personal statements and seeking feedback.
  • More of these students are looking at universities and courses, with engagement in their University and University Courses forums up 22%.
  • They are focused on academic success to improve their options – posting in study help forum is up 7%.
  • Asked who they most wanted to hear from, one in five said:


To intensify your Clearing activity to take advantage of this extended decision period –

 Or if you just want to plan for an exceptional Clearing 2021 with Clearing Monitor

Then let’s talk!