Is Clearing First Come First Serve

Is Clearing First Come First Serve? 

Yes, clearing is typically first come, first serve. Clearing is a process used by universities to fill any spaces they have left for the upcoming academic year. It’s used by applicants who didn’t receive any offers, declined all their offers, or didn’t meet the conditions of their offers. 

When clearing opens, universities publish a list of courses that still have places available. These places are offered on a first-come-first-served basis, so clearing offers are open as long as places are available. 

However, the availability of places can depend on the popularity and total number of spaces available for each individual course.

How Does Clearing Work?

How Does Clearing Work

When clearing begins through UCAS, students can look for and choose from available spots. If you’ve missed your top two choices on results day or haven’t received any offers after June 30, you’ll need to look for spots through clearing.

Next, you’ll need to reach out to the universities directly. Their admissions teams are ready to talk to students and go over the entry requirements. If you’re interested in what’s on offer, you can add that course to your application as your clearing choice. 

The university will then be notified and can accept or reject your application. Remember, you can only apply to one clearing place at a time, so make sure you choose your top choices first.

Some universities may use social media to announce available spots and allow students to contact them directly. This is a good way to start a conversation with the university, but don’t forget to call to confirm the details and declare your clearing choice on your UCAS application to secure the spot.

What Does First Come, First Serve Mean?

The term “First Come, First Serve” is a principle often used in various areas, including service sectors and retail. It basically means that services are provided in the order of arrival. The person who arrives first, and thus has been waiting the longest, gets served first. 

Over time, this term has evolved to mean that the first person to claim something has the right to it. So, if everything is taken, those who missed out should have arrived earlier.

How Does First Come, First Serve Apply to Clearing?

In the context of clearing, the “First Come, First Serve” principle is commonly used. When clearing starts, universities list the courses that still have open spots. 

These spots are offered on a first-come-first-served basis, meaning clearing offers are available as long as there are open spots. 

However, the number of available spots can vary depending on the popularity and total number of spots for each course.

This principle ensures that any student who enters the queue will have a maximum wait time that can be determined based on the number of students ahead of them. 

It’s a fair and socially acceptable way to queue, but it’s worth noting that not all service models follow this rule.

What are the Advantages of First Come, First Serve in Clearing?


The “First Come, First Serve” approach is simple and easy to understand. Applications are processed in the order they’re received, which makes the process transparent and easy to follow. 

There’s no need for complex algorithms or decision-making processes, which can often lead to confusion or misinterpretation.


This approach is user-friendly, making it easy for anyone to manage, regardless of their experience or skill level. 

This is particularly beneficial in a university setting where staff members may have varying levels of experience with admissions processes.

Easy to Implement

The simplicity of the “First Come, First Serve” approach also makes it easy to integrate into existing systems. There’s no need for extensive training or system overhauls, which can be time-consuming and costly.


This method is seen as fair because it’s straightforward. There’s no debate about the order of processing applications, which can often lead to disputes or feelings of unfairness. Everyone has an equal opportunity to secure a place, provided they apply early enough.

What are the Disadvantages of First Come, First Serve in Clearing?

What are the Disadvantages of First Come, First Serve in Clearing

Long Wait Times

One of the main drawbacks of this system is that it can lead to inefficiencies or delays. Some applications may take longer to process than others, leading to long wait times. This can be particularly frustrating for students who are anxious to secure their place at university.

Favors CPU Over I/O Processing

In computing terms, the “First Come, First Serve” approach can favor CPU-bound processes over I/O-bound processes. This means that tasks which require more processing power are prioritized over tasks which require less, potentially leading to inefficiencies.

Lower Device Utilization

This approach can result in lower device utilization. This means that resources may not be used to their full potential, leading to inefficiencies.

Incompatibility with Time-Sharing Systems

The “First Come, First Serve” approach can be incompatible with time-sharing systems. In a time-sharing system, multiple users can access a system simultaneously. This approach may not be suitable for such systems as it could lead to longer wait times and inefficiencies.


Does clearing have interviews? 

Yes, during Clearing, some universities might conduct interviews. These interviews can take different forms, including phone interviews.

What is Clearing and what happens at Clearing? 

Clearing is a system that matches students to university courses that still have open spots. It’s available to anyone who has applied through UCAS Undergraduate and doesn’t hold any offers. Clearing starts in early July and is used by students who haven’t secured any course offers for various reasons.

How many times can you go through Clearing? 

You can contact as many universities as you want during Clearing, but you can only apply for one Clearing choice on UCAS Track at a time. If your application is unsuccessful or you change your mind, you can apply for a new choice shortly afterwards.

How long does it take for Clearing to confirm? 

The time it takes for a Clearing choice to be confirmed can range from a few minutes to five days. It depends on the university and the course.

Do Clearing accept lower grades? 

Yes, during Clearing, some universities might accept students with lower grades. However, this will depend on the university and the course.

Does UCL allow Clearing? 

UCL typically does not participate in Clearing. However, they do have a limited number of places available via UCAS Adjustment.

Which UK universities don’t do clearing? 

Some universities, including the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and Imperial College London, typically do not participate in Clearing.

Is Clearing only for UK students? 

No, Clearing is not only for UK students. International students, including EU and other overseas students, can use Clearing in the same way as UK students.

Final thoughts

All things considered, clearing in university admissions typically operates on a “First Come, First Serve” basis. This approach is straightforward, user-friendly, and easy to implement, making it fair for all students. 

However, it can lead to long wait times and inefficiencies, particularly for popular courses with limited spaces. 

Despite these challenges, clearing remains an essential part of the university admissions process, providing students with another opportunity to secure a place at their preferred institution. As always, early preparation and prompt action are key to navigating the clearing process successfully

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