What if it All Goes Wrong? A Troubleshooting Guide for Teachers


Applying for a higher education course can be a stressful time for anyone, and we all know things don’t always go as planned. Here, we have considered some of the most common concerns and obstacles that your learners might face when awaiting offers through UCAS, and we hope the information collated here will help you to point them in the right direction!

Help! I’ve sent off my UCAS form but I want to change one or more of my choices!

The good news for any learners in this situation is that UCAS WILL allow them to swap their choices for different ones, as long as they do it within 14 days of receiving their Track welcome email. They can only change each choice once.

However, they may need to bear in mind that if the swap is made after the deadline for the new course, it will be considered late. For example, if a learner submits their UCAS application on the 10th January but changes one of their courses on the 18th January, this would now count as a late submission and may not be given equal consideration by the higher education institution (HEI).

Help! I’ve heard from all five of my choices and haven’t got any offers!

This may seem like the end of the world for some learners, but there’s no need to panic. There are plenty of options remaining for learners who find themselves empty-handed following the first round of decision- making.

The first is to add additional choices through UCAS Extra. This runs from the 25th February to the 5th July each year and allows learners who aren’t holding any offers, or learners that didn’t use all five of their Track choices in the first place, to add additional choices to their application one at a time. If an offer is made they can accept this as their firm choice, or decline and add an alternative choice. Further information on the UCAS Extra service, including a comprehensive FAQ section, can be found here.

Alternatively, learners can apply for a new place through Clearing. Their Track status should change to show when they are eligible for this. They can use the UCAS website to search for available vacancies and then contact individual HEIs to see if they will be accepted. Further information on the process is available here.

It can be tempting to help your learners with this, particularly as they may be nervous or upset, but it’s important to remember that admissions staff want to speak to the applicants themselves, not to teachers or parents/carers. The best role you can play is to offer them reassurance and advice on choosing an alternative course. Try not to let them be pressured into accepting an offer that they are unsure about, as it may cause more difficulties further down the line. Clearing remains open through to October but popular courses will fill more quickly, so if learners cannot find anything suitable they may prefer to apply again in the next UCAS cycle, or to consider alternative options.

Help! I’ve responded to my offers but I’ve changed my mind!

While it is best for learners to ensure they are confident in their choices before they accept their firm or insurance offers, these things do happen!

If the form was submitted within the last 14 days, learners can contact UCAS directly and an advisor will be able to help them.

If the form was submitted less recently the situation is a little more complicated and, as the learner has entered into a contract with their chosen HEI by this point, a change cannot be guaranteed. The learner will need to contact the institution directly, and then contact UCAS if the change is possible.

Help! I’ve missed the grades for my firm and insurance choices!

If a learner just misses the grades they require for a particular course, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will miss out on their offers. UCAS guidance for school advisors states that ‘If an applicant doesn’t meet the conditions of either their firm or insurance choice, they may still have their place confirmed. This is at the discretion of the university or college, and depends on a number of factors, such as how far off their results are from their offer, other students’ exam results, and the popularity of the course. Once the results have been published, if no decision has been made, it’s often worth the applicant calling the university or college to talk to them about their application.’

This means it’s generally better for learners to check UCAS Track before they collect their results. Doing so can save any unnecessary worrying if grades are lower than expected but the HEI has still confirmed their place.

If neither their firm nor insurance choices have accepted them based on their results, learners can enter Clearing at this point; see the guidance earlier in this factsheet for further information.

Need more help?

Have you had any more questions from learners that you’d like a helping hand to answer?

If you do, don’t forget that we’re here to help! Contact us today, and we’ll do our best to find the answer for you!