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Clearing: How to fill empty seats in your classrooms

4 min read

Thaís Roberto

University clearing is the process in which students secure a place at a university or college if they haven’t received any offers or if they didn’t meet the conditions of their initial offers. It typically peaks in August each year and provides a second chance for prospective students to find a spot in courses with vacancies still available.

During clearing, schools advertise the courses that still have openings, and students can contact them directly to discuss their qualifications and interests. Although clearing is a form of “plan B” for many, it can also be valuable for those who have achieved better grades than expected or have reconsidered their initial choices.

University clearing can be nerve-wracking, but with the right mindset, the whole experience can be positive for both the university and the students. 

Here are a few strategies to implement an excellent clearing campaign.

Create a positive environment - students still have options

Communication with prospective students during clearing can be a delicate affair. Though it’s possible that a student achieves higher grades and wants to search for better options, most who apply for universities during clearing do it because their plan A wasn’t successful.

This disappointment can often make students feel unmotivated and unenthused about the necessary change of plans.

In this case, it’s important to remember that, rather than accepting whatever comes their way, the students are still in the position to choose. Your campaign should make them feel empowered in their choice and show them why your university will set them on a path to success.

Incorporating testimonies from students who have reaped positive results from choosing your university through clearing can help them take a more positive outlook on the situation, leaving their frustration and feelings of failure behind.

Send out the message that, though unexpected, going through clearing can be an opportunity to explore different options and open new doors for the future.

Understand students’ needs

Although it happens quickly, students still have to go through the same decision process as when they chose their first option, but with a much tighter time restraint.

Factors like location, cost of living, career prospects, and academic and social life will be reconsidered over a few days, putting much pressure on undecided students. They might feel rushed and overwhelmed, so it’s essential to communicate clearly and make the process simple and easy.

Secondly, your clearing campaign won’t be geared towards making a lasting first impression. Instead, it’ll reach students who have already passed on your university at first glance. In this case, your marketing should focus on alternative arguments to be made for students who didn’t select your school as the first choice, encouraging them to reconsider it as an option.

This is an excellent opportunity to highlight the strength of your university’s operational force. During clearing, incoming students will mainly consider course options, but the interactions with the admissions team can make a difference. Making the applicants feel fully embraced and supported by your staff during this stressful situation can help them establish a level of trust in the institution that will make them more confident in choosing your university.

Click to access data on study preferences and motivations from a survey of 23,000 students

Open your lines of communication

To achieve the best possible enrollment numbers, keeping up with clearing’s fast pace is imperative. Students will be in a rush to guarantee a spot in their preferred courses, and a slow response time from the university can drive them away in search of a school that makes them feel prioritized.

Keeping the phone lines open and offering quick responses through various communication channels addresses one of the biggest challenges students face during the process: lack of information and uncertainty.

Make your clearing process more attractive to students by making your staff available for contact through instant messaging or social media. Students will also appreciate being guaranteed an early call on results day.

Be where the students are

For students, clearing happens quickly, over a few days. For universities, though, the work begins much earlier.

To avoid falling behind once clearing begins, universities must establish a connection with students long before August. Increasing brand awareness and reaching students year-round will make them remember your name when looking for a university to turn to.

When clearing season arrives, redirect your marketing efforts to the platforms where students are. Paid ads and retargeting campaigns are an excellent way to get the attention of students who already know your name, encouraging them to explore an already familiar option.

Don’t forget the end goal

Although clearing can feel like a race for both parties involved, what’s at stake is a long-term commitment between student and institution, and it deserves to be treated as such. Remember that rushed decisions are in no one’s best interests: for students, choosing a university without proper consideration can lead to frustration and disappointment; for universities, high enrollment numbers can turn into elevated dropout rates.

A good clearing campaign will empower and support students in their decision - whether that means enrolling in the available courses or taking a step back to search for more fitting opportunities.

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