Record grades plus more applicants and higher student deferrals due to the pandemic has made for a perfect storm when it comes to supply and demand for this year's university places in the UK.
While many have found themselves missing out on the competitive grades needed to secure their desired course, others have looked to adjustment after getting better than expected results.
It's undoubtedly been a stressful time for students, but many universities have come up with thoughtful digital ways to help those affected to navigate the process with as much ease as possible this year.
Student soundbites and standout content
Students facing clearing need reassurance, and to be left excited about the prospects it has to offer. And they're likely to find this in the voices of those who have walked in their shoes, so it's not surprising that many universities have looked even more to storytelling content to inspire prospective students.
Manchester Metropolitan University's clearing page was jam-packed with well-designed and informative content, including a brilliant student stories section allowing applicants to hear from others that had lived through the same experience. There's also snappy guides and content on clearing timelines, tips for staying calm and pointers from academics.
Edinburgh Napier University also invested heavily in producing outstanding content. A selection of positive student stories provided inspiration and motivation to prospective applicants, with videos above standardized written content. This was alongside well laid-out information and guides on the process – and even two specially curated playlists; one to calm the clearing nerves and another to celebrate when everything had been settled.
Brighton University was another institution that delivered empathetic and engaging case studies in its blogging section on the clearing page this year, with a mixture of articles and videos from students.
Meanwhile, Northumbria University supported a wealth of content on clearing with added features such as a quiz to get applicants to where they needed to be on the site fast and even a podcast series, walking students through the ups and downs of results day all the way on to the process of securing accommodation once an offer has been found.
Leeds Beckett University also embedded its own podcast steering students through the process on its clearing landing page.
Connecting prospects with current students
Many universities opted again to leverage student chat functionality, with many allowing applicants to talk directly to student advisors to increase approachability and empathy. This included Coventry University, which developed the UniBuddy platform to allow site visitors to speak on screen to a range of current students from different courses and backgrounds.
Meanwhile, to make enquiries even easier for students, both Swansea and De Montfort universities opted to build in Whatsapp messaging functionality – direct to app or the in-web version – to its clearing chat offering.
Putting search front and centre
A large number of universities including Derby University and the University of East London opted for large search bar functionality for available courses, to save students time and enable them to quickly determine if the institution had what they were looking for during Clearing.
Coventry University cleverly extended this to enable students to search by UCAS points, while Staffordshire University took this one step further to provide an offer generator allowing applicants to input their qualifications for an instant steer on whether they will be accepted onto a course. If successful, they're then asked to process an official application or request a call back from the admissions team.
Bradford University, meanwhile, devised a course matcher quiz for students undecided on the academic route they're taking – an engaging way to capture potential applicants unclear on their direction of travel who may bypass standard search functions.
Virtual open days and on-demand content
Building on the success of virtual tours during lockdown, many universities utilized online open day content to showcase life on campus to potential students. Some held live events with faculty talks and question and answer sessions with existing students and academics, while others, such as Kingston University, also developed banks of on-demand content.
Some universities took to clever marketing incentives to lure in prospective students during clearing, such as Coventry, which offered a clearing bursary of £500, and the University of Aberystwyth, which was among a handful of those offering guaranteed university accommodation and a free annual sports center membership.
In what has been a busy scramble for university places this year, students will be thanking the universities that invested time into ensuring user journeys were as simplified as possible, and created quirky and innovative ways to help them, and to those that brought reassurance and inspiration through engaging content.
In many cases, these digital innovations and engagement measures will have helped institutions stand out from the crowd and secure increased recruitment success.
What examples have you seen of brilliant clearing methods and content? We'd love to hear about them - get in touch with our team or send us a message on social.