It is impossible to predict the demand for places this year, but whatever the situation, education advisers are warning disappointed students not to take the first place they can get.
Chris West, chief executive of student careers service Ecctis 2000, says there will be plenty of course vacancies this year and urges students to stay calm and make use of the information services available.
He says that tuition fees could prove to have an unexpected benefit - making applicants think more about whether a course and university are right for them.
The danger of saying yes too quickly was highlighted in a study of second-year undergraduates commissioned by Ecctis 2000 earlier this year. Thirty-one per cent of students who entered higher education through clearing would have preferred to choose a different course.
One way to ensure students know the full range of options available is to see a careers adviser. This is free for A-level students, said Monica Lemecha, president of the Institute of Careers Guidance.
Students may find that there are other ways of achieving their goals that they might not have considered. "Full-time study can sometimes backfire as students drop out, so it's important that they think carefully," she said.
Many students need help to guide them through the maze of choices - careers advisers are there to help, Ms Lemecha said. Those who have done better than they had hoped should also see an adviser to reconsider their choices.
Students who just missed their hoped-for grades should first call the university that offered them a place and find out whether they might still be accepted, according to Richard Leathes, of educational consultants Gabbitas.
When grades are much lower than expected, he suggests that a more radical rethink might be needed. While retaking A-levels is an option, the grades achieved could be used to get into a different course.
For retaking to be worthwhile, Mr Leathes says the student "must have the ability and the motivation. If either of those two ingredients are missing, the chances of success will be dubious."