Almost 190,000 people who are eligible for clearing were yesterday battling for just 11,000 university vacancies.
That means 17 people are competing for every one remaining space available through clearing - the process, which matches students without university places to courses that still have spaces.
Of the 29,000 degree courses on offer through clearing, 17,878 were taken by midnight on Monday.
Tens of thousands of would-be students will now look at other options, including reapplying for university, resitting their exams, opting for a different course at a further education college, securing employment or an apprenticeship.
According to the Department of Employment and Learning, its Jobcentre Online had 2,302 positions advertised yesterday.
Queen's University Belfast will close its clearing advice lines at 5pm today. At its peak the university was dealing with more than 2,500 calls and 2,000 emails a day.
A joint Queen's, University of Ulster and Stranmillis University College website, which posted information on applications and clearing, has so far had more than 150,000 hits.
Some 189,267 people are eligible for clearing because they have had no offers, failed to make their grades or applied too late.
The process usually lasts a few weeks, but could be shorter this year as offers are quickly accepted.
Yesterday's snapshot shows that of the 684,098 Ucas applicants, 425,487 students have now had their university or college place confirmed - a massive 10,416 more than at this point last year.
Admissions service Ucas said that there is a "direct correlation" between the increased number of acceptances and lower numbers of courses with vacancies available through clearing.
Some 61,737 applicants are still waiting to see if they have been accepted.
The figures come just four days after teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received their A-level results.
The Queen's University courses which are most in demand include medicine, business management and finance. Those less popular than in previous years are civil engineering, architecture and environmental planning.