More than 200,000 university applicants will fail to get places this year, the head of the admissions service has warned.
There is expected to be a repeat of last summer's chaotic scramble after the publication of A-level results.
A "carbon copy" of last year's confusion, when 210,000 people did not get places, is inevitable, especially with record interest from teenagers ahead of increasing tuition fees next year, according to the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS).
The number of candidates who fail to get into university is expected to rise when results are published in two weeks.
Disappointed teenagers will have to accept that their applications were just "not strong enough", said Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS.
Applications have increased by a further 1.4% or 9,000, but the number of university places available remains about the same.
Ms Curnock Cook said those who fail to find a place on A-level day will be faced with two choices: "One is to go into clearing and the other is to re-apply next year".