A level results can be the most nerve-wracking day of your life. For many young people it can feel like the rest of your adult life depends on the contents of that brown paper envelope.
Of course entry to university has always been, and continues to be, a competitive process – and that’s a good thing. Sadly, every year there are tens of thousands of students with the grades to go to university who miss out on a place. But it isn’t the end of the world. So here are a few tips if you don’t get the results you were hoping for….
1. Still check with the university you had an offer from
There are instances when a university is still prepared to give you a place if you miss your offer by 1 or sometimes even 2 grades. So if you’ve missed the offer you were made, ring them up and check whether they are prepared to still offer you a place. The next step is to check with your insurance offer to see if they are able to offer you a place.
2. Enter the clearing process
Every year there are thousands of students who miss out on the grades for both their firm and insurance offer. These students are then eligible to enter the clearing process, through which universities will still be looking to recruit students on courses where they haven’t filled all their places. Universities are still likely to have a certain grade threshold (or UCAS tariff points threshold) which you will need to meet to gain a place through clearing. Speed is of the essence, as places can get snapped up quickly. Going through clearing can still present you with an opportunity to study the course you want, albeit at a different institution. For others, it actually presents a last minute opportunity to change the destination or degree you end up studying. If you have secured AAB (or better) and have missed out on a place, you will almost certainly be able to find a place through the clearing process, as there are fewer restrictions for universities wishing to recruit students with those grades.
3. Apply next year
For some students, not getting the grades you want this year means it’s an opportunity to take stock and think about re-applying through UCAS next year. If necessary you could look at re-taking certain modules to try and improve your marks, or simply look at tailoring your new application based on the confirmed results that you have. The ‘gap year’ could also be seen as a chance to try and earn some money or gain some valuable work experience, though of course getting opportunities continues to be tough. But by acting decisively it is possible to pick up some experience that could end up setting you up to be in a stronger position for arriving at university in 2013 instead.
4. Other opportunities beyond university
Whilst an increasing number of school leavers are looking to university, it should only be seen as one option for your next step. There are more and more apprenticeships being made available, and although gaining a place on these can also be very competitive, they present exciting opportunities and often a speedier route into the work place. There are other training opportunities, such as courses at a local college, which could be a more appropriate next step. And there’s the option to look to head straight into the jobs market, acknowledging that it continues to be a tough market.
5. Part time study instead of full time
Whilst the majority of A level recipients that have applied for university aim for a full time course, there are increasing numbers of 18 and 19 year olds enrolling on part-time courses. It is likely that whilst the places for full time courses are taken quickly, there could still be the chance to complete a degree part-time. The most well known part-time provider is the Open University, but the majority of other universities also provide part time courses (either on campus, or by distance learning). Also from this year, part time students are eligible for a tuition fee loan, which means fees do not have to be paid up front.
Whatever your circumstances, and no matter what grades you have ended up with, I think it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge what you’ve achieved. Whether it’s better than you hoped, or not quite the grades you anticipated or hoped for, it is still an achievement. This blog sets out a few possibilities for your next steps, but there are plenty more. The most important thing to remember is, there is always a next step, even if it takes a year or two to reach it.
Aaron Porter is a freelance journalist, broadcaster and education consultant. He was previously President of the National Union of Students 2010-11 during the high profile tuition fee debate. He tweets at @AaronPorter.