Not happy with your A Level results? Stay calm!
It always seems quite hypocritical when someone tells you not to panic about your A Level results after they’ve already got their place at university or are happily in their dream job, so I’ll tell you about how much I “messed up” first.
I’ve ended up in university clearing twice, stayed on a third year at college, missed offers, rejected offers and ended up with none at all. It really did seem as if I was going to spend the rest of my life asking “whether you’d like salt and vinegar on that?” and to be honest I’m not convinced my parents were thinking any more optimistically either.
Yet I’m now studying a subject I love at one of the best courses in the country and in 2012 was awarded the Bob Friend Memorial Scholarship, which pays for my tuition fees and gives me a month-long fully funded internship at Sky News. I’m getting good grades on my course and have even managed to get a part-time job writing for a national website online – so I can afford to pay for a drink or three!
If you’re waiting for, or have received, your A Level results this August this guide will make sure you get clued up on what to do if things don’t go exactly to plan.
To help you along the way I’ve put together a checklist of the most vital points right here. Most importantly if you do find yourself in clearing this summer remember it’s not the end of the world; you may actually find you’re happier where you end up than if you had got those few extra marks!
Didn’t get the A Level results you wanted?
Even if you’re certain you’ve made the grades you need, there’s no harm in being prepared. It only takes half an hour to think about a realistic plan B and can save you much panic and soul-searching on results day.
Don’t be afraid to consider things that don’t immediately involve university; a year out for work experience, money making, travelling or simply to improve your grades are all sensible and realistic options.
Take a few minutes to collect yourself
Whilst you may be bitten by the temptation to grab any available phone and just start ringing anyone and everyone, give yourself a couple of minutes first; no one wants to speak to a blubbering mess.
Though clearing can seem pretty hectic and you do need to act quickly, it’s much better to call five minutes later with a clear head and know what you’re talking about than phoning up in tears and begging anyone to take you.
Do your research before you ring
There’s sometimes a chance that you can sweet talk universities into taking you even if you’ve only just missed out on your offer, so make sure you’ve got the admissions and faculty numbers of your insurance and first choice plugged into your phone beforehand.
It’s also worth taking a look around courses which are showing in extra prior to results day. Whilst it’s no guarantee that a course will be in clearing if it has got spaces in extra, it can help to give a good indication.
You can check out which courses have spaces in clearing on the UCAS website or if you’d prefer something to scribble all over, both the Independent and the Telegraph come with a complete list of university spaces.
Always make sure you’ve done your homework before you ring up a university; you’ll sound like a much more attractive candidate if you know you’re a little about the university and why you particularly want to go there than if it sounds like you only just heard about the course today – regardless of whether you did or not!
Make sure you’ve got your own questions too; they’ll be key details about accommodation, visit days and accepting offers to find out and you’ll sound much more engaged and enthusiastic.
Want to know more about clearing? Read on here >>
Keep everyone updated and don’t be afraid to ask for advice
Whilst you might feel pretty rubbish yourself, don’t forget to keep the people who care about you updated. Parents and guardians who have never been in the same situation are going to be feeling just as stressed as you are, especially if they don’t have a clue what’s going on as well.
It’s also a good idea to talk things through with people; your friends, family and teachers know you well and can probably point out some things you’ve overlooked. Colleges and sixth forms will often also have advisors on hand to speak to on the day and it is worth listening to what other people have to say, even if you choose not to agree!
Don’t stop after you’ve got one offer
The sense of relief when someone offers you a place will seem like a massive load off your shoulders but that doesn’t mean you should stop searching. Treat clearing just like your original application and try to find a variety of options before you settle for one.
Most courses will give you between 24 and 48 hours to accept their offers so you’ll have plenty of time afterward to compare and mull over your choices.
Don’t be afraid of turning them all down if you feel they’re not right for you, it’s much better (and cheaper) to wait a year and do something else than start a course you’re not happy with and end up leaving.
If, after all of this, you think that university is not for you then you can try an alternative to university like an apprenticeship or simply a professional job. You never know, you might be the next Richard Branson. For more info read Save the Student’s guide on the alternatives to university.