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Student Blog

Not happy with your A Level results? Your next steps

Didn't get the results you wanted? All is not lost and things could actually end out working out better than you expect...

bad a level results

Credit: ABC

It can seem quite hypocritical when someone tells you not to panic about your A Level results after they've already got their place at uni or are happily in their dream job, but there really are plenty of success stories after not so stunning grades.

I ended up in university Clearing twice, stayed on a third year at college, missed offers, rejected offers and even ended up with none at all.

It really did seem as if I was going to spend the rest of my life going absolutely nowhere and, to be honest, I’m not convinced my parents were thinking much more optimistically.

Yet somehow I ended up graduating from a subject I love on a scholarship at one of the best courses in the country. And now I've even managed to get a job on TV. Quite frankly, all I need now is a blue tick on Twitter and all my life accomplishments are in the bag.

So if you’re waiting for, or have received, your A Level results, this August this guide is here to make sure you're clued up on what to do if things don’t go exactly to plan. Because you're still going to be awesome, whatever is in that envelope.

Didn't get the A Level results you wanted?

It isn't a situation anyone wants to be in, but missing the grades you hoped to get isn't going to destroy your chances of success forever.

We've spoken to both past students and career experts to give you the best advice on how to turn the situation around.

Be prepared

prepared for a level results

Credit: Nickelodeon

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 back-up plan and can save you lots of panic and soul-searching on results day.

It’s worth taking a look around courses which are showing in UCAS Extra - a service which allows you to search for more courses if you don't get any offers from your original five uni choices - prior to results day. While you shouldn't assume that a course will be in Clearing just because it has spaces in UCAS Extra, it can help to give a good indication.

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.

Also, there’s sometimes a chance that you can sweet talk universities, especially 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, just in case.

Take a few minutes to collect yourself

bad grades don't panic

You may be bitten by the temptation to grab any available phone and ring anyone and everyone who may give you a place, but give yourself a couple of minutes first; no one wants to speak to a blubbering mess.

Though Clearing is hectic and you do need to act quickly, it’s much better to call someone you're actually interested in five minutes later with a clear head than, phoning up the first number you see in tears and begging them to take you.

Do your research before you ring

call universities clearing

Credit: Columbia

You can check out which courses have spaces in Clearing on the UCAS website or on individual university websites.

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 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; there’ll be key details about accommodation, open days and accepting offers to find out and you’ll sound much more engaged and enthusiastic.

Keep everyone updated and don’t be afraid to ask for advice

talk to friends

Credit: NBC

While you might feel pretty rubbish, 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.

It’s also a good idea to talk things through with people; your friends, family and teachers know you well. They may point out some things you’ve overlooked.

Colleges and sixth forms will often 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

keep applying

The sense of relief when you're offered 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 settling for one.

Most courses will give you between 24 and 48 hours to accept their offers - plenty of time to 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.

We've got loads more information on finding a course through Clearing and what you need to once you've accepted an offer.

If you think university is maybe not for you then you can try an alternative to university like an apprenticeship or a professional job. You never know, you might be the next Richard Branson.

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