Tomorrow is A-level results day. While many will get the results they need some won’t and will feel upset and confused about what to do. Here are a few suggestions for students who don’t get the results they expect.
Don’t assume the university won’t take you. Universities are expected to be over-subscribed for many of their courses and so it’s more important than ever that you get the grades specified. But universities do often get this wrong – even on popular courses – so always check with the university if they might still accept you as they will always want to fill their places with good candidates. When speaking to the university do always emphasise any special considerations that might apply – e.g. illness or bereavement – or impressive achievements you can point to – e.g. sporting or debating success.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just because you don’t get the grades you wanted doesn’t mean that you have failed. The university system is incredibly competitive (much more so than when your parents went to university!) and makes mistakes. Every year I see excellent students rejected from courses for reasons which are hard to fathom. It is certainly not necessarily a reflection of your ability or suitability for the course.
Be realistic about why you didn’t get the grades. Having said this it is very important to be clear why you think you didn’t get the grades you needed. Did you just have one bad exam? Were there special reasons why you didn’t get what was predicted? If so, then you might be best taking a year out to resit and reapply. On the other hand if you think that the grades you received are a good reflection of what you can achieve, then you need to consider applying for a different course or elsewhere. This is not an easy decision to make and involving as many people who know you as possible (parents, teachers, tutors, friends) will help you get to a clear conclusion.
Do consider clearing. Many people feel that going into the clearing process is some sort of desperate step only taken by very weak candidates. This is wrong. Clearing is just a way of universities and students trying to fill courses that are under-subscribed. Many excellent courses are under-subscribed simply because they are slightly odd combinations of subjects, because they are not well known or because results were weaker than expected. Sometimes you can find a better course of study through clearing than you might have found originally! So it’s definitely a good option to consider.
Do consider re-sitting. If you genuinely feel that your grade does not match your ability in the subject and have a strong desire to attend a particular university or course, then do consider taking a year out to re-sit your exams. Many people do this and there is no shame in it. In the long-run an extra year studying is no great loss to your future career prospects. Once you have made the decision to re-sit you then need to consider whether you will a) self-study, b) use a tutor or c) attend school / college. It is important to choose the right option which will maximise your chances of securing the grades you require.
Retain a sense of perspective. It’s understandable that not getting into the course of your choice might temporarily lead to despondency or even hopelessness about your future prospects. Hard though it might be it’s important to see it in perspective. Ten years from now it’s unlikely that your employer will care that much about the university you went to or course you did. There are many different routes to the same career destination and often it’s possible to specialise or retrain at a later date (e.g. training in law after a degree in history). Lastly, it’s just possible that the ‘bad luck’ of not getting in might lead to you choosing a different course that suits you much better – you never know!
Best of luck!