By Alison Home, on 31 July 2013
This year, the A levels results day is on Thursday 15 August (7 August in Scotland). If you are taking the International Baccalaureate, you will probably already know your results. Waiting for your results can be stressful, as your grades will decide whether you go to your firm choice or insurance choice university, or whether you need to enter clearing.
Here are our top tips for surviving results day, whatever your grades.
If you met your predicted grades
If you met the conditional grades of your firm choice, you will be automatically confirmed at that institution . All you need to do is start planning your accommodation, student finance and so on for September.
If you just missed the grades for your firm choice, but did meet the grades for your insurance choice, you can contact the department of your course at your firm choice university and ask if they will still consider giving you a place. If they will, that’s great, but if they won’t, then you will be confirmed at your insurance choice.
If you got much better grades than your teachers had predicted
Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off. If you have done much better than you were expecting, you might want to adjust your plans.
You might still be happy with your firm choice university. You don’t have to change courses or institutions just because your grades were higher than expected. However, in some circumstances you might want to try to make a change.
If you have got better grades than you were expecting and would now like to try to apply to a more competitive university, you can use the UCAS Adjustment system to apply to different universities. You won’t lose your current university offer until you accept an offer from a new institution, so there is no risk involved in the process, and you can use the service between 15 to 31 August. UCAS Adjustment can be useful if you were initially rejected from courses and universities that you really wanted to attend, because it gives you a second chance to re-apply with your new, higher grades. Please note that UCL has never taken part in Adjustment to date, but many other universities do offer Adjustment places.
However, don’t just apply for any new courses because the grades are higher than your existing offer. Think very carefully about whether it is still the right degree for you – it is not a good idea to apply for a course that you haven’t researched, at an institution that you have never visited, in a city that you have never been to!
If you were not planning to go to university, but now decide that you want to apply with your high grades: consider very carefully whether you want to attend this year, or whether it would be better to take a year out to make a more informed decision. Even if you have already left college or sixth form, you really don’t want to rush into the decision. Universities will be happy to accept a student who has taken a year out, especially if you decide to gain some experience that is relevant to your degree.
If you didn’t get the grades that you were predicted
Don’t panic! Talk to your firm choice university as soon as possible to check whether you can still take up your place. If you got lower grades than you expected, but you have still met or exceeded your offer, then you will definitely still be able to take up your place. If you have only missed your grades by a small margin, your university might still let you study on your chosen course, or they might offer you a place on a slightly different course – think carefully about whether you want to accept this.
If you have not met your offer from your firm choice, but you have met or exceeded your offer from your insurance choice: you will automatically have a place with your insurance choice university and you don’t need to do anything.
If you haven’t met your offer for your firm or your insurance choice and neither of them are still willing to accept you, you can go through the UCAS Clearing system. Clearing is a system to help students apply to degrees that still have spaces available on A level results day. All the course vacancies are published on the UCAS website and in the Telegraph newspaper. You apply directly to the course that you are interested in; they will look at your exam results and your original personal statement and will make a quick decision on whether to offer you a place. Again, it is important not to make any rash decisions. You might want to apply to universities that you had previously visited when making your original five UCAS choices, or to different courses at the institutions where you held your firm or insurance offers. Remember that you will have to study the course for the next three years of your life, so make sure that you definitely want to go the university that you are applying to!
Please note that UCL has never taken part in Clearing to date.
Or… take a year out to re-think
Another option if you have missed your offers at your firm and insurance choice is to take a year out. This can be useful if you are not sure what you want to do next – it is much better to do this than to make a rash decision that you may regret. You can work to save money for university, or gain some experience that will be relevant to your degree or your future career. You can also resit your A levels, which could increase your options when you are applying to universities (although some universities do not favour students who have taken resits). You can reapply to the places where you held your original offers, or you might decide that you want to do something different. Lots of students take years out or gap years, and universities will still be happy to consider your application.