From education to employment

The countdown is on: how to manage results day for better or worse

Mike Youlton, Interim Head of Admissions at the University of Derby

The countdown to A-level results day is on and with just days to go young people up and down the country will be going through a whole raft of emotions. And is it any wonder? This cohort have experienced an exceptionally challenging learning environment while studying for their A-levels (or equivalent) during a pandemic, and when you couple this with a lack of exam experience given GCSEs didn’t go ahead in summer 2020, it’s fair to say they’ve had a pretty raw deal.

Recent insight has revealed that results day confidence has decreased compared to last year, exacerbated no doubt by the fact that this will be the first ‘normal’ set of exam outcomes since 2019 – gone are the centre assessed and teacher assessed grades of 2020 and 2021.

Regardless of how well things go on the day, it’s important for students getting their results to understand that there are options for them if they do worse, or even better, than expected. While some may choose to resit their exams, or take a gap year, many will have mentally prepared themselves to be starting university in September. The prospect of not having a university place will be a daunting one, and therefore Clearing can provide a lifeline into higher education – even if it means navigating a slightly different route than planned.

Understandably, many people enter Clearing disappointed as they weren’t accepted onto the course they had their heart set on and are unsure about what they will do next. However, once they’ve got over the initial shock, if they find they’ve not got the grades they need but still want to go to university in September then they’ve got to focus and be prepared. Having a back-up plan, in the form of Clearing, is a great place to start.

Clearing is, quite simply, an opportunity to match exam results to a course at a university or Higher Education (HE) provider.

The best way for students to use Clearing to their advantage is to be prepared ahead of results day.

These following tips should help them do this:

  • If things haven’t gone to plan, then it’s likely you’ll be upset on results day. Your friends and family may also be upset for you, so having prepared things in advance makes it much easier to start the Clearing process without causing additional stress.
  • In the days running up to results day do some research on courses that have entry requirements lower than your preferred choice and shortlist at least a couple that you would be interested in. On the flipside, you may have done better than expected and are in a position to ‘trade-up’, so if you’ve been eyeing up a course at a university you thought would be out of reach it’s worth having its contact details to hand too to see if that’s now an option for you.
  • Bookmark the Clearing pages for the universities you’re interested in on several devices and add the Clearing hotline number to your phone as a contact to make it easier to find information and speak to people. There may also be other ways to contact the HE provider, such as a messaging service, so choose the method that you prefer.
  • Have computers and phones fully charged and all of your grades to hand so that you can provide the information you’ll be asked for quickly without having to scrabble around at the last minute to find it.
  • Stay calm when you make the enquiry and try to remain open-minded. It may be the case that the course you’re interested in is full, or your grades don’t quite match the criteria. However, universities will be keen to offer you an alternative so if you’re open to finding out what else may be available, talk through your options with them.
  • After you’ve contacted the universities, you may get a verbal or temporary offer of a place. To secure this, you’ll need to refer your application to the provider through UCAS, which you can do after 3pm on Thursday 18th August. The provider will then check that the information you initially provided matches the information on your application and will either confirm your place or be in touch about the next steps.

While it may seem monumental, results day is one moment in time, so it is important to keep things in perspective. With good planning and an open mind, I am confident that students will find a university and course that is right for them. One that will provide them with a fantastic experience and many happy memories, even if it’s not their first choice.

By Mike Youlton, Interim Head of Admissions at the University of Derby

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