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A-levels: What to do if you don't get the grades you want

Students are set to find out their A-level results on Thursday. Credit: PA

Teenagers across the country are waiting with baited-breath ahead of the release of their A-level results on Thursday.

But what should you do if your results are not quite what you had hoped for?

  • University or college

What to do if you have not got the grades you needed

If you have only just missed out on the grades needed for your university offer, then your chosen university may still offer you a place on your course.

And if they don't, they may offer you a place on a similar course.

This is called an Unconditional Change at Confirmation (UCC) and will show on Track (the UCAS portal where applicants can track their university offers).

If this happens you have five days before you make a decision.

If you are getting your exam scripts remarked, make sure you let your chosen university or college know.

Whatever happens give your chosen university a phone call to find out what your options are.

Credit: PA

Clearing

If you failed to get a place at one of your chosen universities, or do not wish to accept a place on a similar course, then you can still apply through clearing.

You can search for university places and information about them on UCAS's website. Spaces will become available and unavailable at different times, so make sure you keep checking.

If you are interested in a clearing course, call the university or college.

It must be the applicant who makes the call, and you may have a mini-interview on the phone, so make sure you know why you want a place on that course and that you have your grades in front of you.

Try and get a few offers before you make a decision. After a verbal offer, you normally have 24 hours before you have to accept it or not.

Check about accommodation as well, as not all clearing places will be able to offer it.

Once a university or college has offered you a place, add the choice to your UCAS Track. This is you accepting the offer.

Credit: PA

Adjustment

Adjustment is an option that may allow you to trade up your university choice and switch to a course which requires higher grades if you have done better than expected.

If you are interested in Adjustment then you need to register within UCAS Track. You then have five days from when you firm university choice confirms your place to find an alternative.

There is not a list of courses for Adjustment, you just have to use the UCAS search tool to see what places are available.

If you accept an Adjustment offer then the university or college will add themselves to your application and your original firm choice will be lost.

Make sure you go through other aspects to do with the course - location, cost, accommodation, etc.

I do not want to go to university or college anymore

If you do not want to go, contact the university and let them know, and also update you application on Track.

If you wish to defer your place until next year, contact the university where you have an offer and ask if this is possible.

Universities do not have to agree to this, but in most cases they will.

  • Re-sit your exams

You can retake your exams and different modules next summer, and people often do better second time around.

Before deciding on this option it is worth talking to your teachers about whether they think this is a good idea or not.

Retaking your exams is one option. Credit: PA
  • Other qualifications

You can still get qualifications without having to resit exams or go to university.

BTECs and OCR Nationals are work-related qualifications which offer a mix of theory and practice.

A Higher National Diploma (HND) is a two-year qualification offered by colleges that you may be able to top up into a degree if you get high enough marks.

  • Apprenticeships

Modern Apprenticeships are another way in which to gain professional qualifications and work experience, while being paid at the same time.

  • Gap year
Thailand is popular with those travelling on gap years. Credit: PA

A gap year does not necessarily mean travelling to the far-east to discover yourself.

While travelling the world is a fantastic way to spend all, or part of, a year, funds do not always allow for this.

Taking a year out of studying, or a year in which to decide on what you want to do next, can also be a great way to enhance your CV.

You can apply for jobs in the field you may want to work in, or gain valuable work experience to make applications to universities, colleges, or jobs stronger in the future.

A gap year can also be a great way to save money to finance further studies, or just to save money for a rainy day.

  • BOGOF university offers

Some universities are offering prospective students buy-one-get-one-free degrees in an attempt to lure in the brightest students.

Sheffield University is offering straight-A students the option of a free master's degree worth £10,000 if they sign up for an undergraduate course.

Separately, York University has offered undergraduate students 10% off a postgraduate course, while Kingston University will offer a 25% discount for those students who sign up to a master’s degree right after their first degree.

The offers do not stop at free degrees, with some institutions offering free iPads to students.

Part of the reason that universities are offering these incentives is that there is a smaller number of 18-year-olds this year. There is also a fear that Brexit will deter applicants from Europe, meaning that universities are offering incentives to ensure that their courses are filled.

Whatever happens, make sure you take your time, research your options, and talk to teachers, parents, universities, apprenticeships, and jobs, basically anyone who will be able to help you make an informed decision.

Remember, school grades are not the be all and end all. Many people who do not get the grades they had hoped for go on to have hugely successful careers.

Useful links

  • Student finance - find out about fees, grants, and loans, and submit your applications for them.

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