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​What to do if A level results day didn’t go to plan

Published on: 17/08/2016 (3:31PM)

If you didn’t get the grades you were hoping for, or never got around to applying to uni but wish you had, you might be feeling pretty rubbish on results day. It can feel like the most stressful day ever, especially when people around you are celebrating and planning their next steps!

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But in reality, no matter what your results are, if you’re willing to make the effort then rest assured there is a course or training option out there to suit you! Whether you missed out on the grades you wanted, or even did better and are now considering uni, it’s not too late!

So, take a deep breath and read through our Progression Adviser Gill Coker’s list of 5 things to keep in mind:

1. Action stations!

Firstly, if you’ve not quite made the grades but were holding a conditional uni offer, check UCAS Track! Your firm choice college or university may still accept you, or you may be able to go with your insurance choice if you’ve made the grades for that. The UCAS website can tell you exactly how to check and you can also contact the unis that have made you an offer.

2. You’re not alone

If you’ve already applied but not got your place, or have decided at the last minute to apply, don’t panic. Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and then get some advice from your school or college if you’re not sure what to do next.

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3. Come up with a new plan

If you decide you still want to do university-level study then get your Clearing number (from UCAS Track or register at so you can get yours). You’ll need this when contacting the uni or college.

Then visit either the UCAS Clearing search or, if you know where you want to study, the website of the college or university you want to join. Search for the course/s you’re interested in. Places in Clearing are limited and can fill up quickly, but a university-level course is a big investment so make sure you consider your options carefully. Bear in mind though that you may need to be flexible and consider alternatives.

4. Get ahead of the game

Remember that Clearing lines can get really busy and the staff may not be able to give you advice and guidance at this point, so be ready to ask about specific courses. There’s no point just ringing randomly to ask what they’ve got, as you may end up having to ring back and lose your place in the queue. Do your research first so you know which course you’re asking about.

5. Uni isn’t the only option

If, after careful consideration you decide you’re just not ready to go to uni yet, there are loads of other options available so all is most definitely not lost! Remember, results aren’t everything!

Have you considered, for example:

A foundation degree or Higher National Diploma (HND) at a local college. These can be a great stepping stone to a career but are also university-level qualifications in their own right. They often have smaller class sizes, with fees typically lower than unis. Find them on or the website of where you want to study.

Apprenticeships can get you direct experience in the industry you want to work in and pay a wage, all while working towards a recognised qualification. If you do well you could even progress to a higher apprenticeship, which involves degree-level study. Find out more at  

Resits don’t mean failure – you could choose to approach a college or sixth form that offers resits, maybe getting a part-time job to build up your work experience at the same time. Don’t worry about being ‘left behind’ – loads of students come to uni after a gap year!

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Foundation degree, HNC and HND graduands at the Central College Nottingham graduation 2015

Useful links:

Did you know we have a range of uni-level courses? See our Clearing page:

If you’re in the Nottingham area you could get advice through Futures:

A handy site for exploring alternatives is notgoingtouni: