I am 21 years old, and even now, remembering the anxiety of A Level Results Day still makes me feel slightly nauseous. Getting no university offers can seem like a nightmare scenario. However, it is the reality for many students and it should not have so much stigma attached to it. Plenty of students are able to get into good universities through options such as clearing, deferring or simply retaking their A-Levels.
Firstly, the best thing you can do is prepare for the worst. It is said that he who fails to prepare, prepares to fail. Well, this is certainly the case when it comes to the dreaded Results Day. While picturing the idea that you may not get either your top or insurance offers may be anxiety-inducing, it will save you a lot of stress on the day should you get no university offers.
So, you’ll need to find phone numbers for your firm and insurance choices. Then, on the same document or piece of paper, you need to look at potential clearing options. You should find about four or five options with a range of entry requirements, and make sure you have their numbers correctly noted down. In fact, try putting them from highest to lowest entry requirements. That way, you have a clear idea of which order to call.
Another thing to consider is that some universities focus on grades and others focus on UCAS points. It’s not just your A-Levels that give you UCAS points, other qualifications can also come with points to bolster your score. Check out our guide to getting more UCAS points here. So, look at what you could potentially earn in terms of UCAS points if you have extra qualifications, and which A-Level grades would total each number of points. When compiling your list of backups, be sure to include some choices with UCAS points-based entry requirements. That’s because they may be more attainable than those with more rigid A-Level requirements.
Likewise, try to be mindful of possibly picking a slightly different course than what you had initially chosen. For example, if you study languages, consider picking a second more obscure language. Similarly, if you want to study a core science, consider picking a slightly more obscure speciality. This could make it a lot easier to get onto a course related to what you want.
2. Get on the phone
Following on, now you’ve got your list, work your way down it with your phone in hand. Be prepared to wait on the phone for a long time, as many other students will be in the same position as you. In a way, you could take this as a small comfort- you are not the only person who got no university offers. However, this also means the lines are often incredibly busy. This can be very stressful, so having a support system around you will definitely help.
In other cases, making a snap decision may be the best – or only – option. You may strike lucky and be offered something when you are on the phone. You may be offered a different course, or you may be offered a deferred entry. However, you have to be prepared to have an answer ready and give it quickly, because it will only be offered to you once before it will be given to the next student in line.
Sometimes, the system still does not work in your favour. This is especially true for certain universities that have a reputation for dragging their feet. Just remember that this has absolutely nothing to do with you and is not your fault. Should this happen, explore offers with universities that are eager to have you. You have to be assertive to get what you want from university administration; be it getting an answer for an offer or being released from one. At the end of the day, you are the one paying the money!
3. Don’t be afraid to re-sit or reapply
If you do not know what to do in this situation, consider resitting or taking a gap year to get closer to what you want. If a university or course does not feel right, don’t force yourself to do it. It is not the end of the world to take a year or two (or longer) out of academia. In fact, it’s much better to figure out what you want and how to achieve it.
Talk to your college about re-sitting your A-Levels if you don’t feel as though you can end up where you want with the grades you have. If not getting your grades has led to you having a crisis and completely revaluating your choices, then maybe take some time to reassess what you want. It’s true that there may be some stigma around taking time off from education. However, it’s worth it to get you what you want from your academic career and future in general.
In short: you will be fine.
Of course, Results Day is stressful, and Results Day when you don’t get what you want is even more so. However, this is only a tiny part of your life and career trajectory and will not define you. So, if you get no university offers, don’t panic! There are plenty of options to consider, and even though it feels like the end of the world now, I assure you- it most definitely is not. Likewise, if you are really struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out for mental health advice.