A-Level results day is always stressful, but this year there's even more uncertainty than usual. Suppose you don't get the grades you expected, the grades you need for your university place? Fortunately, it's not the end of the world. There are still a number of approaches you can take.
Don't Give Up on Your Offers
Many people assume that, if you don't get the requested grades, you've lost your chance with any offers you may have had. In fact, this isn't necessarily the case. In some cases, the university may still be willing to accept you even if you've missed your grades, especially if you've only just missed them. This may be because the course still has places available, because they were impressed enough with your application to cut you some slack, or a combination of both.
You should check UCAS Track to find out if you've been accepted. If not, you can phone the university to discuss your situation. Even if they can't accept you on the course you've applied for, they might be willing to offer you an alternative. This could, for instance, be a joint honours course with your chosen subject as one of the two.
On the other hand, if you feel your A-Level results don't reflect what you think they should be, you can ask to be reassessed. If you've taken exams, your papers will be remarked — but remember, this could result in your grades being either raised or lowered.
Applying for Clearance
If none of your choices make an alternative offer, you can still apply through Clearing to find out what else is still available. UCAS Track will enter you automatically, if you have no outstanding offers and didn't make your grades, and a Clearing Number will be displayed. If this hasn't happened, you need to contact the universities you've had offers from, as they may still be considering. Clearing vacancies are listed on the UCAS site and are regularly changing, so you'll need to keep checking. If you sign up for the UCAS Direct Contact Service, universities will be able to contact you directly.
You can apply for places through Clearing until the end of September. You may be able to find a course for your preferred subject, but it would also be worth considering other subjects, particularly other A-Levels you've taken. Some subjects may be less subscribed than others and therefore easier to find places through Clearing. For some courses, you may also be able to take a Foundation Year or Year 0 without having the required grades.
Before you contact a university for a Clearing application, prepare carefully what you need and what you're going to say. That includes your Clearing Number and your Personal ID ready, and you need to be able to explain fully why you want to take this course. Treat the phone call as an interview. If you are offered a place, you don't have to accept it straight away. You may have more than one offer through Clearing, and you'll need to consider which you really want to do. If at all possible, too, try to visit any universities involved before deciding. After all, you'd be spending the next three or four years there. If you've decided to accept the place, add a Clearing Choice to Track by the acceptance date, and the university will then confirm.
Are There Other Options?
If you get nothing from Clearing, one option would be to take a Gap Year and apply the following year, or else to retake your A-Levels. If you're using the same results, think about applying for a less competitive university or subject, or perhaps for a joint honours course. Depending on your circumstances, you could use your Gap Year to travel, get a job, do work experience, volunteer or take a part-time qualification that could improve your chances. If you need a private tutor for this, or any other information about applying for university, register with TutorExtra. And good luck with your results.