A-Level Results Options: What To Do If You Don’t Get The Results You Expect

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On results day, both students and parents can find themselves in a state of panic if the grades aren’t what you expected and the pressure to make plans before September means that many of the positive ways forward get forgotten.

From seeking a tutor to support with resits and clearing to getting into employment, we’ve laid out some of the best options available if you get unexpected A-Level results to make your life simple on results day. 

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that there’s a big difference between “failing” and simply not achieving the results you hoped for to get into your first choice university. The latter is quite common.

In fact, in 2019 (when UCAS last recorded data from A-Levels pre-pandemic), 79% of students did not achieve their predicted grades1. So, if you find yourself with unexpected grades on results day, know you’re not alone and that there’s so many options you can explore so you’re not lost in September.

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So What Are The Options Available?

You Can Still Pursue The University Route

Go Into Clearing

One of the most common options if you get unexpected A-Level results is to go into UCAS clearing, which is open to anyone who has made a UCAS undergraduate application but doesn’t yet have any offers. University clearing kicks off formally on results day but universities often start to publish available courses with places to be filled from July, so you can start to look at options ahead of time if you’re worried.

You can find more detail on the need-to-knows of the UCAS clearing process in this post.

Resit the Exam

It may mean deferring entry to your first choice university but if you receive unexpected A-Level results, then resits can be a good option. 
Many universities still find resits acceptable and will recognise your new grades when assessing you as an applicant. We have a number of qualified and experienced tutors available who can also support preparation for upcoming resits.

You Can Get Into Employment

Apply for an internship or apprenticeship

Companies like NHS, Unilever, Nestle, Microsoft and Morrisons are among those that offer apprenticeships in the UK. Otherwise, employers across most industries will offer 3-12 month internships with the potential to lead to long-term job roles. 

Internships tend to be very sought-after and competitive so sometimes applying to smaller companies can be beneficial but don’t be disheartened if it takes a few applications before you land the right role. It’s quite normal!

Long-gone are the days when employers exclusively recruited applicants with a plethora of degrees. Times have changed and many business leaders recognise that candidates can still be talented and bring new perspectives or skills to a company regardless of whether they have gone to university. 

Long-gone are the days when employers exclusively recruited applicants with a plethora of degrees. Times have changed and many business leaders recognise that candidates can still be talented and bring new perspectives or skills to a company regardless of whether they have gone to university. 

Apply for entry-level roles

Long-gone are the days when employers exclusively recruited applicants with a plethora of degrees. Times have changed and many business leaders recognise that candidates can still be talented and bring new perspectives or skills to a company regardless of whether they have gone to university. 

So if your A-Levels don’t play out the way you had hoped then applying for entry-level roles in industries that reflect your skills and passion points can actually be a very viable option (and perhaps the beginning of a successful career!).

Explore self-employment

If you have a particular skill or passion, now is the perfect time to explore ways to turn that into a business. Make no mistake, this is no easy feat but it can be incredibly rewarding to build something of your own and, if university isn’t on the cards this year, then now could be the perfect time to enrol in a business course and start progressing towards setting up a business of your own!

You Can Enrich Your Skills & Learning

Take the opportunity to upskill yourself

If you’re deferring, taking a gap year or need a moment to figure out a longer-term plan then applying for short courses is a great option. Seize the opportunity to enrich your existing skills or learn something new altogether as it can potentially help you stand out from university applicants or against other job candidates in future.

Take a gap year and save up

Students are entitled to some well-deserved rest once their exams conclude and, while some choose to use a gap year as an extended summer holiday, there is the potential for it to be SO much more than that… You could use the time to:

  • Volunteer, either in the UK or overseas
  • Apply for a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) course / role 
  • Work somewhere close to home and use the time to save

Seize the opportunity to travel 

Enrich your understanding of the world and develop crucial life-experience by exploring other cultures. Travelling with a group of friends or as part of an organised tour provides an opportunity to meet new people and experience living away from home without being totally isolated. 

And If You’re An Aspiring Medicine Or Law Student

We know that some industries will prove more challenging to get into without first having a degree so, if you receive unexpected A-Level results that don’t quite make the cut for your top choice universities, and you don’t feel clearing is the path for you then here’s some alternative options you could pursue that still ladder-up to your longer-term goals.

For budding lawyers

  • Apply for an international law internship. This will give you perspective into varied legal systems and provide the opportunity to network with lawyers around the world.
  • Apply for a role as a paralegal or legal secretary. As above, this will provide you with invaluable first-hand experience of working in a legal environment which will only help you in your later studies.
  • Enrol in a short course. Try to select something that will complement the degree you’re working towards rather than choosing a course that will replicate one or some of the modules in your degree. I.e. if you’re hoping to study an LLB (Hons) in Criminal Law then perhaps explore short courses in Criminal Psychology or Equality and the Law to complement your later studies.

For aspiring medical students

  • Apply for an NHS Apprenticeship. This is a great way to get some first-hand experience of the medical world and could even be the start of your medical career!
  • Apply for a reception role in a GP surgery, at a hospital or at a dentist. This will give you invaluable exposure to the industry 
  • Equally, applying for a role as a dental assistant will also allow you to gain first-hand experience to complement your degree.
  • Enrol in a short course. Universities like Imperial have a number of short courses offered by the faculty of medicine to equip you with additional knowledge and skills to enrich your learning.

There are so many successful people whose A-Levels didn’t go to plan: politician David Milliband, author J.K. Rowling and entrepreneurs like Sir Alan Sugar and Richard Branson to name a few. But each has done more than well for themself since. 

Useful Links

  1. UCAS Clearing
  2. UCAS Deferrals

References1 UCAS End of Cycle Report, 2019

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