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After two-years of uncertainty, self-teaching, online lessons and classroom bubbles, the day A level students have been most anxious about, is upon us, A-level Results Day. By mid-morning everyone will know their results, and whether they have those all-important grades needed for their planned next steps.

This year, in the absence of exams due to the Covid-19 pandemic, universities have had to offer places based on students’ predicted grades. No one is really sure what these ‘teacher-assessed’ grades will look like once they’ve been moderated by exam boards, but it’s worth knowing that those young people who didn’t get the grades they’d hoped for can still get a place at university and on the road to a degree, if they want to. 

In 2020, round 70,000 students found university places through Clearing – a system which helps universities match students who don’t have a university place to courses which still have spaces. 

“It’s going to be a very strange results day for tens of thousands of teenagers.” said Dr Lisette Johnston ex-BBC World News editor and Head of School at ScreenSpace, part of London’s MetFilm School. “If you find yourself going through Clearing it can feel like a very uncertain time, and you might feel under pressure to take up any place given that there are universities bidding for the students who get the highest grades. But marks are just one part of the story, and you need to make sure you make an informed decision so that your next move is a calculated one. It’s important that you don’t let the system get you down – keep positive and don’t let it put you off.” He continued.

So, if you didn’t get the grades you need, and you’re not sure what to do next here’s Dr Lisette Johnston top five tips.

1. Ready, steady…. research.

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It’s worth spending some time considering and researching a Plan B before you get your results. Have a look for similar courses to your chosen one, you might find one with lower entry requirements. For example, if you’ve applied to do Film or Media Studies why not look at other courses that focus on film or media, such as Film and Screen Business, or for some courses check the requirements comparing a BA with a BSc – this works with courses such as Economics. If your heart is set on a particular university look at their clearing pages now and register with them to save time on Results Day if you do have to call them during Clearing.  

2. Stay calm!

It’s the moment you’ve been working towards and the computer screen or that piece of paper is telling you your dreams are shattered. Remember this is just a blip, a bump in the road! Take some deep breaths, collect your thoughts, and remember there is ALWAYS a different route to take. 

3. Talk!

There’s lots of help out there. Your initial reaction may be to shut yourself away, don’t! Speak to your friends and parents, and don’t forget there are experienced staff at your Sixth Form or college who can help you, they will want to do their best for you and most universities have a well-oiled Clearing process.

4. Be brave.

Pick up the phone and call the universities you are interested in. Ask lots of questions – there is no such thing as a stupid question. Also, don’t just take the first opportunity that comes along, make sure it’s the right one for you. Write down the questions you want to ask before you call, and if it’s a university you haven’t visited you may want to find out about facilities, accommodation, and student support. This is your opportunity to discover what is best for you, don’t hang up the phone until all your questions are answered.

5. Keep an open mind 

If you don’t know what to do next then you can always give yourself some time to consider all your options. You could defer going to university until next year, it’s only 12 months and it will give you time to decide what you really want to do. You may decide you want to earn some money and get a job, or perhaps consider a higher or degree apprenticeship.

And good luck to everyone collecting their results today!

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