A level results day 2018 – By Graham Guest
Right now, teenagers across Shropshire are preparing for one of the most important times of their lives, A level results day.
A level results day is a pivotal moment, because the results contained in those envelopes – earned from years of hard work and dedicated studies – can go a long way towards defining a young person’s life and career.
Some will have been lucky enough to receive unconditional offers from colleges or universities, which means their place is secure whatever grades they end up achieving.
But the majority of students will probably have been given ‘conditional’ offers, which means they have to achieve certain grades if they are to be accepted.
So, what should students do if they either don’t manage to get the A level grades they were hoping for – or actually end up doing much better than was being predicted?
Well, the first and most crucial piece of advice is to remain calm, and take a little bit of time to decide what happens next.
Today’s young people are in the lucky position of having a rapidly growing choice of further and higher education options, not least right here in Shropshire.
In one sense, results day is no different to the rest of the school or college year – to get the most out of it, you need to have done your homework.
Prepare in advance by researching courses and colleges or universities that are of interest to you, and plan to collect your results as early in the day as you can, to give yourself a head start.
At Telford College, we’re expecting a flurry of students at our Haybridge campus from shortly after 8am on Thursday, and the situation will no doubt be the same across the county.
Remember that universities and colleges will want to speak to a young person directly, and not to their parents, so they must be prepared to explain exactly why they want to study on a particular course.
In many cases, colleges and universities will be judging a potential student’s personality and enthusiasm, as well as their qualifications.
There are some practical considerations, too. A level students looking to go on to college or university need to come to results day armed with their Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) identification number and log-in details.
And if grades mean they have been rejected by the first and back-up choice of university, they’ll need their UCAS clearing number too, to start scouting round for other options.
It sounds an obvious thing to say, but bring a pen and paper to results day too, because if you are having to shop around for alternative courses, you might find yourself being bombarded with lots of important information in a short space of time.
So what exactly is ‘clearing’, and how does it work? Well, this is the system used by tens of thousands of students every year who still want to go to university, but didn’t get the grades they needed for their first choice courses.
If this ends up being your son or daughter, try not to let them panic, because there will still be plenty of options open to you. For starters, if they don’t have the grades for their first-choice, they may still find they are offered a place by their second option at A level results day.
If this is not the case, and they still want to take the higher education route, try to get a place through clearing, which is used by universities and colleges to fill any remaining places they have on their courses.
Most of these places go within a few days, though, so you will need to act decisively. This is why it’s wise to do your homework, and have an idea where you might want to start looking first.
You can approach as many universities as you wish during clearing, so don’t feel you have to accept the first offer which comes along. UCAS has an online search tool which lists all the vacancies, and official vacancy lists are published on the UCAS website from one minute past midnight on Thursday.
Hopefully, though, the required results will come through. If this is the case, well done, you can all relax and celebrate for a few weeks!
If not, a sensible first step is to speak to your school or college teachers and careers advisers to discuss your options. They will be keen to help you . . . it’s their job! Telford College has its own in-house information and guidance team which works closely with local schools, colleges and universities, and has years of valuable experience.
In some cases, the entry requirements on a chosen course may end up being relaxed, and if target grades have only been narrowly missed, the place may still be available. But this is not always the case, and students may need to look at other options, or think about retaking some A level subjects.
Remember, university is not the be all and end all for everyone. Sixth form students might want to consider taking a gap year, go straight into work, or earn while they learn on one of the growing range of apprenticeships which run in partnership with some of the county’s biggest employers.
It’s possible to stay right here in Shropshire and follow degree-level courses at centres such as Telford College – there are many different routes to success these days, tailored to make the most of people’s interests and strengths.
So to summarise, arrive early to collect your results. If you go to a large school, arriving on or after the allocated time can mean you’re faced with large queues – prolonging the wait and increasing any nervousness.
Remember that being nervous is natural, but try not to get too worked up. Remaining calm can mean you’re better prepared to consider your next steps, whatever they may be.
It’s not the end of the world if your grades aren’t what you hoped or expected – take time to consider your options. Rushing into a decision is never a good idea.
Try not to compare your results with friends (especially if you think it might make you feel worse).
And last but certainly not least, try to get some sleep the night before A level results day . . . I know that’s easier said than done, but being sleep deprived isn’t going to help you to make a clear-headed decision.
If you’ve still got some burning questions, use our FAQ page to discover more information about the day and what you need to do to collect your certificates.
- Graham Guest is principal and chief executive of Telford College, which launches its new 7th Form in September, blending traditional academic qualifications with links to top universities, and mentors from local businesses.