If you’re waiting to get your exam results and to hear whether you’ve got into your chosen university or not, chances are you’re receiving a lot of advice about preparing for results day.
But what about the things you shouldn’t do? I’ve watched many admissions cycles unfold and have seen students make the same mistakes year after year, so here are a few tips to avoid making them yourself. With some preparation, even if things don’t turn out the way you expected, you’ll still be ready to dive into university life and make exciting things happen.
So, whatever you do, don’t…
1. Sit back and assume it will all be fine
Well, it probably will be, of course – the majority of students get into their firm place. But even if you think you have the grades in the bag, it can’t do any harm to do a bit of prep in case the unexpected happens and you find yourself in clearing or adjustment.
Think carefully about what you want from higher education and what questions you would ask if you find yourself looking for a different course or university. Ucas advertises clearing vacancies from July onwards, so have a look at their website see what is out there. Some universities also offer an advance register facility to enable you to beat the rush on the day.
Also, in the day or two before results day, do some practical preparations: get the helpline numbers for your firm and insurance choices (and even for any other universities you might be interested in for clearing or adjustment) and write down your Ucas ID. When results day comes around, make notes on discussions you have with universities – a lot of clearing and adjustment activity happens over the phone, so you may not have anything but your own notes to refer to.
2. Get your parents or teachers to make the phone calls if you are in clearing or adjustment
If you find yourself needing to call universities to talk about your options, make sure you do it yourself. You’re the potential student and it’s you that universities will want to speak to. Don’t worry if you feel emotional or nervous – they will be used to dealing with students in your situation. Be ready to tell a university why you want to do the course they’re offering: it pays to jot down a few notes about this before you call, as well as any questions you might have, such as will you get accommodation and can you visit?
3. Take the first course – any course! – you’re offered
If you’re in clearing you might be tempted to grab anything you can get, especially if you weren’t expecting to be in clearing. Honestly, acting quickly on results day is a good thing, because places on the most in-demand courses are not going to hang around.
However, there will be thousands of vacancies across scores of universities available for several weeks, so most students can afford to take a bit of time to find the right place and this is important.
So think about what you want from a course and a university, how far you want to travel, whether you want to live at home and all the other things you thought about when you made your original choices. Just because you’re in clearing, these things don’t stop mattering. Get on the phone, ask questions, and gather a few offers – you don’t have to say yes to your first offer unless you’re absolutely certain it’s the one for you.
If you need time, ask. I’ve spoken to many applicants who have been almost apologetic about the fact they want to discuss an offer with their parents or their teachers before accepting, but this is completely fine and understandable. Before you ring off, make sure you know how long you’ve got to make your decision and clarify how you make contact when you’ve decided.
More on A-level results day
Clearing gave me the second chance I needed
A-level results day: a vice-chancellor's guide to clearing
A-level results day: going through adjustment
A-level results day: what to do when you receive your A-level results
Navigating clearing: what to do if you don’t receive your grades
Clearing 2018: UK universities with courses available
Clearing: what you should say on the phone to universities
4. Change your course/university unless you want to
Adjustment is the process that allows applicants who’ve done better than they thought hold onto their firm place while looking to see if they can get a place elsewhere that’s a better fit for their grades. It sounds great – and for some students it can be – but you shouldn’t feel that you have to make a change if you don’t want to.
If you’ve got your place confirmed and you’re happy with it, don’t let anyone pressure you into thinking you can do “better”. Have a think about what made you choose your course and university in the first place – do those things still apply? If so, then well done for getting into the university you wanted.
If you’re genuinely not happy, or you’re now thinking about options you never thought you’d have, then it may be worth considering adjustment. Do some research and make some calls. There’s no harm in talking and asking questions – you’re not committed until you say yes. Don’t rush into anything: in adjustment, you have a bit of time to find an alternative place.
Don’t forget that once you’ve said yes to an adjustment place you can’t change your mind.
5. Forget to be sensitive to your friends
In an ideal world, you and your friends will get the results you expected (or better) and enjoy a day of well-earned celebrations. But this might not always be the case. You may have some friends that have to go through clearing and this may be overwhelming and upsetting for them.
As much as results day will hopefully be a time to give yourself a pat on the back, don’t forget to be sensitive to others. Offer a hand to those who need to go through clearing and be there to support friends who may need it. You’ll have time to celebrate, but anyone feeling a bit disappointed on results day will appreciate your discretion.
6. Leave planning for university until the last minute
At the moment, it’s probably impossible to imagine anything after 16 August, but planning for life after you get your results is exciting. Make a list of all the things you’ll need and do some shopping if need be. Remember, most things you’ll need will be generic, so any lists will be useful no matter what university you end up going to. Finding time to do this over the summer, either pre- or post-results day, is important.
7. Rule out other options
Although you may have your heart set on going to university, if you don’t get the results you hope for but aren’t keen on diverting from your original choice of university, staying at college to resit some exams or take a new course is an option to consider.
You might also choose to take a gap year and go travelling or even get some work experience before applying again. Relevant experience can strengthen your Ucas application form.
You may also consider applying for an alternative route into higher education, such as a degree apprenticeship. Remember to keep an open mind and ensure you choose an option that is right for you.
Results time is stressful. If you’re disappointed with your grades try to remember that things work out fine for the overwhelming majority of students and they will almost certainly work out fine for you too.
Do what advance preparation you can and you might find that you end up in a better situation than you thought. This is a time to look forward to the future and what adventures lie ahead, whatever they may be.
Read more: How to survive A-level results day