Here’s what to do if you don’t get the A-Level results you want

29th July

With A-Level results day just three weeks away, many students are being advised to prepare for clearing. Here’s what you need to know and how you can get ready for results day.

Plan now for Clearing!
Many people think that university clearing is only open on A-level results day and for a few weeks afterwards – but this is not the case! Dr Lisette Johnston, ex-BBC World News boss and Head of School at ScreenSpace (part of the MetFilm School in London) explains what Clearing is all about and urges young people to plan now.

Clearing opened on the 5th July, and universities are already advertising available courses through the system.

What is Clearing?
Clearing is the process that students use to access university after they’ve received their A-level results (or A-level equivalents).

Is it just for those who didn’t get their expected grades?
No, the way people apply to university seems to be changing. It’s widely recognised that schools and colleges don’t always get predicted exam grades right, and universities offer places based on students’ predicted grades.

There’s a growing trend showing that potential university students are not even applying to universities until they know their results. Last year, a record 17,500 people got their university place applying to university after they’d got their results. Nearly 67,000 people, including those who had applied earlier in the year, were accepted through Clearing.

Young male pupil looking out from the screen

What if my grades are higher than predicted?

If your results are better than expected and you’ve accepted a place at a university based on lower grades, you can ‘trade up’ to a different course or university that requires higher grades, this is called Adjustment.

I’m getting my A-level results in August – What can I do now?

Here are Dr Lisette’s 6 top tips

  • Get Cracking. The sooner you apply the better! Some courses cap the number of students they will take, so apply early and that way you are more likely to get a conditional offer. This is far better than missing the boat if you leave it to phone on results day. 
  • Be informed. Don’t wait until results day to look around universities, there are lots of open days between now and August so as well as looking at course content online it’s even better if you can go to a university and see what it is like. That way you can hit the ground running.
  • What do you really want? If you haven’t got the grades you expected, you might not get into your first choice, but that doesn’t mean going through Clearing to get in just anywhere. If staying at home is important to you, find out what the options are available locally. If you are passionate about a specific topic find out where the next best place on the list is and what grades they expect currently. It’s also acceptable to ask how many people they took through Clearing last year. They might not be able to tell you on a course-by-course basis, but you should be able to get a breakdown across the institution.
  • Be realistic. Oxford and Cambridge may be out of reach. Decide what is a priority for you. If you haven’t got the results you expected, what is more important – the course, the location or a degree in general? The last thing you want is to get on a course and find out it’s not what you want. And don’t just go somewhere because all your mates are going there!
  • Be open minded. Within a university there are often opportunities to transfer courses, for example you may have chosen Media or Film Studies, but you could consider Journalism or Film Making. Investigate which universities offer similar or linked courses. Also, Clearing gives a chance to go to a place you might not have thought about before. 
  • Remember, you’re not stuck – if you start at a university and you realise it’s the wrong course or the wrong place you can change! At ScreenSpace we had 15 students who came through Clearing last year, some after the course started; they’re actually much happier than they were with their original choice.