A-Levels results are in. If you didn’t receive the results you were expecting, don’t panic. There are still plenty of options - here’s a guide to what you can do if your predicted and actual grades don’t match.
Lower results than expected?
If you haven’t received the grades you need for your Firm or Insurance choice, you have the option of finding a new course through UCAS Clearing. Basically, this means universities have looked at how many students they’ve now officially accepted, and open up the remaining spots on their various courses to students who didn’t apply for them in the first instance.
Let’s get something clear right up front: there’s no need to be ashamed of going through Clearing.
Over recent years, universities have changed the way they recruit students – we’ve seen a rise in unconditional offers, a lifting of the student cap, and more institutions using Clearing than ever before - including Russell Group unis like the University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, and the University of Manchester.
As a result, many students are choosing to use Clearing even if they get the results they want. Some change their mind about what they want to study, and others decide to enter higher education at the last minute.
In a nutshell, Clearing is far from a last-ditch insurance policy – it’s the ideal choice if your Firm and Insurance offers don’t work out, and being accepted onto a course through Clearing doesn’t mean you’re not really good enough to be there.
So, let’s get started.
If you are eligible for Clearing, you’ll receive a notification on your UCAS Track account on results day, along with your clearing number. Here’s what to do next:
- Search for a new course. A list of available courses is already up on UCAS. You don’t have to stick to your original subject choice – there may be courses out there to which you’re better suited, or maybe you’ve changed your mind about what you want to pursue.
- Contact the university directly with your clearing number. If you declined an offer made to you by a university earlier in the year, don’t be afraid of enquiring about a course there - they may make you an informal offer. You should look for as many suitable courses as you can and contact several institutions.
- Choose a course and add it to your UCAS Track account. You’re only allowed to choose one, so do your research and consider your options carefully! You can only add a course to Track after contacting the university and discussing it with them. UCAS will then send your details to the institution and they will formally offer you a place through Apply in the usual way. You must accept any offer by the stated deadline.
If you’re having trouble making your final choice, use Unifrog’s UK Universities tool to search for the courses you’re considering. You can save and download your shortlist, which will allow you to directly compare important criteria such as average starting salary, course difficulty, and rankings.
Better results than expected?
Get you! If you find yourself with better-than-expected grades, you can use UCAS Adjustment to look for courses with higher entry requirements than those for which you originally applied, without losing the offers you’re already holding. Adjustment is available to anyone whose A-Level results ‘meet and exceed’ their conditional firm offer. Here’s what to do:
- Register for Adjustment through the UCAS website. Adjustment runs from A-Level results day until 1st September.
- Grab the phone. You'll need to call up any universities you're thinking of swapping to and find out whether they have places available via UCAS Adjustment.
- Mull it over. If you receive a few offers, weigh them up before making your final decision. Take your time with this – once you’re accepted onto the new course, you can’t reverse your decision.
- Confirm. Once you’ve decided on a course, get back in touch with your chosen uni and confirm you’d like to take their offer. They will update your UCAS Track screen, which will show that you're now swapped onto the new course.
A few things to keep in mind. Just because you’re able to apply to a more prestigious university through Adjustment, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. You’re likely to have invested a great deal of time researching your original choices by reading course descriptions, attending open days, and talking with current professors and students. You may even have started working your way through a reading list.
If you choose a new university through Adjustment, you’ll need to carry out those preparations again, and you may not be eligible for accommodation, bursaries or scholarships that are generally available to those who apply through the ‘normal’ route.
That’s not to say that Adjustment isn’t worth the hassle – it’s just important to take your time when deciding. Make sure your new choice is right for you and avoid making an impulse decision based on prestige or league tables alone. Do your research, attend open days if possible, and don’t be pressured into making a decision before you’re ready.