Dear Parent: If your son or daughter didn't get the right grades, the chief executive of UCAS has some advice to offer, and the main point is: don't panic

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Indy Lifestyle Online
First, would you convey to your son and/or daughter my congratulations on their A-level results? I know, as a father, that this achievement is down to the hard work of students and teachers, backed up by support from home.

I am sure you will agree that it is a privilege to work and mix with such a talented and gifted younger generation. Why are there always those who try to put down success? No doubt Devon Malcolm's nine wickets owed much to poor batting. How could Linford Christie be so lucky as to run against such weak opposition? We should knock on the head the tired old argument about diminution of standards. Funny, isn't it, that the GNVQ students have also done well.

If your offspring have achieved the required grades for a place, then great. They must make sure that they formally accept the place, contact the local authority to ensure their grant will be available on the first day of term, fix up accommodation and a bank account. Too many students drop out in the first term simply because they are sleeping in temporary accommodation without a penny to their name.

But if the grades weren't right, the next few pages will help. Get your son or daughter to take advice on future options: a different subject, a different institution, a different kind of course, perhaps a resit or a year out. School, the local careers office and the BBC Helpline (0500 505050) can provide advice. Look at the vacancies printed in the Independent and Independent on Sunday and get your son or daughter to ring up the admissions tutors where there are suitable places. If there is a positive response, send the Ucas Clearing Entry Form to the university or college. Even better, get them to take it and meet the admissions tutor face to face. It's amazing how such initiative and direct contact can help to seal the deal.

On no account ring the university yourself. It's your son or daughter who is the potential student, not you, and it's the student that universities want to talk to. Admission tutors are used to dealing with frightened, worried, even weepy school leavers. Your support is essential but not your direct intervention.

Mind you, why not become a student yourself? Research shows that the best performers in higher education are mature students, without formal qualifications, up to the age of 40. What happens to us when we reach 40?

One last thought. Don't panic. Most students with the basic grades for higher education get a place somewhere, even though not necessarily in their first-choice university or college or on their first-choice course. They go on to enjoy their course, graduate well, secure a good job, marry and have a family. They, too, will learn what to do or not to do in around 2014. Just remember n Granny and Grandpa.

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