Which Way 99: clearing file: results day! and where you go from here...

the results weren't what you expected - but there are still plenty of options

So, things have gone wrong with your A-levels and you have lower grades than anticipated. Well, don't despair. It's not all doom and gloom. You have all the options in the world to choose from - our profiles show things can work out in the end.

Yes, you can enter Clearing - please turn to the article starting on page 25 for details.

You can rethink your subject and reapply next year for a less competitive one. This doesn't have to be second best. You have around 42,000 higher education courses to choose from so you should be able to find one of interest. And even if courses don't lead to your preferred career, other related careers are still possible.

You could make the most of a gap year and improve your future employment prospects by working in an industry that interests you long-term.

Getting work experience can help your college application - hospital work etc.

You could also get a well-paid job and earn some money. Voluntary work is important too in showing your commitment in a range of areas like the environment, teaching, community work, etc

You could learn a new skill to help at university - cooking, word processing, or graphics for example. On a less practical level, travel can broaden your outlook.

Or you can just retake your A-levels. You might be able to return to your school or college. This may mean repeating the second year of A-level, rather than following a specific revision course.

A second option is to go to a college of further education and do a one- year A-level course. Retake courses in the State sector starting before your 19th birthday are usually free. If you are over 19 you may pay around pounds 800.

The most flexible option is a specialist retake course at an independent sixth-form college. Colleges provide tuition for most examination boards and syllabuses and often specialise in sciences and maths. Tuition is in small groups of four to eight students, with one-to-one tutorials and weekly tests under exam conditions. The downside is the cost. One subject can cost pounds 2,000 per term and a one-year course for three subjects can be up to pounds 11,000.

Getting work experience can help your college application

if at first you don't succeed

Ben Henry, 19, from Peterborough

Last year I was one grade off meeting my offer from Nottingham to do medicine - ABC instead of ABB. I could have got a place in Clearing but nothing else interested me. I knew I would be kicking myself for the next 40 years if I didn't give A-levels another go and reapply. I did an intensive four months revision course at Abbey Tutorial College, Cambridge and retook biology and chemistry in January.

"The course wasn't cheap, but I worked out it was worth spending the equivalent of 40p a day for 40 years to do a job I liked!

"I enjoyed my course. Everyone at Abbey was there to work and we had a nice mix of people from all over the place. There were seven in my teaching group and everyone was very friendly. It was pretty hectic - 10 hours teaching a week in each subject, tests every Monday morning, and a lot of practice on past exam questions. I changed syllabus and some new work made it more interesting. "The results were nerve-wracking - I only got AB grades, but the B was put up to an A when re-marked, so I'm able now to go to Nottingham and read that medicine degree."

what

a turn

round!

When Mark failed two of his A-levels he felt he was never going to be of any use to anybody. Now, some years on, he is a professionally qualified orthoptist in a NHS hospital in Leeds, studying one day a week for a Master's degree on how the appearance of your eyes influences you as a person.

"With hindsight, failing A-levels was not all disaster. First time round I had applied for teacher training but now things are absolutely fine. At school I only passed cookery A-level so I joined WHSmith as a management trainee. Halfway through training I realised I wanted to go to university so I enrolled four days a week at night school and retook A-level biology and chemistry in one year. I wanted to do something in the health service but wasn't sure what, so I applied for a variety of courses - medicine, pharmacology, biomedical sciences, health science and orthoptics. A bad example of how not to do it! Ending up in orthoptics was a fluke - the course looked appealing and Sheffield offered me a place. Three years later I graduated with first class honours. I couldn't have planned it better!"

Mark Deacon, 27, from Leicester

try

try

again

Angi Bhole, 19, from Basingstoke

in a strange way, retaking A-levels has been a bit of a bonus. I'm much more motivated and I guess I wasn't ready and mature enough to go to university last year. I applied for veterinary science but didn't receive any offers, despite a lot of work experience - six months with the local vet; lambing and calving at Easter; three days at an abattoir; working at an animal hospital; and working in a hospital microbiology laboratory on micro-organisms identification procedures!

"I met my offer from York for Animal Physiology with biology A, mathematics B and chemistry C but decided to go back to Queen Mary's Sixth Form College in Basingstoke to repeat. It helped that some of my friends were in the same boat.

"Sitting in with the first and second years has worked out fine and doing two years simultaneously has helped with modular chemistry. I'm also taking AS science in the environment to consolidate biology and keep me fresh.

"I'll program my mobile phone for vet schools and try to beat the rush in Clearing. Perhaps I'll persuade them to offer me a place. If not, it's off to UCL for biology, but I'm still determined to be a vet. I'll reapply during and when I've finished my degree."

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