Get results from your results

Students in Scotland will be getting their Highers results tomorrow
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The Independent Online
Tomorrow thousands of young people in Scotland will open the results of their Highers with some trepidation. Some will be delighted to have done better than they hoped, most will have got the results they expected, but significant numbers will not have attained the grades required for their chosen course of higher education. What should they do in each case?

If you have an offer and have the right grades you will receive confirmation of a place. This is likely to take a few days to reach you. As soon as your offer is confirmed, contact the accommodation office at the university or college at once and tell them that you need a place in a hall of residence or other accommodation (unless you plan to live at home during your course). Many universities - including Stirling, Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt (Riccarton Campus) and many south of the border - can guarantee residence on campus only for those who apply in time.

If you have an offer, and have the right grades, but decide not to accept it or an alternative place, tell the university at once. They can then offer the place held for you to someone else.

If you have one or more offers, and your grades are better than expected or are required for your offers, you cannot ignore them. You cannot try for a place at what you consider to be a better university in the current year. You would need to withdraw this year's application and try again next year. On the other hand, if you decide to change course, let the university know at once.

If your results are better than expected, and you do not hold any offers, telephone the admissions tutor at the universities which turned you down and ask if they are willing to reconsider you.

Even if you are disappointed with your results, you do not need to panic. all is far from lost. You could still get on your desired university course or an alternative course. However, you will need to act quickly and may have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks. You need to be well organised and patient.

If you have an offer and only just missed the grades required, you should at once telephone the university to see if they will still accept you. You will need your UCAS reference number. Most admissions tutors prefer to take a student they have previously accepted rather than wait for the UCAS clearing and start the selection process all over again.

However, you should bear in mind that admissions tutors will have had to `over-offer' knowing that some students would not get the grades needed. If enough applicants to fill the course do get the required grades, the admissions tutor will be unable to accept lower or even equivalent grades. If you have two or more offers, contact the universities in order of preference. Your first choice must turn you down before you can contact the next.

If you do not get an offer there is still the `clearing' process. This is designed to match unsuccessful applicants with unfilled course places. Last year clearing helped 52,248 people in a similar situation to get a place on a degree course, and 8,288 more on an HND course.

Clearing will start this year on 14 August to coincide with the release of A-level results. Admissions offices will have sent details of all their unfilled course places to UCAS and the official lists of these vacancies will be published, together with contact telephone numbers, in The Independent, on the ECTIS database (which should be available in your school or local careers office) and on Ceefax. However, the position will change daily as universities find out which students have accepted or turned down their offers.

You will need to apply directly to the institution by telephone. To make sure that you are genuinely unplaced, and not just trying to change universities, you are likely to be asked for your personal `Clearing Entry Form' or CEF number. Your CEF will be sent automatically once UCAS get confirmation that you are unplaced. This is a valuable document which should be looked after.

Having your results a week before clearing gives you valuable time to reassess what you want to do in the light of your results. You should re-read prospectuses and, if possible, visit the universities which interest you.

If you use the week sensibly, you should have a clear idea of what you want to aim for in the light of your results. If, for example, you originally applied for a very popular course - such as English, history or medicine - you may need to look at alternatives. For instance, for your preferred course in medicine you might have been asked for four As and a B in your Highers, but another institution might be willing to accept five straight Bs. If not, you might consider a related subject such as physiology or anatomical science where three or four Highers at B or C grades may be acceptable. If you cannot get an English or history place, consider a combined course which includes the subject.

You should be ready to start making applications as soon as clearing starts, and while A-level students are still coming to terms with their results. It is important that you make your telephone applications personally. Admissions tutors will want to talk to you, not someone else, perhaps conducting a brief interview to assess why you want to do their course rather than another. This means that you should be well prepared. You may also be asked for a quick decision and you need to be sure that the course is right for you.

If your grades are acceptable, and you are likely to get a place, you will be asked to send your CEF to the admissions office. This is to prevent you making multiple applications.

If your results are not good enough to earn you a place on a degree course, and you are interested in a vocational subject, you should also consider a Higher National Diploma (HND). The subject choice is very wide and the Diploma is well regarded by employers.

Don't panic! A quick guide to using your results

IF your grades match an offer:

l wait for confirmation, then tell the accommodation office you need a place.

l If refusing an offer, inform the university immediately.

IF your grades are better than expected and you have no offers:

l contact institutions which rejected you, ask them to reconsider.

IF you just missed the offer grades:

l immediately telephone the university and ask if it will still accept you.

IF you fail to get an offer:

l research alternative courses and institutions for UCAS clearing

l study the vacancy lists in The Independent, on ECTIS or Ceefax

l once you have your Clearing Entry Form, telephone institutions with suitable vacancies.

l be ready for a mini-interview and to make a quick and binding decision.