Help! I need somebody

When the fateful day arrives and the results are devastating, counsellors can point the way.

Careers counselling has changed greatly from the time when the most that schools could offer was a Kleenex and sympathy if a student's grades weren't up to scratch. Gone are the days when results were posted up in a window and students left to sob on their own if they'd missed their university place. Now on the day of results, most schools are open all day with a bank of teachers on hand with advice. There are also careers centres in every area, run either by the local training and enterprise council or a contracted-out private company. All students have a statutory right to free careers advice. Yet more and more students are turning to private counselling, to get more detailed guidance on courses.

Wendy Fidler is the marketing director of Gabbitas Educational Consultants, which runs one of the largest A-level counselling services from its London office. Last year the firm saw hundreds of students, and this year demand is expected to be even greater. "In a way it's more difficult for students now because the range of choices has mushroomed over the past five years," she says. "What we can offer is an independent view. Often students don't want to talk to someone who knows them very well, like their teachers and parents, because they feel they've let them down. We can review the options calmly and objectively."

Most students opt for a one-hour session, which costs around pounds 120. The firm also offers a half-day consultancy, which begins with a 40-minute discussion about which courses the student is interested in. Then they complete a computerised analysis of aptitudes and skills, which comes up with a list of 12 possible occupations, which the counsellor could use to look at suitable courses. Finally there is a further hour's consultation, and the student is sent a full report. Total cost: around pounds 235.

"We also offer consultations by telephone," says Wendy. "This costs around pounds 40 for the first 15 minutes, and pro rata after that."

The firm has a database of all university courses, as well as information about vocational qualifications, HNDs and private colleges. Counsellors visit universities and colleges regularly, and have built up links with admissions tutors. Sometimes they will make contact with a university for the student.

Private counsellors have their critics. Tony Higgins, chief executive of Ucas, says he doesn't see why parents have to spend the money. "Most students will get all the advice they need from their school or the local careers office. Careers advice now is outstanding, and the information about the courses is free.

"Students have to be much more flexible about which course to go for if they haven't got the grades they wanted. It's no good aiming for straight English if you haven't got As or Bs. Think about putting together an English course with American literature, for example. Last year 16 per cent of the students who didn't get their grades found places through clearing."

Finding a reputable consultant can be a problem. Firms such as Gabbitas are well established, but there is nothing to stop anyone setting themselves up as a careers adviser. There is no regulatory body for careers advice, and local newspapers and yellow pages are full of adverts.

Rebecca Tee, president of the Institute of Careers Guidance, based in the West Midlands, says: "It is confusing for parents and students. We aim to set up a national register of career consultants who are qualified and endorsed by the Institute's code of practice. Parents would ring us, and we could supply a list of names in their area, with details of fees."

Wendy Fidler believes that students turn to firms like hers because they want more time with a counsellor - and local careers offices are often overwhelmed after students receive their results, and cannot spend an hour with each student"n

`Private consultants raised our daughter's morale'

Holly Potter, 19, was devastated when she didn't get the grades she wanted to study philosophy at university. She got a C in philosophy, and failed to get her economics and general studies.

"It was a very difficult time," says her mother, Carole Potter, who lives in Cheshire. "All her friends were talking about going off to university, and Holly was told by her school that there was no way she'd get a university place with just one A-level. We actually went to Leeds University to plead her case, but they were adamant that she couldn't get in. It was demoralising, especially as she'd worked so hard."

A friend had heard about Gabbitas, and suggested they get in contact. Mrs Potter says, "They clarified the whole situation for us. I went to London with Holly about 10 days after the results. First, the counsellor took careful details of her GCSE results, and talked about the universities she'd applied for. Then he asked about her interests and hobbies. They suggested that she would be more suited to a vocational course at this stage, emphasising that she could swop on to a degree course later."

Holly is now taking an HND in leisure and tourism at Bradford Business College, with a view to moving on to a degree course. This year she has achieved merits and distinctions in all her modular options.

"We found using private consultants helpful, because they reinforced for Holly what we'd been suggesting - it was an independent person, who obviously knew what he was talking about," says Mrs Potter.

"It cost around pounds 100. It was money well spent, in that it gave Holly direction and it raised her morale almost immediately"

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Insight Analyst Vacancy - Leading Marketing Agency

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency have won a fe...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices