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A-level results 2017: Eight things to do if you didn't get the grades you wanted

As thousands of students across the country celebrate their exam results, the next step can seem tricky if you didn't get the grades you expected. Here's what to do next

Jack Ashton
Friday 18 August 2017 10:25 BST
Thousands of students celebrate their A-level results this month
Thousands of students celebrate their A-level results this month (Getty Images)

A-level results day can be one of the most daunting experiences of any teenager’s life. The next day the papers are filled with cheesy photos of happy students jumping and throwing papers into the air. But while thousands celebrate, not everyone will be sure of the next step.

So what can you do if you didn’t get the grades you were hoping for?

If you're disappointed with your grades, or simply unsure of the choices you're making, the first thing to do is take a moment and relax. You won’t be the first person it’s happened to, and you won’t be the last.

There are plenty of options for you to take and - you never know - in five years’ time not getting the grades you wanted could be the best thing that ever happened to you.

In the meantime, here are five things you can do if your heart is still set on university, and three things you can do if you’re not sure.

Still wanting to go to university?

Go through clearing

Clearing should be your first choice. In the week after the 2016 results, a record number of people got accepted into university through clearing, and this year the figure is set to be even bigger.

A fall in pass grades and overall application rates has resulted in thousands of courses being made available at really sought after institutions - so it’s your quickest route to go if you’re eager to start this September.

For more help, take a look at our ultimate guide to Clearing.

Get a remark

There’s nothing more painful than being one or two marks off your required grade. Try not to think back to that exam you weren't pleased with, or the coursework you could have spent more time on, and focus on getting your papers remarked.

You might have to wait a bit longer, but it’s a small price to pay. Speak to your school or college advisor on how to go through with this. You may have to pay a fee towards this depending on your school.

Retake the year

There’s absolutely no shame in retaking the year - many people do it and find all they needed was some extra time to get their work in order.

It might be difficult seeing friends leave sixth form and go on to university without you, but they'll still be there a year later. If it gets you to where you need to be, it’ll be worth it. Besides, there’ll be fewer distractions for you second time round, you’ll have had a head-start, and you can focus more on the fun stuff like exams, and constant revision...

Look for a sponsored degree

Plenty of companies offer things called "sponsored degrees" where you basically get paid to go to university - sounds great, right? The details can vary from degree to degree, but the general idea is that you work X amount of days in a week and go to university to study for the other X. A combination of paid work, job training, and a university education!

Apply next year

Take a breath. Relax. You’ve just finished 13 really hard years of school (mostly). You don’t have to apply this year- you can wait until next time when you know what grades you have and you know what you have to work with.

It’s all far less stressful this way. The plus side of this is that you can work for a year, then hopefully go to university with some money saved up - win, win.

What to do if you don’t want to go to university at all anymore?

Go straight into a job

University isn’t for everyone, you may find yourself happiest going straight into the workplace. Earning a wage is an extremely satisfying thing, and having that independence could be the different lifestyle you need after school.

Look into a higher apprenticeship

Higher apprenticeships are exactly what it says on the tin. It’s an apprenticeship which you gain a higher than usual qualification for.

You’ll come out with a level 4 qualification, which is equivalent to a university degree, but you’ll get a combination of practical experience as well as formal education.

It’s similar to a sponsored degree, but generally with a more vocational focus. According to figures from Barclays and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, In some cases the earnings of apprenticeship graduates can surpass that of graduates by up to 270 per cent.

Take a gap year

You will have heard it all already: "Being a student is the best time to go travelling"... and it’s true. It’s a great middle point in your life where you can just decide to postpone the next step and disappear with a backpack.

Taking a year out can arm you with rich experiences, a better understanding of other cultures, and space to breathe and find out what you really enjoy and want from life.

Check out our gap year guide if you need more convincing.

The most important thing is not to panic, and to realise just how many exciting opportunities are open to you. Your schools are well prepared to help you, so you’re not on your own. Decide what you’re doing, and then relax and enjoy the summer - you’ve earned it.

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