You’re waiting for either your A-level or GCSE exam results this August. You may be calm, resigned to fate, anxious or stressed. However you feel, we offer some gentle words of advice and guidance.
Whether picking up your GCSEs or A-Levels, there are some straight forward things to remember. Firstly, in the words of the great sage Douglas Adams… “Don’t Panic!” whatever happens, there are always productive and positive options you can pursue.
If you aren’t sure what these may be, seek help from someone who knows, such as your independent careers adviser in school or a careers adviser from the National Careers Service telephone helpline: 0800 100 900. The National Careers Service offers free telephone advice to anyone aged 13+.
Be cautious of dodgy advice from sometimes well meaning but not so well informed friends. Poor advice may lead you astray and you could miss out on an opportunity. Make sure whoever you are speaking to knows what they are talking about! Whether it’s a family friend, teacher in school or someone on a chatroom online.
Having said that, family members or friends of your family may have been through a similar experience when they were younger and may provide useful insights of how they ‘did all right in the end’ (there are even teachers out there who didn’t get the results they wanted on results day and have done alright).
Ultimately, things will be ok if your grades aren’t as expected, as long as you get some good advice and guidance on the day, hold your nerve and DON’T PANIC!
Arrive on time to collect your results, take a pen, notepad, snacks, water bottle and mobile phone with you. If you are collecting your A-Level results and have applied via UCAS make sure you have your login details with you. Be prepared to wait on the day if things need sorting out, so don’t book yourself on holiday in another country or onto a shift at work that afternoon!
Don’t assume you haven’t been offered a place at your chosen university, college, training centre, apprenticeship or school if you don’t get the grades you needed or expected. Always check directly with them.
Make sure you gather advice on what all of your options actually are if you haven’t been given a place. If you’re lucky, you will have access to a fully qualified independent careers adviser, either in your school, on the phone or by email. If you don’t, make use of any services your local authority may provide as well as independent services such as the National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline – 0800 100 900.
Give yourself time to consider your choices. If looking at university (higher education) don’t be in a hurry to enter clearing and settle for any course. However, be aware the most competitive courses may be snatched up quickly if you’re not fast enough… get the balance right between rushing in too fast making a rash decision and dawdling slowly, thereby missing out on courses!
Ask yourself whether your chosen option will get you to your goal; whether this is a career, self-discovery or higher learning for life. Check whether there is more than one way to get to your destination, such as work-based training or distance learning. Apprenticeships have grown over the last few years with new routes opening up all the time (such as Intermediate, Advanced, Higher & Degree Apprenticeships in areas of law, business and the sciences to name but a few).
If you have done better than expected and applied to university be aware you can enter adjustment to look at other courses: https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/results/ucas-adjustment-if-youve-done-better-expected
For the first time ever, you can also be released from your University course into clearing if you feel that it isn’t right for you. Just make sure you are aware of the risks before taking this option: https://www.ucas.com/advisers/guides-and-resources/adviser-news/news/new-2019-online-self-release-clearing
It may be that you need financial support if your options have changed. Make sure you contact the college, school or University you are hoping to attend for help. Some will know of, or have, bursaries and grants you can access. Grant Fairy is a useful starting point: https://www.grantfairy.com/
If you weren’t planning on going to University and decide on the day you wish to, it is possible to make a late application (although it’s a bit of work and you will need support). If you’re new to the finances required check out Money Saving Expert to help you: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/student-loans-tuition-fees-changes/
Keep in mind, if making a late application, that there may be a delay in funding getting to you and your chosen University in time. If this is the case, you may need to set up some transition arrangements with the University you are going to whilst you wait for your funding. Speak to the finances team at your Uni – they should be able to discuss this with you.
If you’re stuck, please make sure you contact your careers service for assistance.
When considering choices after GCSEs, keep in mind many (but not all) colleges and 6th forms offer a flexible six week ‘wiggle period’ where you can switch courses if they have space, allowing you room to assess whether your chosen pathway is right for you. If you discover it isn’t, make sure you access support from your careers service to explore all your options.
Remember a gap year is also a viable option and may give you time to consider your results and options without the pressure of trying to make a rushed decision. Gap experiences can vary significantly from volunteering to work and/or travel: https://www.seasonworkers.com/
Lastly, remember your choices aren’t just college or 6th form after GCSEs, there are a huge range of study programmes, work experience, traineeships and apprenticeships you can explore depending on your grades and situation.
For study programmes in Kent check out: https://www.readytoworkkent.co.uk/
To search traineeships: https://www.gov.uk/find-traineeship
For apprenticeships in Kent: https://www.apprenticekent.com/home
Apprenticeships further afield: https://www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship
Supported employment for those with SEND: https://www.theeducationpeople.org/our-expertise/specialist-employment
Look after your mental well-being; it can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. Make use of the support networks around you in school, college and at home. If you feel there is no one you can turn to please look for help from support services such as Samaritans and NHS Helplines:
There are local services in many areas across the country who can offer support with both career choices and emotional health. In Kent we provide support for adults and young people in different ways. You can access our services via our service finder at: www.cxk.org We also offer free resources to help you with your career options and emotional well-being at: www.cxk.org/resources
Whatever happens on the day, we wish you and your friends the best of luck; if however, you find yourself stuck please reach out and contact us. We will do what we can to help. Even if it feels like ‘everything has gone wrong’ there are always options and ways forward.
There are many sources of additional online guidance and support which we have added here to guide you: