A level results

A Level Results: what to do if your child’s grades are low

It’s the day they have been waiting for – your child’s A Level results have arrived.  Whilst we hope they have got the grades they need to get into their university and course of choice – what do they do if their grades are too low?  And how can you help?

Be aware of their emotional response after their A level results

Firstly, this may be a shock to them and they may be very upset.  Even if they suspected they have not done as well as they need to, they will probably have still been hoping for a miracle.  This is a common reaction, because they will have worked for two years towards their goal and now it looks like their dream is in jeopardy.   It may not be until the next day, or a couple of days later, that they feel ready to take the next steps.   However, it’s vitally important that they realise that it’s not the end of the world and there are ways forward, so encourage them to keep positive and calm.

Encourage them to get in touch with UCAS

Secondly, they’ll need to get in touch with UCAS.  This is something you won’t be able to do for them unless they have given you nominated access – they will need to contact UCAS themselves.

The UCAS website offers this advice (adapted). UCAS results day advice:

  1. If your child has just missed out on the grades they need in their A level results, the university might accept them anyway.  It is worth a try, because the course may still have space!
  2. The university or college may offer them an alternative– a ‘changed course offer’ (which they’ll need to accept or decline).  Encourage them to consider this very carefully, as this may turn out to be a better option for them in the long run.  They will still get a place at a university of their choice, but the course will probably be a better fit for them at the grades they have achieved. 
  3. If they don’t get a place they can search through the UCAS clearing service to see what courses still have vacancies.  Through clearing they can apply for a course if they are not already holding an offer from a university and the course still has places.

 It is sensible for them to ask for clearing advice by talking  to an adviser at their school or college. An advisor will be able to talk them through alternative courses and subjects.

Use the UCAS Search Tool

UCAS also advise that students use their search tool to find potential courses.  This is the only official vacancy list.  However, if they cannot find exactly what they are looking for they can:

  • consider different subjects – they don’t have to stick with their original idea. They could also look at joint honours courses, so they can study more then one subject
  • keep coming back to check again – universities update their course information regularly.  Some might be full initially, but may have vacancies later on
  •  talk to any universities or colleges they consider a possibility – communication is key here.  They should aim to get informal offers over the phone  (maybe from a variety of universities) and then decide which one they want to accept.
  • only add a clearing choice into the UCAS system once they have permission from the university or college.

Tell them that it’s not the end, just a different beginning

Although this will be a change to your child’s plans, and the process is likely to be a challenge for them, it may even be for the best in the long term.  University study is not easy and presents substantial challenges for young people.   To be brutally honest, if they have struggled to get the grades they needed to get onto their chosen course, they are much more likely to struggle with the work at university level.  Do they really need to start out at a disadvantage? 

A personal anecdote about A level results

I had a mentee three years ago – let’s call her Susan – who had a nightmare time with personal issues in the run up to A levels. Whilst still attaining A,B,B (which was impressive considering the pressure she had been under) it meant that she lost out on both her first and second choices.  She was in tears when she realised that her option was her ‘backup’ university, unless she wanted to change subject totally.  Her first thought was to take a year out to resit two A levels, then reapply.  

After a lot of tea and talking we agreed that she would give her ‘backup’ a try.  She excelled at that university, soon getting to the top of the class and staying there for three years. She made good friends, she loved the studying, she got some work experience and she graduated with a 2:1 from a good university.   Who knows what would have been her experience at her first- choice university…

So, this is not the end of the journey for your child.  It is just a different beginning to the one they envisaged.  Keeping calm, exploring the options and keeping an open mind will ensure dividends in the long run. 

Related – prepare for university 

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