A level results – what if it’s time to rethink university plans?
Life is rarely straightforward. The best laid plans can go awry and A level results day can be the perfect example of a time when students need to think pragmatically and reassess their circumstances. And, certainly, they may need our professional support in doing so – it can’t be easy to face a change of plans when expectations have already been set.
It’s important to remember that a change of plan doesn’t have to be associated with underperformance. Those students whose grades are better than anticipated may also find it appropriate to rethink their next steps. Additionally, there will always be a certain amount of students for whom the ten months following university applications have given them a period of reflection and perhaps they have decided that university isn’t for them. Let’s take a quick look at some of the options open, and the circumstances that might bring them there.
This is the process through which UCAS matches unplaced students with unfilled university places. Traditionally it is associated with students who were unsuccessful in receiving offers or who haven’t met the requirements of their firm and conditional choices. But it is also for students who may have consciously declined their offers, perhaps due to a change of subject plans. And its success is on the up. In 2013, a record 57,000 students successfully secured university places through the clearing process. And far from being a ‘last-chance saloon’ of undesirable courses, over 3,000 places last year were on offer at Russell Group universities. Whatever a student’s reason for needing to use clearing, they are advised to have their Plan B researched and prepared so that they can optimise their chances. The UCAS website, and their clearing partner The Telegraph are the best places to look for further resources.
The so-called ‘happy cousin’ to clearing, students who have met or exceeded the conditions of their firm offer are eligible to use Adjustment to ‘upgrade’ to a new course and/or university. Students can apply through Track and, in doing so, do not jeopardise their firm offer. But they must work fast – once registered they will have exactly 5 calendar days to find an alternative course and if one hasn’t been found in this time, they will continue with their firm offer choice. Unlike Clearing, a list of courses isn’t specifically produced for the purposes of Adjustment, so students will need to phone the universities themselves and it is advisable therefore that they have done their homework before hand. More information on Adjustment can be found through a handy video ‘How-To Guide’ which is found on the UCAS website.
Of course, this can appeal to a variety of students for a variety of reasons. Those who feel they under or over achieved on expectations in their A level may find that, rather than deal with the pressure (and limitations) or Clearing or Adjustment, the best option is quite simply to take some time out, and to reapply knowing the results they can offer and where this is likely to get them. Other students quite simply may be ‘all studied out’ and recognise that time out of the system may be wise. Contrary to the message that is often given out to students at school or college, admissions tutors do tend to look favourably on gap year applicants. The extra maturity that they bring to university often translates to a lower dropout rate and increased motivation to study. It is important for these students to have a structured year, however – a clear motivation for taking a gap year or useful activities undertaken will undoubtedly provide an easier ‘sell’ to admissions tutors than a year which is spent drifting.
Whilst poor A level results may be a wake-up call to some students that higher education isn’t for them there will be others who have achieved highly but realised over time that the world of work offers more excitement and opportunity at this moment in time. And this is absolutely the right choice for some students. The rise in tuition fees has seen an increase in the amount of quality work opportunities for students with A levels, including earning and learning options like apprenticeships, and education can always be returned to at later stage. However, students should be encouraged to be realistic about the competitiveness of the job market and the time it can take to secure employment.