This blog post was originally published on 16 August 2017.
Waiting for your exam results can be extremely stressful – you’ve worked hard and had your heart set on a place at a particular college, sixth form or university. But what if you don’t do as well as you had hoped?
First of all, don’t panic. We’ve spoken to teachers, colleges and universities to get their advice on what to do next – so take a deep breath, have a sit-down and read our 5 top tips…
The teachers at your school and college can really help in giving you some sound advice – after all they will have seen other students in the same situation. They might be able to give you more insight about why your results weren’t what you wanted. They will also know who to contact about your next moves and the different options open to you. It might also be worth contacting the institution you were hoping to go to – they might still be willing to offer you a place even if you haven’t achieved the grades they asked for. If you're applying for university, the UCAS website has lots of helpful advice.
You might have had your heart set on a particular course or place of study but it’s worth considering alternatives. Take some time to think what your priorities are: the subject or course you want to take or the place of study you want to go to. Could you still end up in the same career by taking slightly different options? It might be that a vocational course or an apprenticeship might get you where you want to be. Some students excel on different types of courses or are better suited to on-going assessment and work experience rather than end of year exams.
Don’t write a subject off just because you didn’t do as well in it as you expected. An ex-student of mine didn’t do very well in his first year of science A Levels so switched to a vocational course. He finished the course with full distinctions and is now off to university to study Marine Biology – something he has wanted to do since he was 5! And don’t do a subject just because you did unexpectedly well in it.
Steph Cussen who taught for many years at Barton Peveril College gives this cautionary piece of advice when deciding your next move:
'Think very hard before taking up an A Level in a subject you hated but did surprisingly well in at GCSE. Studying something in which you have no interest for 2 solid years could prove counterproductive as you may not have the commitment required to achieve the grade you need.’
... is the recommendation of Paul Drinkwater, Schools and Colleges Liaison Officer at The University of Southampton. He offers the following advice for those applying to university:
‘First of all, if you didn’t get into your first choice but have been successful in your second or back up choice – I think that’s still a great result. If you find yourself in a situation where you have missed your first and second choice there are probably four sensible options open to you. Does your first or second choice university offer a similar course, or something you are interested in which you would have the grades for? In both these options at least you are considering universities which you will have researched and hopefully visited. Start looking at university websites and UCAS clearing for the course you want to study – this comes with some risk as you are making a decision based on little research and evidence. Wait and reapply next year. If you rush into something you may well end up at an institution you may not be happy at, or one that might not offer you the best opportunities for your future career. If you really want to go to university X – think about a gap year and/or retaking your A Levels or even a foundation year. Take some time to reflect. Less haste – more speed is the key.’
The people that know you best can be really helpful in this situation. They might have their own experiences to share and talking something through with people with your best interests at heart will support you in making the right decision.
It might be that there are other sixth form colleges or schools that you could go to in order to study the subjects you are really passionate about. Get some help from family and friends in researching the different options available to you and then talk them through with you.
Getting good advice is obviously crucial not least because you now know all the options open to you but don’t let anyone pressure you into a decision you’re not sure about. Think about what you’d really like to do and the different ways in which you can get there. Whether it’s resits, taking a gap year, travelling, getting some work experience or finding an alternative course – there is an option that will work for you.
Rebecca Wood - Subject Advisor
Before joining OCR, Rebecca taught in post 16 education for 17 years. She also worked as an examiner and moderator across a range of creative subjects. Rebecca has also run workshops for young people as far afield as Brazil and Russia. In her spare time she enjoys travelling, spending time with her two sons and walking her dog.