A-level results day: Don’t dwell on bad grades urges academic

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FOR many students, A-level results day will be a time of celebration and relief - but for others it will bring dismay at missing out on the grades they needed for a much-wanted degree or training course.

Sixth-formers who find themselves in the second category should not dwell on the disappointment and make an effort to look on the bright side, according to one academic.

Dr Matthew Smith, a senior lecturer in psychology at Buckinghamshire New University said that accepting the situation is the first step in moving forward.

“Acceptance is the key,” he said. “Look to get the disappointment out of your system as soon as possible, and, although it may sound cliched, really do make an effort to look on the bright side.

“One of the first and most important steps in getting over a blow is acceptance; the acceptance of realising that you haven’t achieved what you had hoped to. This is not easy and can be challenging as it often comes as a shock to the system. But it is the first step in moving forward and turning a negative situation into one that is positive.”

Students can then begin to look at other courses they could do, he suggested, adding that exploring other opportunities will help them to move on.

His advice comes as around 300,000 students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland await their A-level results.

Would-be university students can log into the Track service on the UCAS website from 8am tomorrow to see if they have secured their degree place, or if they are eligible to enter clearing.

Clearing is the process that matches students who have not received offers, or who have been turned down by their original choices because they failed to meet the required grades, with available courses. A second system, adjustment, allows students who have done better than expected to trade up to a different course or institution.

UCAS said universities and colleges will be keen to hear from students once they know they are eligible for clearing, and can make verbal offers to students with the right qualifications from the morning onwards. Students can make official clearing choices from 5pm tomorrow.

Helen Thorne, director of policy and research at UCAS, said: “There’ll be thousands of courses available in Clearing this year - perhaps in subjects students might not have necessarily considered, and the scheme remains open until the end of September.

“Stay positive and remember to prepare thoroughly before calling universities and colleges for an intelligent discussion about the courses you’re interested in. You’ll find all the information you need about Clearing on UCAS.com.”

Jo Heywood, head of Heathfield School, a private girls’ school said that students should not panic but remember “the early bird catches the worm”.

Youngsters should set an alarm clock and get their results as soon as they can so that they can begin making decisions if necessary.

Those looking for a degree place should be “tenacious and persistent”, Ms Heywood suggested, adding that one of her previous students who had slightly missed her grades travelled to the university she wanted to attend and waited there until they agreed to give her a place on her chosen course.

“It may be difficult for some to do that,” Ms Heywood said, “but if there’s any way you can, show you’re really keen and what it means to you.”

Students should also remember to make calls to universities themselves and not let their parents do it for them.

“My advice to parents is no matter how much it pains you to pull back, other than getting your children out of bed and saying ‘get on with it’ , just let them get on with it,” she said.

Fellow girls’ school headmistress Alice Phillips, of St Catherine’s in Bramley said that there is support available for students who need it.

Due to the way the system works, students often know if they’ve got a university places before they get their A-level results, she said.

“If they’ve heard before they get their results, then let the school know if it is good or not. If it’s good, the school will want to join in the celebrations.”

If it’s not good news then there will be people available to give advice, Ms Phillips added.

It is thought that a number of leading universities will enter the clearing and adjustment process this year to offer last minute places to students who score at least an A and two Bs, as changes to higher education mean that there is no limit on the number of students above this threshold that they can recruit.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said there had been an increase in university applications this year, with more than 650,000 people applying.

“As always, for the majority of applicants this year, if they get the grades required in their offer, they will secure their place at university this autumn,” she said. “For qualified applicants without a university place there will still be a good chance to look for another suitable course from a wide range of universities via clearing.

“We must get away from the idea that clearing is a ‘second best option’. Last year, a record 57,000 students found a place via the clearing route. With a good amount of research, speaking to advisors and staying calm, students can find the right place for them this September. It is important to remember that they need to pick a course that motivates them as they will be studying it for several years.”