Regardless of whether your child’s grades meet expectations or not, results day can be incredibly stressful, particularly as results may determine the next three years of your child’s life. However, there is an enormous array of options if results are higher or lower than hoped, most of which are provided by easy-to-use UCAS services. By informing yourself of these options, you will be able to help your son or daughter to remain positive, and remain in control of their own future.

This guide will explain the options available to you on results day. This will help you to offer the best support and advice you can to your child, so that they are able to make the best choices for themselves.

Don’t worry about ‘what if’

First of all, it is good to stay calm before the exam results day because the anxiety and panic about the upcoming results will only make you feel worse. Focus on what you can do and be proactive with this. We cannot emphasise enough how important is to have a clear ‘plan B’ beforehand; this will reduce the anxiety you are feeling now and ensure that you can move quickly when results are released.

Check UCAS ‘Track’

Universities receive A level results a day or two before schools, so it is often the case that they will accept or reject conditional university offers before your child has even received their grades. It is worth checking UCAS ‘Track’ first thing on results day morning, as this may tell you if your child’s place has been accepted. Not only will this relieve some of the pressure, it will give an indication of their final grades.

Prepare

It might be worth preparing for unfortunate eventualities, particularly if your son or daughter felt that the exams did not go well. Consider options, such as alternative universities and courses. The Telegraph newspaper publishes a full list of all UCAS ‘Clearing’ places on results day morning, which will be useful if your child has failed to reach their ‘firm’ and ‘insurance’ offers.

If your child’s results meet their university offer

Congratulations! The hard work paid off. You can celebrate with your son or daughter without worrying about contacting their 1st choice university. There is no need to inform the university of their grades. UCAS ‘Track’ will update automatically soon after results are released to show that they have been accepted onto their chosen course. If this does not happen after a couple of days, you might then need to contact the university. After results day, an ‘AS12’ letter will arrive in the post. Ensure that your child follows any instructions carefully, and holds onto the letter for safekeeping. You can then begin preparing your child’s move to university.

If your child’s results exceed their university offer

If your son or daughter’s grades have exceeded their university’s offer, they still have an opportunity to secure a place at a superior university through UCAS ‘Adjustment’. After registering on the UCAS website, they will need to search individual university websites before contacting admissions offices, who will inform your child if there are any vacancies. If they receive an offer they would like to take, they can accept this over the phone; the university will update their UCAS account.

Once registered with ‘Adjustment’, you have 5 days to find a place, so there is no need to rush. Instead, sit down together and consider options, perhaps ranking potential universities before contacting them. An educational consultant, if required, could help you make these decisions, offering information on university quality and prestige. You may wish to speak to a friend’s child who has been to that university.

If your child’s results do not meet their university offer

It is important for you to remain positive, even if you are disappointed. By informing yourself of all the possibilities, you can offer your child a sense of perspective. There are still plenty of options even if they have missed the grades for their ‘firm’ choice. There is no need to panic.
If their results look peculiar (for example if one module mark is significantly lower than the rest), or if a result is very close to a higher UMS ‘grade boundary’, it might be worth considering a priority marking review, which will determine whether there has been a mistake. However, universities are not required to hold a place whilst the paper is remarked. Do consult with the university beforehand.

If, on the other hand, it looks as though the results are correct, check ‘UCAS Track’. They may still have been accepted onto the course. If the offer is still ‘conditional’, your son or daughter might be able to call up the university admissions office and give a case for still offering a place. You might want to ask for help in how to best demonstrate this.
However, it is rare that universities will still accept students who have not reached their offer grades. Rather, it is more likely that your child will be offered a place with their ‘insurance’ university. In this case, no action is needed on results day. Simply fill out a ‘change of circumstances (CO1)’ form on the student finance website within the next few days.

If, unfortunately, your child has failed to achieve the grades required for either their ‘firm’ or ‘insurance’ university offers, they may be able to find another place through UCAS ‘Clearing’. The Telegraph, as well as the UCAS website, provides a full listing of ‘Clearing’ vacancies. However, most of the ‘Clearing’ process takes place over the telephone. Your son or daughter will need to contact individual university admissions departments.

They will need to provide their ‘Clearing Number’, found on UCAS, which will allow the university to draw up their results and UCAS application. They may then need to put forward a case for why the department should take them, so it is best to prepare a little beforehand. They might be asked why they have chosen the university and course, or to highlight good results and the strong areas of their personal statement.

It is important not to rush ‘Clearing’. It is an important decision which will determine the next three years and beyond. Your child can contact as many ‘Clearing’ universities as they wish in order to weigh up their options. Once they have received a verbal offer over the telephone, they must enter the course and institution codes into UCAS Track.

If the ‘insurance’ or ‘Clearing’ universities are not quite right for your son or daughter, they might consider the option of a ‘gap year’. This could allow them to explore a range of options, including retaking a portion of their A levels and reapplying for the following year through UCAS. Whilst Oxbridge might not accept reapplications, many ‘Russell Group’ universities may do. A ‘gap year’ will also give your child an opportunity to travel, volunteer, or work on other pursuits and projects.

If you are having trouble understanding your child’s results, or making important decisions, please contact us.

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