Results day tales: getting into university if you didn't get the grades

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If you didn't get the grades you need to go to university there is no single best way to handle the situation. Seven students tell their results day tales and how they got onto a degree course.

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Sweet-talk your first choice 'No places'? – ring back later Snap decisions can work plump up your UCAS points Be assertive if you need Resits – a better choice? Taking a gap year

It’s perfectly possible to get onto a degree course that’s right for you, even if you miss the grades you need for your firm or insurance offers. Read how the paths of seven students changed on results day, the action they took and the advice they have for students in the same position.

'Speak to your university' – Emily Reay

If you didn’t reach your conditional offer but it hasn’t yet been withdrawn on UCAS, ringing your university should be your first port of call. Emily Reay managed to get in to her first choice of university, despite missing her grades.

'I did the IB (International Baccalaureate) and so I got my results before A level students; although I’d achieved my overall points requirement, I had missed the 6 I needed in French to study at the University of Nottingham. The university couldn’t give me an indication of whether it would let me in until A level results came out six weeks later. I decided I wanted to take some action while I waited so I emailed the head of department for the course, who I had met on an open day, explaining why I felt I still deserved the place.

After some liaison, I was offered my place at university on the day of A level results. My advice to students in a similar position is to be proactive and show how badly you want to study at that university.'

'Collect options through Clearing' – Grace Newman

When Grace Newman missed both her firm and insurance offers she went through Clearing and ended up with three offers before choosing between them.

'When I went into Clearing I had to ring loads of universities – even ones that I knew would reject me. I also rang some universities multiple times in the same day because when someone rejects their Clearing offer their place goes back into the system. This means that a university that claimed not to have any places may have some later in the day. By the evening of my results day, I had three offers and so I researched each course to decide which would be best for me. My advice to students going through Clearing is to stick it out – even though the process is draining – because it’s better to have options you can weigh up than to make impulse decisions.'

'Don’t be afraid to make snap decisions' – Kinneret Livne

For other students, making a snap decision may be the best – or only – option. Kinneret Livne did just that to bag a place at the University of Nottingham.

'When my English result wasn’t what I wanted it to be, I decided to ring some universities. York told me they had no places on Clearing but Nottingham offered me a place to study English. I was asked for an immediate answer on the phone or I would lose the place so I took a leap of faith and accepted the offer. Luckily, this was a great decision for me as I am really enjoying my course. My advice to other students is to go with the moment; everything happens very quickly and you just need to trust that it will work out.'

'Consider UCAS points instead of grades' – Danielle Poole

Some universities focus on grades and others focus on UCAS points. It’s not just your main academic subjects that give you UCAS points – there are lots of other qualifications you could add in to increase your total. Danielle Poole used this to her advantage when she went through Clearing.

'Although I missed my offers from Liverpool and Chester, the fact that I had taken general studies and ASNAD (Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network) courses meant that I had enough UCAS points to study at the University of Gloucestershire, where I was ultimately offered a place. My advice is to research universities and Clearing before you get your results; I would have found it a lot easier to go into Clearing knowing a bit more about league tables and course satisfaction.'

'Be assertive' – Madeline Kelly

In some instances, the system doesn’t work in your favour and, as Madeline Kelly found out, you have to take matters into your own hands and be assertive.

'Although I technically got the requirements for my insurance offer at Bristol (which was AAA and I got A*AB) I ended up having to go through Clearing; the university’s online system broke down and it refused to tell me whether I had a place for ages. Eventually I was told that I would find out the next day, so in the meantime I accumulated offers from Newcastle, Southampton and Birmingham through Clearing.

The next morning, Bristol still wouldn’t give me an answer so I went to an open day at Birmingham and it looked fantastic. I phoned Bristol again to request to be released from the offer as you have to be released by your second choice in order to accept an offer through Clearing. I was told that it would take three hours for that to process and my offer from Birmingham only had one hour left on it. I had to be very forceful and assertive over the phone and they eventually released me in time to confirm Birmingham’s offer.

Although I ended up in private halls, which made things a bit harder, I would make the same decisions again because I am really enjoying Birmingham. My advice to students going through Clearing is to embrace the independence and don’t be afraid to be assertive – it’s your future on the line.'

'Resits can bring results' – Bayleigh Sly

Not everyone wants to take a gap year. However, as Bayleigh Sly tells us, if Clearing doesn’t have any options that excite you, it’s sometimes worth taking a year to make the right decision.

'I was close to accepting an offer that would mean organising last-minute accommodation and studying somewhere I had never considered before. In the end I took a year to resit my A levels and reapply and I actually ended up really enjoying that year. My A level results improved and I got the grades to study chemistry with forensic science at the University of Leicester. My advice to students in a similar position is not to be afraid to take a year to reassess your plans and not to worry about what your friends are doing. Resits only last a year so, while you might want to go straight off to university with all of your friends, it’s an important decision and you have the rest of your life.'

'Sometimes a gap year is worth it' – Mica Thakrar

Not all decisions have happy endings and sometimes it’s good to know that you can duck out of a path you’ve chosen. For Mica Thakrar, accepting her insurance offer was not the right choice and she had to take action to put herself back on the path she wanted.

'I missed the grades for my firm choice at Birmingham City University, who offered me an alternative course but that didn’t really appeal to me. I reluctantly accepted my insurance offer at the University of Bedfordshire but because I didn’t want to be there, I really didn’t enjoy it. I dropped out after the first term.

By the time I dropped out I was too late to resit my A levels that year, and the following year I would have been too old to get into any sixth form colleges. I took a gap year and worked instead; I had jobs in food and retail where I gathered life skills, experience and money. This put me in a much better position when I finally did apply to university. I also put some of the money I earned towards a college course called Access to Higher Education. This course meant taking another year out and I ended up with the equivalent to A*A*A in A levels. I reapplied to university and had a much wider range of choices including offers from four Russell Group universities. I ended up choosing the University of Leicester, where I will be starting this September.

My advice to students in a similar position is not to be afraid to take a year or two out to get a course that you really want. Starting university at the age of 20 is not a big deal as it’s still very young – a much better option than hating your university experience. The two years during which I was working and studying did not drag because they were life experiences.'

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