brace yourselves

Posted 13 August 2015 | 0 Comments

A level results day is a nerve wracking, exciting and sometimes confusing day. If you are already sure on your next steps, and you receive the results you were hoping for then congratulations! You are one of the lucky ones and today is a day for celebration. (Within moderation guys, nobody wants their stomach pumped)


But what about the people who don’t have a plan yet, didn’t get the grades they hoped for or the ones who did better than expected and have more options that they thought? Good grades, or not so good grades, you have options but you’ll have to ask yourself some serious questions and be really honest with your answers. We’ve put together this list of questions to try to help; we hope it makes your choices a little easier!

Can I retake my A levels?

Speak to your school or college to find out your options here. If retaking your final year is an option, (and it is at most places) then you have to decide a few things;

What do you want out of this? If you have your heart set on a certain career or university course and only a better grade will get you there then this is a real, viable option for you. (Do check out or tips on clearing below before you totally sell yourself on this one though) There is absolutely no shame in retaking a year if it gets you where you want to be. You will have to accept that your friends will have moved on, but buckle down and get it done. It will be worth it in the end.

 NOTE: In many cases you can retake your A levels at another college if you want to move on but also want to improve your grades. Contact the admissions office at your local college as soon as possible to secure a place.

Should I go through clearing?

Clearing is a fantastic option for so many reasons. The great thing about clearing is that most universities will lower their grade/UCAS point requirements and that means you will get the chance to apply where you may not have before. This could be the right move for you if you have;

  • Lower grades than you needed to get a place at your original university choice
  • Higher grades than you expected and can get into a university when you didn’t think you could
  • Changed your mind and now wish to attend university but haven’t applied yet

If you don’t already have a place at university, act fast! Clearing spaces fill up quickly and you want to make sure you have the best chance to secure the university/course you want. This doesn’t mean you have to commit to one place right away, but to get yourself known and an offer sent your way you need to get in there first.

If you mean business you’ll need to put your results day celebrations on hold for now. Get straight onto the UCAS website and use their clearing tool to find the universities and courses available. (UCAS also have loads of great advice so have a look around)

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, call the admissions office at each university as soon as possible – call, don’t email. You need to make sure they speak to you and that your message isn’t languishing in some dingy inbox never to see the light of day!

NOTE: Many universities don’t open their clearing/admissions lines until the day after results are given out but don’t rely on this. Call and find out, visit their website for more information and if you must wait, call as soon as the lines open. Places will go fast!

I want to start my career but I still want to get qualifications, what do I do?

Apprenticeships are a brilliant way to get your foot on the career ladder while still learning. (We call it “earn while you learn”… MEGA CHEESE!)

In most cases, you will complete your coursework online with visits from your course tutor while you work full time at a business relevant to your qualification. You can find all kinds of apprenticeships to suit you by checking out the government apprenticeship website.

There are other options too, like BTEC’s or OCR Nationals. These are more college based with some work experience too; a blend of theory and practice.

A Higher National Diploma (HND) is a 2 year course option offered by most colleges. In many cases with an HND, you can top up your qualification with an extra year of study and gain a degree in your chosen area. This is a really good option and worth looking into, especially if you can’t afford to go away to university right now.

NOTE: With all of these options (and the uni/clearing choices too) you should speak to your school or college. They have years of experience and their guidance will be invaluable.

I’m ready to take on the world of work, how do I get my career started today?

Calm down. Seriously, calm down. You’re probably breathing into a paper bag right now while thousands of career options swirl in your head. Here’s the big secret… most people have no idea what they want to do when they leave school. Start small and you will get there.

Firstly, ask yourself these questions;

  • Is there anything I don’t want to do?

This is a really obvious question, but one that gets overlooked surprisingly often. It is the ideal place to start. If you already know what you don’t want, that massively narrows the field of jobs you do want.

  • Do I have experience and did I like it?

If you’ve worked before, you might already know that there is an area of work that you enjoy. If you’re working now, speak to your boss and find out your options. Don’t just ‘go full time’ without a plan, find out what progression opportunities there are and, if they’re limited, look into what you could do elsewhere with a years’ experience in this role.

  • What are my hobbies?

One way to work out what you might like to do for work is to consider the passions you have in your spare time. Maybe you’re into fashion, computers, music, projects, (like researching topics that weren’t just for school) animal care, child care, social media etc. Your out of school passion could be the key to working out what path your career takes. Think of what you love and Google jobs in that sector. –i.e. “animal care jobs” “social media jobs” “research jobs”

Before you know it, you will have taken the first step to finding your dream career.

  • What can I get at this stage in my life?

Ok, this is the big one… be realistic! If you expect this to be easy, or that you will be on £50K from day one with little to no experience then you will be seriously disappointed.

You’ll need to have knowledge and a good track record to get the big jobs. To achieve that, you have to start at the beginning. Junior/entry level roles will give you the chance to learn your craft and become a real expert in your chosen field. But here’s the kicker, you can’t always get a junior role without any experience at all so you may have to get creative…

Let’s say you want a job in sales. Without any commercial experience you’re likely to find it very difficult to get an interview, let alone a job. Instead of simply giving up, dissect the job of a salesperson and identify the range of core skills required. (You can do this by looking at a job advert online and noting the skills listed there.) Once you’ve done this, you can target more accessible jobs that use those same skills. 6-12 months later you’ll be in a position to show not just that you want your dream job, but that you have made the effort to go out and proactively acquire skills and experience to help you get it. You never know, you might stumble into a more desirable career along the way!

Work your way up, earn your place and eventually the respect (and money) can be yours!

NOTE: You can also find advice on your future career with The National Careers Service. Your school or college may also have information for you so make sure you explore all avenues and take advantage of any service in place that can help you. – You’re not being a nuisance, it’s what they’re there for.

The final word

Whatever direction you want to take, remember this: ACTION = RESULTS

If you don’t make the effort to get the grades, university place, apprenticeship or job that you want then you can expect no results. Do nothing, and nothing will happen.

All successful people understand that you can only make progress by taking positive action and this starts right now. As you take your first steps towards building a career – be that through further study or starting work right away – don’t wait for opportunity to find you, take action and find it yourself.

Dream big, work hard and you can achieve greatness.

Good luck!

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