As A Level results day approaches the advice from experienced teachers is that its time for you as a parent to step back and allow your daughter/son to take control of their future.
Clare Reseigh, head of sixth form at St Gabriel’s School near Newbury , says: “If you have to ring universities to confirm or re-negotiate your place, it goes without saying that it must be you who calls. Under no circumstances allow your parents to call on your behalf because that will send entirely the wrong message about your maturity and commitment.”
Hilary French, president of the Girls’ Schools Association agrees: “Now is not the time to be nervous on the telephone and it’s certainly not the day for letting your parents fight your battles for you. By all means discuss your options with them, but if you have to talk to universities, you’re on your own.”
Can you “upgrade” your university if your results are a pleasant surprise? Well, yes you can try! Many competitive courses, such as Medicine and Law, may well be full, but other applicants may have missed their grades or changed courses too so it is still worth seeing what is available.
Sue Goff is head of Alderley Edge School for Girls. She likes to remind students that universities get results in advance of schools. She says: “Universities will know by Monday or Tuesday of results week what their position is likely to be. The bottom line is they want good students to fill their places so you must do your homework before you get your results. Find out where vacancies are likely to be then get up early on Thursday, get your results and get ringing. Time is very short on results morning. Do it yourself, not mum or dad, be convincing and sell yourself.”
Don’t Panic – take time to consider your options
Helen Ness-Gifford, head of Pipers Corner school, counsels that it’s better to take time out to consider your choices. She says: “Celebrate and start planning for an interesting year out before re-applying. Taking time to evaluate is better than rushing a decision. Most schools are happy to advise ex-pupils throughout the Autumn Term. Getting some sort of work experience will prove valuable anyway once you graduate so it won’t be a wasted year.”
If you really want to do it…
Ruth Weeks, head of Edgbaston High School, points out you may actually want to stick with your original decision, despite your higher grades. She says: “You can always continue with your current choice. If you really want to do it you will know and can enter the course with confidence.”
Do not embark on Adjustment without a great deal of thought
UCAS operates a useful “adjustment service” for students whose grades are equal to or better than anticipated. Clare Reseigh, head of sixth form, St Gabriel’s School, says: “If you decide to use the UCAS Adjustment service, be very careful to make it clear that you are only gathering information at this stage. Only agree to accept an offer if you are certain it’s what you want. You may only accept one offer. There are no vacancy lists for Adjustment – you’ll need to use the search tool on UCAS to check course details and then contact admissions offices to ask about vacancies. You must tell them you’re applying through Adjustment and have your Personal ID number to hand. Do not embark on Adjustment without a great deal of thought and advice from your Head of Sixth Form or tutor.”
What to do when your grades don’t meet your first choice university’s offer
Students can log on to UCAS “Track” on results morning to establish whether or not they have been accepted by their Firm and/or Insurance choice universities. If you have missed the grades/conditions of your offer(s) the university may or may not have made a decision and this will be stated on “Track”. If a decision hasn’t been made yet you should make telephone contact with the university in question to ask when they are going to do this. Telephone numbers are on www.ucas.com.
ABB may still get you your place
Caroline Jordan, head of Headington School, says: “If you get ABB or higher, but still fall short of your first choice offer, you may find that your university still offers you a place since the government cap is not operative for those who achieve these grades. If not, then enter Clearing as soon as possible. The best courses get snapped up quickly and time is of the essence.”
This is not the time for emotion
Mike Farmer is headmaster at St Teresa’s Effingham. He says: “No matter how disappointed you feel, this is not the moment for emotion. The race will be on for places and the sooner you start the better. First check that your first and second choices are definitely not prepared to offer you a place. If this is the case, get straight onto the UCAS clearing website to see what is available and then talk to the university admissions officers directly. You will need persistence and patience as the phone lines will often be engaged. If you think that there is a chance that you will end up in clearing, you should try to be in the country. Your teachers will be on hand to help and you may well find that the clearing process is best carried out in school rather than at home.”
Don’t accept something you don’t want
Sue Goff, head of Alderley Edge School for Girls, says: “Don’t accept something you don’t want to do just so you can say you are ‘in’. Make sure that it’s a course and university that you like. Better to take time out, have a gap year and reapply with definite grades than take something your heart’s not in and end up dropping out.”
Helen Ness-Gifford, head of Pipers Corner, agrees. She says: “The most important thing is for you – not your parents – to talk to the university concerned, then look at clearing. If these fail, plan a year out. It’s not the end of the world – you can re-sit or re-evaluate your choice of course or university.”
Jane Gandee, head of St Swithun’s School in Winchester offers other alternatives: “Consider whether a foundation degree followed by a top-up year would work as an alternative. Ask yourself if university is the right route – there are also higher apprenticeships and on the job training with leading companies.”
Get organised for clearing
Clare Reseigh, head of sixth form at St Gabriel’s School near Newbury, advises you to have all your information ready for when you make that vital call to Clearing. She says: “It’s important to approach Clearing in a calm, organised manner. First of all find and list the available courses, then put them in order of preference. Before you call universities, make notes of what you want to say and be prepared to sell yourself, your commitment and your abilities. They will want to know that you are familiar with the course details and that you will cope with the academic demands. Have details of your module results as well as GCSE grades to hand. You will also need your UCAS Clearing number and UCAS personal ID. The online list will be updated frequently so keep checking back. Feel free to ask questions about the course and about the university, for example whether accommodation is guaranteed for first year students.”
Visit to make sure
Nicky Jenkin, head of sixth form at Sir William Perkins’s School, says: “Consider the conversation with the admissions tutor as an interview and, if all goes well, ideally you should visit the university before formally accepting the place.”
With thanks to the Girls’ Schools Association.