23/08/2012 11:33 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Exam Results Are Out - What Next?

Exam Results are out - what next? PA

It's hard to know who is the most nervous - you or them. Yes, as the long-awaited GCSE, A level and IB results are announced, parents stand by ready to congratulate or commiserate with their teens.

After five or seven years of secondary school, it's crunch time.

If you are anything like me, you'll feel you deserve an A* too, for being their motivating, nagging, never-giving-up-on-you parent.

Despite a record number of higher grades every year, it's not that simple: there is an ever-increasing number of applications for university places, apprenticeships and vocational training. Universities and employers are taking more account of A level results than ever before.

What can you do to help soften the blow if the results fall short of what's needed?

In the run-up to results day, it's a good idea to talk about the possible scenarios; not always easy with a moody, taciturn teen.

Your child may already know which grades they need in order to study for AS and A levels at school - lots of schools expect a Grade B and sometimes a Grade A. Even if they are flexible, and would accept a Grade C, it's best to consider if your child will be able to cope with the A level syllabus. But if it's not clear-cut - talk to the school. Never assume that just because your child achieved a Grade B and not an A that the door is closed. Sometimes schools will accept lower grades, especially if they see your child has the potential, and also if numbers of students in the A level class are low.

Exactly the same applies to colleges. Many ask for 4 GCSEs Grade C and above, but it really is worth going along and talking about options if your child has dropped one grade.

If you are waiting for A level results, the stakes are even higher. A dropped grade can make all the difference between the first choice of university and the second, insurance choice.

Universities confirm places online once the results are out - usually a few hours before students know the grades. There can be elation or extreme disappointment , and as a parent you have to be prepared for either.

I asked Paul Ingham Head of Careers and HE Liaison at Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge, for his advice. Hills Road is consistently one of the top five performing 6th form colleges in England.

Go into school/college

Paul advises: "Don't hide from the situation - go into school/college and seek advice."

This is so important. It's understandable that your teen doesn't want to face the world if they have disappointing results. But hiding at home won't change this. And the longer they delay, the worse the situation can become, as places are snapped up.

Applying through the Clearing System

Paul acknowledges that accessing the UCAS website for vacancies is important- and it's vital you move quickly. Places are snapped up by the minute.

However, he also cautions, "Don't accept any course you are offered without considering the content and location. This can be a recipe for dropping out."

I can testify to this. My friend's son reluctantly accepted a place at his second choice of university. He was slow in applying for accommodation too, and by the end of the first term he had dropped out because he didn't like the course, where he was living ( not in halls) and he'd made few friends.

University – or something else?

Paul suggests that some students should, "Consider whether higher education is the right option - if results are weak then is a degree for 3 years the right step?" It's worth having the discussion about whether university is the best option, especially now that fees are so high. And don't dismiss apprenticeship or vocational courses.

Foundation Courses

Sometimes, if results are not good enough to begin a degree course straight away, it's worth looking at a foundation year . As Paul explains again, "These are available for engineering and some science courses where the necessary maths and physics can be taught and then allow progression to degree level if the course goes well."

Vocational Courses

HND (Higher National Diplomas) are still a sought after qualification. They can be studied as a stand-alone 2 year vocational course, with possibility of progression to degree. HNDs fall just short of a degree course, and are certainly worth consideration.

Open University

With the increase in tuition fees, more and more students are opting to live at home and study with the Open University. A degree can be completed in three years with full time study, or over six years part time, when combined with work.

Studying Overseas

Paul mentioned that students should also consider studying for a degree overseas. Some degree courses are taught in English can have lower entry requirements. Paul visited Holland, which is becoming increasingly popular as a place to study. "I visited Groningen and passes in 3 A levels are sufficient, but the student then needs to maintain 60VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%