For students who don’t quite achieve the grades needed for their first choice university, A-level results day can be incredibly stressful.
But while it can feel terrifying, missing out on your first choice university - or having to use the clearing system - is not the end of the world. And while it’s good to hear that from teachers, family, or even celebrities on Twitter, we decided to ask some regular people how it impacted on their lives.
As the class of 2018 find out their grades, five graduates tell HuffPost UK about their experiences…
Jack, 25, needed grades BCC to get into Nottingham Trent, but missed out on his spot to study broadcast journalism by just one grade.
“The build-up to university is quite high pressure,” he says, describing results day as going from “nervous excitement to... well, I didn’t know what it meant at the time.”
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“Sometimes universities let one grade go so I was gutted and then nervous. you feel a bit lost, really.”
“After a bit of flapping”, Jack was was able to lean on his college for support and they had a special computer suite set up for any students who were going through clearing.
Jack soon found a new course at Staffordshire University on the clearing portal.
“I had a chat with the uni and they were happy enough to take me on board,” he says. “At the time I didn’t realise that the broadcast journalism course at Staffordshire was one of the best in the country.”
While preparing to start at Nottingham Trent, he’d made friends with the people who would be his flatmates but when his plans to go there fell through, he soon met new people at Staffordshire.
“Thankfully, there was some accommodation left, it wasn’t the best to be honest,” he says. “But I made plenty of friends there and that’s what made it.”
He keeps his advice for going through clearing pretty simple: “Stay calm, don’t panic. Be proactive and pick yourself up, stay positive and it will all sort itself out.”
Talia, 36, is now a music curator for Amazon and based in the States. When it came to A-level results day, she missed out a place to study English and Latin Literature at the University Of Edinburgh, but met the requirements for her insurance option, Warwick.
“We had to try and call through to UCAS to check it was definitely a rejection from Edinburgh,” she explains. “It was waiting to get through on a phone line for a couple hours. They were both good unis so I wasn’t too stressed about it.
“I’d been to open days at both of them so I was pretty comfortable about what to expect.”
With her place at Warwick confirmed, Talia set to work finding accomodation, which is when things got slightly tricky. “You’d had to apply further in advance for accommodation so I ended up in a pretty horrible hall,” she says. “But at least it was a campus uni instead of a city, so it was easy to just show up at.”
“At Warwick, I got involved in societies straight away and I did student radio there which made me love it immediately. I didn’t really have any regrets.”
Scarlett, 23, studied Drama and Theatre at Goldsmith’s in London and is now doing a Masters at University Of Sheffield.
She discovered her grades had fallen slightly short when a confirmation email from Goldsmith’s arrived in her inbox at 6am on results day.
″I woke up quite early on the day and got the email at about, then the online UCAS results weren’t released for a few hours and you didn’t get to go to college or sixth form until after that,” she says. “I knew I’d be going to Goldsmith’s and that I hadn’t got the grades, just something in between…. but I ended up actually not getting the grades I should have to get into Goldsmith’s.
“They’d accepted me so I thought, ‘Well I must have got this’, but then I didn’t. Close but not quite.”
Once her course was underway, Scarlett found she enjoyed being at a university that was focussed on arts and humanities. “I’d speak to people and there’d be a lot more connections,” she says. “It was quite a small university so I went from a small secondary school where there were only 96 people, to a small-ish university. That was a good step up for me.
“I really loved South London and the people I met there. Being an arts uni, it pushed me a little more out of my comfort sense, it was less theory-based.”
Owen was one of the many students who still felt unsure about which course and university to choose throughout his final year at college. Having applied to Coventry to study sports and design, he began to rethink his options.
“I was a little unsure and I didn’t have very good attendance levels in my first year of college so didn’t think I’d get the grades,” he says. “I managed to get my act together in the final three months, with reasonable grades but still not enough to get into Coventry university.”
When result day arrived, Owen took the chance to change direction by using the clearing system.
He explains: “One of my advisors at the time said, ‘Owen, you quite like numbers so why don’t you do an accounting degree?’ And that’s exactly what I did. I applied through clearing and went to Anglia Ruskin university which was fantastic.”
Once there, he swapped degrees and ended up doing Computing. “I ended up doing exactly what I enjoyed,” he says. “I ended up being in a position where I was loving what I was doing and extremely happy and that’s what I wish I was told [to focus on] when I was younger.”
After university, Owen successfully launched an app that helps students be more informed during the clearing process.
Having missed out a place to study accounting and finance at Kent, Hema, 27, found herself wondering whether to even bother going to university.
“I felt really disheartened and dissapointed when I didn’t get the grades,” she says. “I felt like I didn’t even want to go anymore.”
But with a place at Kingston in the bag, she “went with the plan” and started preparing to move from Essex to the South-west London suburb. When Hema visited her new accommodation for the first time, she began to feel more excited about her prospects.
“There were loads of other people there and I realised that it was a fresh start,” she says. “There were other people who would be coming through clearing and some that didn’t have Kingston as their first choice but that was the start of the journey. A-levels weren’t the beginning.”
For anyone who finds themselves in a similar position today, she says: “Don’t let not getting the results you wanted impact your future.
“Go to university with an open mind, sign up for all the extra courses and get as many experiences as you can.
“University is completely dependent on you and what you make of it.”
Hema now works in finance for an asset manager.