Photograph: Project 365 #226 via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
A-level results day and it’s build up can be a daunting time for your child, so here’s a few handy hints on how the day works and how you can help them get through it. As you will probably already know, A-Level results day this year is Thursday 18th August.
From 8am UCAS Track will display whether you son or daughter has received a place at either their firm or insurance choice universities. I’m sure they’ll be dying to know whether they’ve got a place so, when they check (probably at 8am exactly if UCAS doesn’t crash), congratulate them if they’ve got the place they wanted or keep a level-head and make sure they have everything in place for the day to run smoothly if they haven’t. Remind them that their grades aren’t the end of the world, and show and tell them that you are proud of them regardless of the results they achieve.
UCAS Track doesn’t display what A-Level results your child has achieved, so they will still need to go their college or school to collect them.
Make sure you know what time they have to be at school or college and whether your son or daugther wants you to go with them, drop them off, or be a phone call away. This may depend on their UCAS Track results - if they’ve got into the university of their choice they may just want to relax and enjoy the day with their friends, while if they haven’t they may want more of a helping hand.
Remind your child of what they need to take with them to school or college - their UCAS application; university offer letters; GCSE results, contact details of their firm and insurance choice universities; contact details of the universities they’ve considered if they fail to get into their universities of choice; contact details of the universities they’ve considered if they do better than expected; a phone; and a pen and paper.
What if they haven’t got the results they were hoping for?
Reassure them that not getting the grades needed doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t go to the university of their choice - as soon as possible get them to phone up their firm and insurance choices, as often universities let students in with slightly lower grades than their offer.
If they’ve not received a place in this way, make sure that they understand that there’s no one set path in life, and, regardless of their result they’ve plenty of exciting achievements to look forward to in the future.
What is Clearing?
Clearing is a way for universities to fill the extra places they have on their courses. If your child hasn't got the results needed to go to either their firm or insurance choice, they may be able to use Clearing to find a place.
For most courses, it's a good option, as it means that students can go to university in September as planned, and there are plenty of stories of students finding their perfect universities through the system. However, not all universities offer places through Clearing, while some courses, especially those that are over-subscribed, will also not offer places.
As a parent, be prepared for bad news, especially if your child said that the exams didn’t go the way they expected or hoped for. And anyway, it’s not all bad news - 61,000 of students at university (9%) found a place through Clearing last year, while others will have taken a year out to improve on their grades.
If your son or daughter has mentioned that they didn’t think they did as well as expected in advance, talk to them about having a plan B.
This could involve looking for a job or applying for an apprenticeship, but most students either re-sit their A-Levels the following year or apply to a different university through Clearing. A-Level results day is a stressful situation, so if they know what they need to do depending on their results and they’ve planned everything in advance the day will go as smoothly as possible.
If they do want to go down the Clearing route, encourage your child to research courses ahead of time, and to carefully consider their options. Get them to make a shortlist of the universities and courses they are interested in along with their contact details, based on whether they had Clearing places last year. UCAS Clearing opens at 6pm the day before A-Level results day, so support your son or daughter in looking online to see what’s available and confirming their shortlist. They’ll then know exactly who to phone the next day if they fail to make the grades they need.
On A-Level results day your son or daughter will have to contact the universities of their choice themselves - if they want you to be around, whether at school or at home, and if they want you to be with them when they phone, quietly make sure that they are staying on message, selling themselves and their qualifications, remembering to mention their extra curricular activities to support their application, and calm them down if they get agitated or speak too fast. The phone call is essentially a mini-interview so you want your child to perform the best they can.
You also might want to be prepared to take some time off work if your son or daughter wants to attend an open day and they want you to tag along/act as designated driver. If they’ve applied for a university through Clearing they might also want someone to go with them to sort out accommodation if there’s no university accommodation available.
Be there for them regardless of the decision they choose to make, and don’t let them rush into it just because they want to go to university in September.