Woman thinking at her desk with her laptop and diary open

It’s that time of year again and, when all your friends are celebrating, it can be hard to watch them all and feel proud of them when you didn’t do as well as you had hoped. Perhaps you knew that you hadn’t done as well as you had expected, or perhaps it was a shock, but either way it's tough to face.

It's ok to feel disappointed, who wouldn't after two years of hard work? But remember you are not alone, and there are plenty of people out there who also miss their grades, and there are plenty of options available to you. Here are a few pieces of advice to help you get started:

Act Quickly 

If you only slipped by a grade or two, you can try ringing up the university you originally had your offer from (both your first and second choice) to see whether there would be any possibility of gaining a place. Sometimes lots of their potential candidates are in the same boat and if you’ve achieved close, but not quite up to, the conditions of your offer then it’s possible they might still offer you a place. Universities are not filling places quite as easily as previously so there's more flexibility in admission offers and grade criteria than in the past.

Exam Results Helpline 

If you do not meet your university offers and you've called them to find out that they can't accept you the Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000 is available. They have a team of expert advisors who can talk you through your different options.

Talk to your teachers

Teachers are used to students not doing as well as expected and they want the best for you. They will not be angry, but will be available at your school or college to help you work out the next best step.


If you don’t get a place with your original university, but your grades are still good enough to go to university with, clearing is a popular place to start. Clearing is where universities that have places left open them up to students still looking for a course and there are plenty of students who find perfect-fit universities through clearing. 

However, time is of the essence when it comes to clearing, as many students will have started speaking to universities as soon as their results came in. 

Using UCAS search you can find out which universities still have places open and on what courses. You'll also see what grades you'd need to get onto these courses. You can also search for universities via the university name and the term “clearing” while Twitter and Facebook might also give you results via the #clearing2016 hashtag. To understand more about how clearing works and how to make the most of it, please see our dedicated clearing page while our blog 'A-level results: now is the time to prepare!' gives the lowdown on how to apply for a university place through clearing on the day. 

Lots of people find the perfect uni through clearing, but remember, don't accept a place just because it is a place. You have to like the university as it's where you are going to spend at least the next three years or more of your life, and where you might make lifelong friends. So if you don’t feel comfortable with your decision, take a step back and perhaps forgo a university place for the year. 

Woman holding a coffee and phone

Retaking your A-levels

If you’ve got specific ambitions retaking your A-levels might be one good way to fulfil them. Retaking your A-levels also gives you time to think about what you really want, plan ahead and even succeed your expectations and your original plan. It might also give you time for a short gap year or a long break, and the experiences you will gain will be valuable for your personal statement. See our blog for more information about retaking your A-levels.

Rethinking your career pathway

Is university what you really want? Can you get the career you want without going to university? Taking time to think about what you want from life, meeting new people, going on a gap year or working in a pub while you think things over will give you the opportunity to decide what it is you really want to do. When you get back into education you’ll be all the more ready to take on whatever challenge lies ahead. You might feel as though you've failed, however failure can often bring about new opportunities, so remember to be open to them. 


Another option you might like to consider is an apprenticeship. Many companies offer apprenticeships which give you on-the-job training, work experience and qualifications alongside a wage, and compared to just getting a job it provides you with a structure which you might find useful having just left college.

In many sectors, it's now possible to gain a higher apprenticeship which offers you the equivalent of an undergraduate degree and the possibility of a postgraduate degree in the future. It's also possible to gain qualifications on an apprenticeship and use these to complete an undergraduate degree at a later date. 

After completing your apprenticeship you'll be well on your way to securing a full-time job, with many companies offering employment to those who took an apprenticeship with them. You also won't be saddled with a student loan to repay every month. For more information, please see our dedicated apprenticeships pages