A level results day: What are your options?

It’s finally arrived…

After what probably seems like a lifetime of waiting, you’ve reached the culmination of the last two years of coursework, exams and hard work (delete where applicable), and now it’s here: A level results day.

Here are our top tips to help you weigh up the options:


I got the grades I wanted to go to university

The ideal scenario for many when they open the dreaded envelope is that they get the grades they want, and receive an offer from their university of choice.

If this applies to you, congratulations (see you back here in three years’ time).

How to: Prepare for your first year at uni


I got the grades I wanted, but don’t want to go to university right now

After all the stress and hard work of the last few months, some people simply want to take a break from education.

If this is the case, contact the university directly and ask to defer. Although some will deny your request, most will allow it – especially in the current climate – and the quicker you contact them the better.

However, this decision should never be taken lightly. In order to be accepted for deferment, you will need to justify to your University (and possibly your family) your reasons. Perhaps you want to work for a year to save up for university, for example.

An advanced warning though: wanting to spend a year bar-hopping in Ibiza probably won’t quite cut it.

How to: Start work after your gap year


I didn’t get the grades I wanted, but I still want to go to university

If you didn’t do as well as you expected, don’t panic. Even if you didn’t get into the universities you put forward in your UCAS application, alternative routes are available.


Appeal – If you aren’t happy with your grade, you may be able to appeal to have the result reconsidered. Because of the pandemic, universities are being encouraged to keep places open for longer than usual. Your appeal must be submitted via your school, and be sent to universities by August 31st (if your university place depends on it).


Clearing – Clearing is a way for universities to fill the available spaces they have left for the academic year. Last year, 33,280 applicants were placed through Clearing.

A list of Clearing spaces will be available from 8am on results day. The earlier you apply, the greater your chances of success. The Daily Telegraph has a dedicated Clearing app which shows live spaces, to help you keep up-to-date.

However, if you’re looking for a particular university or location, it’s always best to check their website for the most accurate and up-to-date list.

UCAS clearing: How does it work?

For more information on clearing, visit the UCAS website


Retakes – If Clearing isn’t an option, or you aren’t happy with your calculated or mock results, then resitting your exams* may be an option.

These retakes can be taken either at school, or online, and can be managed through your school (although they can also be taken independently).

*fees may apply

A Level and GCSE retakes: Why it’s never too late to resit your exams


Other qualifications – If you don’t feel like you will do any better should you retake your exams, there are alternative options. 95% of universities will accept more vocational qualifications as an entry requirements, for example OCR Nationals, NVQs and BTEC qualifications, such as a HNC or HND. There are also a number of other higher education qualifications that don’t necessarily require you to go to university.

Additionally, you could consider gaining a professional certification from a recognised awarding body, which allows you to demonstrate proficiency in a specific field, software, or system. Employers view them as prerequisites for a range of jobs, in fields such as accounting and project management.

These qualifications are generally more vocational, combining theory and a practical approach to work and study – with many providing the option to study part-time and online.

View all courses

Not sure what qualification is right for you? Find out here


The job I want does not require a degree

University isn’t for everyone. And, regardless of your results, there are a number of other options available to help you embark on your perfect career.

Apprenticeships, internships and volunteer roles are great ways to get started in a profession, and there are literally thousands of opportunities out there. So whether you just want to build some practical experience in a role, or you’re looking to build a career straight away, there’s something out there for everyone.

Should I go to University?

Apprenticeships for school leavers

Aside from apprenticeships, there a number of courses available to help your career progression, in subjects ranging from Finance and Accounting through to the Fashion and Beauty industry. Search available courses in your industry to find out more.

Still sitting on the fence? Here are three of the best subjects to study in 2020 (if you’re not going to uni).

View all available courses now


I want to take a break

Similar to those that defer, you may just see this as the perfect opportunity to take some time out from education.

A gap year can be a great way to avoid burnout, and ensure that you’re doing something constructive at the same time. From upskilling and volunteering, through to travelling and learning a new language, there’s a range of opportunities to choose from, and, if you pick right, each can be a great way to set your CV apart later on in your career.

Five of the best things to do on your gap year

The truth about working abroad


I want to start earning now

Finally, you might just be ready to kick-off your career and start earning. Although this decision should not be taken lightly, working your way up in an industry could be just as lucrative as getting the right qualifications.

So, whatever your results, with the right attitude and approach, not to mention a winning CV and Cover Letter, there’s no reason why you can’t take your career where you want it to go.

School leaver CV template

School leaver cover letter template

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