Disappointing A-level results? What are the alternatives?

A-levels – what are the next steps?

I remember my A-level results day only too well. I was in Scotland on holiday. My time away was going really well, up until the point when I called my parents to find out how I did, and then everything changed. Instead of predicted B-grades, I got D’s. I was gutted, and all my plans came to a shuddering halt!

Looking back, I can now see that this was probably for the best, because only three years later I embarked on a degree course at another university to which I was better suited. However, at the time, I thought my life, my plans and my whole future held little for me. As it turned out, nothing was further from the truth.

Here are some fantastic sites that can offer some great help not only to disappointed want-to-be undergraduates but also to their bewildered parents! If you find you find you are in this position, then here are some alternatives to going to Uni.

University Clearing

  • If you don’t have an offer from a University you can find clearing vacancies on the UCAS website or in the Daily Telegraph.
  • The Daily Telegraph also produces a free Clearing app, which gives you the chance to browse the full Clearing vacancy list, 24 hours a day, in real time.
  • UCAS Clearing helpline: 0808 100 8000, open 17th – 31st Aug

Although it can be tempting to look for a quick fix, don’t jump for the nearest clearing vacancy listed. UCAS clearing officially goes on until late September so use that time wisely. Remember – you don’t have to apply for the same course as before. You can pick an entirely new university and subject if you wish. Clearing process has become so much more than a Plan B. In fact, many students now use Clearing to find a better course at a university more suited to their requirements.

Useful links:

Study abroad

Whilst we’re still a member of the EU, you may be eligible to study at low cost. For example, the University of Copenhagen, Denmark’s oldest and largest university, will cost UK students absolutely nothing in tuition fees whilst other universities in Europe will charge UK students less than if they studied at home.

Importantly, many of the university’s courses are taught in English. There are now around 1,200 bachelor qualifications taught entirely in English (not including Ireland) and many more that include a significant English-language component. www.astarfuture.co.uk will give you a guide to all the English-speaking universities in the EU that you can apply to where there won’t be any tuition fees!


Take some time out to explore yourself and your options!

Don’t forget, you can always defer going to Uni until the following year and retake your A-levels, or just take a gap year and gain some great experience.

1) Alternative ways to a profession

Not known by many, there are alternative routes into many professions, and it just takes a little research to track down these entry routes. Here are just three examples of professions where a degree is not the only way in:

Law: To enter the legal profession without a degree, take the ILEX (Institute of Legal Executives) training scheme, which combines on-the-job training with examinations and academic study. www.ilex-tutorial.ac.uk/

Accountancy: Many of the top accountancy firms offer opportunities to school leavers with 260-340 UCAS points. Many smaller sized firms offer training places on the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) scheme. The training typically takes several years on-the-job with some day release courses. Once a qualified Accounting Technician there is scope for further training to become a Chartered Accountant. www.aat.org.uk/

Retail: Most of the top retail chains offer A-Level entry schemes, typically 2/3 year management training opportunities. For example: www.sainsburys.jobs/graduates

A must-visit site for great on-the-job training opportunities (even up to degree level) in a wide range of industries visit: www.notgoingtouni.co.uk, including:

  • A great Be Inspired page if you’re looking for career ideas
  • Hundreds of apprenticeships some up to degree level
  • Gap year choices – E.g. Frontier has over 300 volunteering abroad projects in countries throughout Africa, South America, Europe and Australasia, giving you unlimited adventures and excursions in beautiful locations. (more examples below)

2) Take a gap year

a) Do something creative… If you haven’t made your mind up, you could always take a gap year. Spend it doing work experience (sometimes paid!) in your chosen industry, or perhaps go travelling or do voluntary work at home or abroad. Not only will a gap year give you valuable experience that you can use to put on your next Uni application, it will also mature you and deepen your character.
The following sites offer a brilliant list of creative, alternative and philanthropic ways to spend an enriching year (or more) between A-levels and Uni.

A good article in The Guardian:

A good article in The Telegraph:

b) Volunteering in the UK:

3) Industry work experience

You could use the time to gain some valuable time in industry.

For example, the Engineering and Development Trust EDT delivers over 40,000 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) experiences each year, for young people age 9 -21 across the UK. They offer high quality paid work for 9-12 months, to give you experience as well as a way into a permanent job. There are placements for students interested in all areas of engineering, science, IT, e-commerce, business, marketing, finance and logistics.

Even if you’re not exactly sure what you want to do after your degree, a Year in Industry will earn you respect and give your CV the competitive edge. 97% of students who have undertaken a Year in Industry feel they are more employable, as it adds massive value to a CV as well as greatly increasing confidence and maturity levels. You will be paid a wage, and will be expected to undertake a challenging job, visit www.etrust.org.uk for more info.

Other must-visit sites for work and training opportunities across all sectors include:

Most local councils will have a business start-up section that will offer support free of charge to help your new business to get off the ground. E.g. http://startupcroydon.co.uk/

If you’re still unsure

If you still can’t work out which direction to turn, why don’t you contact me directly? – see email link at top of page. I coach many people on their future career paths, which could be a great next step for you!