Today, August the 17th 2017, the wait for A Level results is finally over. Hundreds of thousands of students across the UK sat A Level exams this summer, with the new reformed A Levels being sat in the core subjects (although many subjects are still using old specifications).

So what happens now?

For most students, A Level results day is critical in deciding their university destination for the next few years with a massive possible impact on the rest of their lives. All university admissions take place through UCAS. ‘Track’ is the UCAS service available from 8 am on results day which is available to students to make the whole process, whatever the results are, as simple and straightforward as possible. What happens depends on the results themselves.

Option 1: Getting the results you need.

The simplest outcome is getting the results you need for your preferred Higher Education offer (your ‘firm’ choice). If this happens, then the university is obliged to accept you onto the course you applied for and you will receive confirmation of this on ‘UCAS Track’. Your offer will change from ‘Conditional’ to ‘Unconditional’ and you will soon receive additional details from your university.

Congratulations! This is the outcome most students would like, but of course it’s not the only possibility.

Option 2: Not getting the results you need.

For many students, results day is not so straightforward but there’s no need to panic. In 2017, with the first assessment having taken place for some of the new reformed A Levels, this is likely to be even more common. The new A Levels are widely accepted as being significantly tougher and the fact that they are entirely linear and all the exams take place at the end of the course has certainly not helped. So if this is your situation, don’t panic. Nothing can be done about the results, but there are plenty of options.

The first option is to contact your firm and/or insurance offers to see if they will accept you anyway. Remember, universities may well have a number of students that have missed their grades slightly and they will still want to fill their courses. If you have only missed out by one grade there is a reasonable chance that you will be accepted anyway, although of course this is by no means guaranteed. Your chances are likely to be lower if you have applied to very selective universities or extremely popular courses.

If you don’t receive any offers or you reject the offers you did get then you will be eligible for ‘Clearing‘. It helps to be reasonably well prepared and do some research into your options before you start contacting universities; don’t forget, you’ll be picking the place you will live and work in for the next few years. The temptation to panic and ring the first university with places is strong but students are far better off researching their options, doing some reading and thinking about why they are interested in applying for a certain course at a certain university. Of course, university admissions officers will want to know that students have considered their options carefully. The phone call is as much an interview as it is a request for information and universities are under no obligation to give students a place. Don’t forget, the universities will need your UCAS Personal ID and Clearing numbers, so students will need to have these to hand when calling.

Don’t forget, if you miss your grades completely there are still options: a gap year, resitting exams or looking for employment or apprenticeships (including school-leaver programmes) are all viable options. Students need to think carefully about what they want to spend their life doing at this stage; a decision at this point can change the direction of your entire life. You will need to consider what options are available, how they fit with your ambitions, what the chances of success are and whether you will enjoy it.

Option 3: Adjustment

Adjustment‘ is the name given to the process whereby students can swap a firm, unconditional offer from their first choice university for a different course if they’ve done better than expected. It only applies if you satisfied and exceeded the requirements of your first choice offer. There is absolutely no obligation to register for or use the ‘Adjustment’ service. If you’re very happy with your first choice offer then why not stick with it?

If you have done much better than expected and you’d like to consider using adjustment, you need to register, which you can do via the ‘UCAS Track‘ page. Have a think about what universities or courses you’d like to consider and why. It helps if you’ve already done some research into the universities/ courses beforehand as changing course or university is a very significant decision. Students should consider how the new course or university fits in with their career ambitions and whether they would like to study at a different institution. It might be helpful to think about why you didn’t apply for this course or university in the first place; if it was because you liked the course but thought you’d struggle to get the grades, then ‘Adjustment’ could be a good option for you. If you never really considered it and know little about the university or course you might now switch to then think about why you are considering switching now. Students should research their preferred option thoroughly and call the university once you are sure. Bear in mind that if you accept an offer over the phone, the university will update ‘UCAS Track’ for you and you will lose your original place. Be sure of your choice before you agree to anything over the phone and if you’re not convinced then don’t accept a different place.

Don’t forget, there’s a time limit: from registration, you have 5 calendar days to complete adjustment. Make sure that you use the time you need to make sure you are happy with your choice. If you’re in this position then the worst that can happen is you go to what was originally your first choice university!

Overall

Congratulations everyone! With the new, more challenging A Levels students should feel proud of their achievements regardless of the outcome they have had this morning. There are plenty of options, but no matter what situation you are in, take a moment just to think about the different paths ahead of you, before rushing down one which will decide the course, location and career that will become your life for at least the next three years.