This year's results days are likely to be more stressful than ever due to the uncertainty caused by Covid-19. We asked our professional careers adviser Tara Latter to give her top tips to help students and their parents.

Whether it’s GCSE or A Level results you receive this week, I know it’s a nerve-wracking time. If you get the results you hoped for, congratulations. But if you don’t – fear not!

As a Careers Adviser I spend a lot of my time helping young people (and their parents) to understand that getting the results you expected is a relatively small part of getting onto your chosen career path.

Don’t despair

If you’ve had your heart set on a particular course, it can feel traumatic having to suddenly think about alternatives, but results are only a small bump in the road, and that’s where your Careers Adviser, school or college can help. The door isn’t closed: there are far more education, training and careers options than most people are aware of. There’s rarely only one way into a career, and it’s not all over because you need to start thinking about alternative choices.

Check your options

If you don’t get the grades needed for the course, education or training that you applied for, your first point of contact should be with your intended place of study, as exceptions may occasionally be made. Some Universities, colleges or apprenticeships may allow students to join with lower-than-expected qualifications, either on the course applied for or a different course, or to re-take their exams to achieve the intended level. You can also appeal your results, so contact your teacher or Careers Adviser and ask how to go about this, or check to see if there’s an appeals process on your school website.

Look at alternatives

Whatever your chosen path of study, there are nearly always effective back-up options, with colleges and apprenticeships providing fantastic opportunities for post-A level education. Would you consider a different Sixth form, college, university or apprenticeship for your chosen field of study?

If you’re set on studying A Levels but didn’t get the required GCSE results required to get into your Sixth form, look at your local colleges to see if they offer subjects you would like, which are often offered at a grade lower than Sixth forms.

It’s hard to think this way on results day, but remember to consider the bigger picture and play the long game: where do you want to be in a few years’ time? There are many routes to get to the same outcome. For example, if you want to get into healthcare, consider studying a BTEC Health & Social Care or Applied Science, or a T-Level in Health.


The new T-levels are an excellent post-GCSE qualification. Equivalent to three A Levels, they can help develop your employability and work skills as well as provide you with a qualification that provides progression options into skilled employment, apprenticeships and higher education. You can learn more about them here.


Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to gain almost any qualification while earning a wage, and an excellent alternative route into many careers. You find and apply for apprenticeship opportunities with employers who will pay you while you gain a specific qualification, which means undertaking a mix of study and work—normally with time allowed in the working week for study. It’s a great way to earn while you learn, and has the distinct advantage of teaching you workplace skills as well as the more academic skills associated with your chosen course.

The Government apprenticeships website is a live jobs board, and can be very busy on and around Results Days. Take a look at live vacancies here:

Apprenticeships have changed a lot in recent years, but not everyone is aware of this, which means they have a bit of a perception problem, with some people assuming apprenticeships aren’t right for them. Did you know that you can study almost any degree on an apprenticeship, up to (and including) Masters degrees? You can apprentice in the police force, or as a lawyer or architect. Review the available options—you’ll be amazed!

Level 3 results - what happens on results day?

Students must check UCAS Track to see if they have been accepted onto their chosen course. Track will be updated for all applicants on the morning of Tuesday 10th August. If you’ve achieved your grade requirements, congratulations, you will have an offer from your firm or insurance choice. If you don’t have any offers, you can use the clearing process. Clearing can also be used by applicants who have declined their firm place using the ‘decline my place’ button in Track.

What is clearing?

Clearing is a way for universities to fill any remaining spaces on their courses. It provides the opportunity for applicants without a confirmed place to acquire one. UCAS provides a list of courses that are still available which students can apply for by calling the University to negotiate a place. UCAS Extra is a tool on UCAS for students to use to help them identify suitable courses.
Before contacting universities, applicants need to list criteria on which they are willing or not willing to compromise, and have a sense of their priorities, such as:

  • Flexibility regarding which course you study
  • What is more important, University or course?
  • How important is location?
  • Accommodation – is there a guarantee, or help to find some?
  • Fees
  • University’s reputation.

To learn more to go:

Things to consider

If you haven’t had any University offers, you may wish to think about whether you want to go through clearing or consider other options like a gap year or apprenticeship. If you receive an offer but want to defer and go to university in 2022, you will need to check the University will agree to this, so think about your reasons for deferring and how will it benefit you, and be prepared to discuss this.

Remember that this week won’t shape your life

I have worked in a number of different sectors and alongside many very highly-qualified, successful people. None of them got to where they are in the same way. What’s more, many people today will change their career path at least two or three times in their working life, and may even have “portfolio careers”, which means having several different forms of income at once.

Whatever you choose to do next, it is very unlikely that you’re closing the door forever on other careers options. So try to take on board as many different perspectives and talk to as many people as you can, be that your parents, teachers, parents of friends who work in a sector that interests you, or older siblings or friends who are studying qualifications or degrees that interest you. You’ll soon realise there are many options for beginning almost any career.

So if you don’t get the results you hoped for this week, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, go through the steps above, and speak to your Careers Adviser. And remember: it may not feel like it right now, but your academic results are just one very small step on a much bigger journey.

Good luck!

Our Careers Aadvisers will be in schools across the Thames Valley on results days. Support is also available from the National Careers Service.