What to do if you didn't get the A-level results you needed

It's the day after the anti-climax. You open the local newspaper to find photos of 'Academically Exceptional' classmates doing that cringeworthy jump for joy that's apparently obligatory for all soon to be undergrads. Meanwhile, you begrudgingly fill in their teeth with a marker pen as the envelope of failure tauntingly becomes the epicentre for the end of the world. And we all thought exams were getting easier, eh?  

While it's only the successes that make the media, it's easy to forget that 18-year olds up and down the country are waving goodbye to the prospect of university after failing to get the A-level results they needed. With the dust still yet to settle, it can be a difficult time for pupils as they contemplate their next step in a life that suddenly seems to revolve around Man vs Food and the bank of mum and dad.

With the likes of Sir Michael Caine, Simon Cowell and even Mark Zuckerberg failing to get any qualifications of note, there's no need to be so pessimistic with an abundance of options available to help get your career path back on track.


Though it's a word that gets thrown around a lot at this time of year, few have little understanding of what 'Clearing' actually is or how it works. If you're heart it still set on going to university though, this could be your solution providing that you're flexible.

Clearing is essentially a system provided by UCAS that aims to fill vacant positions on university courses. The process allows unaccepted candidates to identify courses with open spaces and contact the provider directly. Universities prefer full courses and will often drop their entry requirements in order to accept potential students onto the degree. These spaces normally fill quickly though so it pays to be organised.


If Clearing didn't quite work out but you're still determined to get a degree, you can always resit your A-levels. The majority of universities, although not all, accept resit results and so if you're driven enough, there's no reason why you can't eventually get to where you want to be.

The first step is to talk to your school or college who will advise you on the best thing to do. Some will encourage independent study, whilst others may have the capabilities to allow you to retake the whole year. However, government reforms now mean that you can't resit the exam until the following summer, so be sure to manage your times wisely.


Education doesn't end at red bricks though, and some of the countries biggest organisations offer apprenticeships to help you earn while you learn. You would be trained in a specific vocation and while you may think that these schemes are restrictive on job roles, they cover over 1500 titles from nurses and engineers all the way up to lawyers.

Higher Apprenticeships often require some form of A-level qualifications in a relevant field. If you don't have these though, you can opt to take an Advanced Level Apprenticeship which is the equivalent of an A-level pass and and only requires GCSE's to be accepted.

Take a gap year

While it might not have been on your agenda, travelling for year could possibly be the perspective changing and life enhancing experience you need. Whether you decide to travel across Europe, work abroad or undertake a conservation project, you'll develop a catalogue of transferable skills that will be looked upon highly by employers.

Gap years are also looked upon favourably by universities, and reapplying in a years time with a wealth of experience behind you could just see you get onto your desired course. Alternatively, time spent away within different cultures could help you discover a whole new passion and take you somewhere you never even imagined.  

Enter the job market

Just because you don't have a degree doesn't mean that you can't start climbing the corporate ladder. While the job market is more competitive than ever, companies are always on the look out for young and enthusiastic staff who they can mould to excel in a particular field. Grades aren't everything, and while they certain give you a step up on your competition, employers are increasingly focusing on personality and skills as opposed to academic achievements.

Those of you of an entrepreneurial disposition however, may be more inclined to follow in the footsteps of Lord Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson or Sir Philip Green. None of these business magnates achieved university qualifications but have gone onto attain great corporate success and fortune.

For every problem there's a solution, and so whatever predicament you find yourself in this summer there is an array options available to help you achieve your goals. Whether you're still determined to go to university or you fancy the adventure of a year abroad, a piece a paper won't hold you back providing you have the drive, determination and will to succeed.