For A Level students, there is only one more milestone between school and university – and that is results day. A Level results are released on the third Thursday in August, and GCSE results released the following week. The third Thursday in August is also the day that university places are confirmed, and any unfilled university places offered up in a process called ‘Clearing’.
When university offers are made in the spring, candidates are only able to accept two places. The first is the place of their choice and the second is often their insurance, in that it is a university and course with lower entry requirements than their first choice.
In some ways, the insurance choice is already Plan B. The university is often lower in the ‘league tables’ and the course not so prestigious and sought after. But what if the A Level exams didn’t go according to plan?
My advice to students is to look at an alternative early. If you’ve struggled to achieve only mediocre predictions for science subjects at A Level, maybe a scientific degree isn’t actually for you. Do you have a hobby that you really enjoy? Maybe it’s a good time to explore an alternative career choice – just in case.
Having a Plan B before results day can take the stress out of a disappointment and give focus to a situation that is already emotional. The process of clearing has irrational teenagers and frantic parents at every turn. If you need to talk to a university, have clear objectives and try and remain level-headed. It’s worth considering the type of course you would be willing to accept, and the place in which you wish to study, at a time when you are still hopeful that your first choice will come through. It removes the urgency from the situation. It means that on results day, although one door may be firmly shut, another is already open.
It’s not a bad life lesson either. Having a Plan B and not actually needing to use it is better than scrabbling around to find options at the last minute – particularly when rational thought has flown out of the window. I encourage all of my students to think about Plan B – in the hope that they never have to activate it.