Getting prepared for GCSE and A-level results days


If your teen has just finished their last year in school or college, they might be starting to think about that day in August when they will receive their results. This year they will be Thursday the 18th of August 2022 for A-levels and most other level 3 qualifications, and Thursday the 25th of August for GCSEs and other level 2 qualifications.

I have attended many results days over the years, and it’s the one day a year when I really hope no one needs me. That everyone gets the results they were hoping for, or at least the minimum they need to go on to whatever they are planning to do. The nicest bits are students coming up to me going “Miss I got the grades!”

However, I always take a box of tissues with me too. Sometimes for happy tears, but unfortunately not always. When the results aren’t what they hoped for, it can be a real shock for your teen. Sometimes things just go wrong, or maybe they were a little in denial in the run-up to exams. Whatever the reason, there will be things that can be done even when the results aren’t what you and they hoped for.

So here are some tips to help you be prepared for whatever their results are

Have contact details ready

Make sure your teen has the details for all the colleges, universities or employers that they have offers with. Put them all in a file on their phone or a piece of paper so they don’t have to hunt for them when they feel under pressure.

Make sure they have their UCAS login details to hand so they can check on their offers. Even if they don’t meet the grades, if they are close, some universities may still confirm the place, so it is worth checking.

Similar with colleges, if they have not quite got the grades required but are very close, they should get in touch with the college to discuss options. They may still be allowed on their chosen courses or will be offered alternative options. Even if they definitely don’t have the grades for their chosen subjects, the college might be able to offer them an alternative course that could work as a stepping stone to what they really want.

Check what happens on the day and what support will be available

Find out at what times your teen can pick up their results from school or college, or if and when they will be published online. If you need the results to be posted to you, find out how this will be organised beforehand. And if you would like someone else to pick them up, check what the school will need. They can’t just hand them over on the day and may need some confirmations signed in advance.

Particularly if you think your teen might need a bit of support on the day, check what the school or college is offering. Will their tutor be there? Do they have their careers adviser available? Or does the local council offer a helpline for students? Check the details for the UCAS helpline if they are planning to go to university next.

If possible, don’t go on holiday at this time, particularly if your teen needs to be available for enrolment at their chosen college (many also run sports teams trials during the enrolment week). It can make it harder to get the results and deal with any changes. And it won’t help make your holiday relaxing…

If it is an option, it might be worth asking your teen if they would like you to take the day off work to be on hand to support them if needed or take them out for a treat afterward.

Look at backup options together.

Consider backups ahead of time

Some teens are reluctant to look at possible backup plans ahead of time, but it is usually a much better option than trying to make a decision in a rush. Particularly when they are likely to feel upset that plan A didn’t work out. This is less of a concern if they are predated 8s and 9s and need “only” 5s as a minimum for their chosen courses. But if their predicted grades are only just meeting the requirements and they are worried they may not get the exam results needed, then it is definitely a good idea.

Encourage them to spend some time looking at alternative college options that they could study with lower grades. If there is a chance they may not get grades 4s, check that at least one of the colleges they hold an offer with, offers level 2 courses, so they improve their grades before moving on to higher courses.

If they are planning to go to university, and think they may need an alternative course, it is worth looking at clearing options way before results day. Through clearing, they can find out which universities and courses still have places, and it can be a great way to find a course they’ll love. If they wait till results day, the risk is that students panic slightly as there is a rush for the places, and “take the first offer they can find”. Where to study next is a big decision, particularly if it involves moving to a different city. So doing some research into possible universities and courses that still have availability can help your teen to make sure they find a course that is right for them, rather than just the first one that will have them. There are often some great options available and looking at courses closely related to their first choice rather than maybe a more obvious course title can bring out some nice options. According to UCAS, 75% of students apply to 25% of the courses, so there are great options with less competition if they widen their net. Then they can contact these universities on results day with more confidence, knowing it might be plan B, but would still be a good fit.

Consider a gap year

If their university or apprenticeship plans are in tatters after results day, they have not found a suitable option through clearing or they want to try and reapply next year, then a gap year can be a great option. They can use this to do more research, consider retaking exams, do relevant work experience to increase their chances for an apprenticeship or degree, or do any of the other things they might have always wanted to do, like volunteering or travel. As long as they don’t just sit on the sofa for the whole year, gap years are generally really well-liked by employers and universities, and they can offer a way to recover and reassess after the pressures of college.

Hopefully, they won’t need it, but…

As I said, on results I really hope no one needs me. And it’s the same with preparing the backup plans. This might make your teen a bit reluctant to do the research; because it’s not what they ideally want and they are hoping they will not need it anyway. But believe me, it is sooo much easier to deal with things when they don’t get the results they hoped if they have had a look before. Rather than trying to make a rushed decision while feeling gutted, they didn’t do as well as they hoped.

So sit down with them before mid-August, and explore the backups (and I keep everything crossed that they won’t be needed).

And if you would like some more tips and inspiration, come and join my free group for parents, or find out about the individual careers guidance sessions I offer here.

Hi, I’m Theresa!

I’m here to help you and your teen find their Cheerful Career!

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