How to Support a Teenager With Unexpected A-Level Results

How to Support a Teenager With Unexpected A-Level Results

As a parent or carer, it’s crucial to provide the right support and guidance if your teenager is disappointed in their A-Level results. It’s helpful to reassure them emotionally, but also to help them understand their options and potential next steps. For instance, being aware of the university clearing process, which is an alternative way for students to find a place at university.

In this guide, we’ll help you understand how to reassure your child and navigate the university clearing process together. By staying informed and proactive, you can turn this situation into an opportunity for growth and exploration.

Reassure your child

The first and most important thing to do if your child is disappointed with their exam results is to help them feel supported and reassured. By being supportive from the outset, they will feel able to come to you for advice and guidance.

Here are some ways you can help reassure your child:

  1. Acknowledge their feelings: if your child is feeling disappointed with their A-Level results, help to create a safe space for them to express their emotions. Understand that they may be feeling frustrated, upset or anxious. Listen to them without judgement and offer reassurance that you're there to support them.
  2. Encourage open communication: encourage your child to share their concerns and fears openly. Let them know that their feelings are valid and that you are here for them to discuss their options and provide guidance. This open dialogue will help them feel supported and less alone in their journey.
  3. Normalise setbacks: share stories of successful individuals who faced setbacks before achieving their goals. Highlight how setbacks can build resilience and character, and how they can ultimately lead to new and unexpected opportunities.

Understand your child’s options

1. University clearing

University clearing is a process that allows students who did not meet their university course’s entry requirements find a place on an alternative course. This may be at a different university to their original choice.

This provides students who want to attend university with an opportunity to pursue their higher education dreams, even if they encounter unexpected A-Level results.

Making your child aware of university clearing can help reassure them that they still have options, and can still go to university. It's important for both you and your child to understand how clearing works and the opportunities it presents.

Here’s what you should know:

  • Clearing opens on 5 July 2023 and ends on 17 October 2023.
  • Clearing is open to students who did not meet the criteria for their conditional offers, have not applied to any universities through UCAS, or declined their previous offers.
  • Students can check vacancies and apply through clearing via UCAS Extra.

When the clearing process begins, universities publish a list of undergraduate courses with available vacancies. This list is typically accessible on both university websites and the official UCAS website.

For tips on contacting universities, read our Guide to University Clearing: 2023

2. Foundation courses

Foundation courses are designed to bridge the gap between A-Levels and undergraduate studies. They are especially helpful for students who did not achieve the necessary grades for their desired course.

Foundation programmes provide additional academic support and help students develop the skills and knowledge required for their chosen field of study, covering both subject-specific and core academic skills.

Encourage your child to consider foundation courses that align with their interests and desired degree programmes. Research universities and colleges that offer foundation courses, and guide your child in exploring the entry requirements, course structure, and potential progression options.

At Heriot-Watt, we offer a range of foundation courses through our Global College, which gives students the opportunity to study a foundation programme in:

3. Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships offer a possible alternative to university education. They provide practical training and work experience while earning a salary. Your child might be interested in pursuing this route if they decide that university is not for them. Apprenticeships can lead to valuable qualifications and open doors to long-term career opportunities. Though, it is worth making sure that they don’t defer from their original decision to go to university without thinking it through.

Support your child in researching and applying for apprenticeships through reputable platforms, such as government apprenticeship websites or industry-specific resources. They can also seek guidance from their school's career counsellors or apprenticeship advisors.

Students can apply for a range of Graduate Apprenticeships at Heriot-Watt. These courses are designed to help students study towards an honours degree while earning a full-time salary, and can be a great way to boost career options. 

4. Retake A-Levels

If your child is determined to improve their A-Level grades, they may choose to retake the exams. This option requires careful consideration, as it involves investing additional time and effort. Discuss the implications of retaking exams, including the impact on future university applications and the potential benefits of higher grades.

If retaking A-Levels is their preferred route, support them in creating a study plan, accessing necessary resources, and considering additional support. For example, they might benefit from studying with a private tutor, or taking part in exam preparation programmes. Ensure they have a clear understanding of the exam dates, registration deadlines, and any other requirements for retaking A-Level exams.

Who to speak to on results day

Results day can be a nerve-wracking time for both you and your child. It's essential to know who to reach out to for guidance and support, particularly when it comes to exploring university clearing options.

Here are the key individuals and resources you should consider contacting.

1. Teachers and school advisors

Your child's teachers and school advisors are valuable sources of information and guidance on results day. They can provide insights into the university clearing process and offer advice specific to your child's situation.

Encourage your child to reach out to their teachers for support and to discuss their clearing options. Teachers and advisors can help them understand their results, explore alternative courses, and provide information about universities participating in clearing.

2. UCAS helpline

The UCAS helpline is an excellent resource to turn to for clearing-related inquiries. They have dedicated advisors who can answer questions and provide guidance on the clearing process. The UCAS helpline can assist in understanding the available options, explain the steps involved in clearing, and address any concerns you or your child may have about their results and what to do next.

Encourage your child to make use of this helpline to gain a better understanding of clearing and make informed decisions.

3. University clearing hotlines

On results day, universities often provide dedicated clearing hotlines to assist students with inquiries. These hotlines connect you directly with admissions officers or clearing advisors who can discuss course vacancies, entry requirements, and the application process.

Encourage your child to reach out to universities they are interested in to gather information about available clearing spaces and discuss their eligibility for specific courses. Having conversations with university representatives can provide valuable insights and help your child make well-informed decisions about their future.

4. Online resources and websites

Make sure to take advantage of the wealth of online resources available regarding university clearing. The UCAS website offers comprehensive information about clearing, including vacancy lists, step-by-step guides, and FAQs – these resources will help equip you with the information you need to support your child.

University websites also provide clearing information specific to their institution, including available courses and entry requirements. Encourage your child to explore these resources together, taking notes and bookmarking useful pages to refer back to. For example, our guide for A-Level students on dealing with unexpected results.

Clearing at Heriot-Watt

Learn more about securing a place at Heriot-Watt University through clearing. Explore our undergraduate courses or visit our clearing page to learn more about a future with Heriot-Watt. To speak to a member of our friendly admission team, get in touch.