What to do if your child's A-level exam results are too low

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If results day doesn’t go as planned for your child, don’t panic: there are plenty of great options available to them. Read this first so you’re prepared for any eventuality.

Clearing

If your child’s plan was to go to university and they are still set on this, then call the exam results helpline.

Advisors are available throughout the exam results period to discuss what students can do with lower grades than expected. It’ll be really busy on A-level results day, so your child should give them a call the day before, just to get the potential options figured out.

Clearing can be a stressful process: the best way for students to deal with it is to be very focused about the course they want to study, and ensure they select the best course available in that subject area.

Sponsored Degrees

If a traditional university route isn’t an option with their results, your child might be able to try another way in: sponsored degrees. Some big companies now pay for successful applicants with A-level qualifications to study a full degree at university, while gaining work experience and training in their offices. The scheme then leads to a job with the company: a way of avoiding tuition fees and bagging a job! 

Higher Apprenticeships

If your child’s grades aren’t what they expected, they may still be perfect for an Intermediate Apprenticeship or a Higher Apprenticeship.

Modern apprenticeships are offered by some of the biggest graduate employers in the UK, such as PwC, Deloitte, National Grid and Visa Europe. They provide structured training and pay competitive salaries. You really don’t need a degree to pursue a career as an engineer, accountant, IT specialist or even a lawyer nowadays.

Higher Apprenticeships require applicants to have A-levels, sometimes in relevant subjects to the type of career.  Numerical subject qualifications will be good for an accountancy apprenticeship, for example.

Your child could also apply for a job straight away but would be less likely to gain as much formal structured training. On completing a Higher Apprenticeship, which can last up to five years, they will be at the same level as any graduate, with even more on-the-job experience. Some even result in a permanent job at the company: it paves a route for serious progression within their chosen sector.

Gap year

There’s no rule that says young people need to make career and study decisions straight after their A-levels. If the results are a bit of a surprise, a gap year could give them the time to reflect properly on their options.

The main thing is to make sure it counts: most young people on a gap year work for a bit – to gain valuable experience and make some cash - and then go travelling.

Many of the UK’s large companies, such as KPMG, Bank of England and IBM, have gap year programmes, which offer a full year of work experience.

Alternatively, and budget-allowing, your child might want to volunteer in the UK or abroad, or use their time off to get plenty of work experience at different places. This might help them figure out which careers they are interested in.

The key thing is to make sure it will help your child move onto the next stage, whatever that might be: universities and employers might not be able to tell much about your child’s skills based on a gap year spent entirely travelling.

Obviously, all these options depend on each individual family’s situation: some parents might need/want to charge rent if their child is staying in the family home (they’re 18 now after all!) which will mean paid work is their best option, some might not be comfortable with their child going travelling: whatever works for you and your child.

Read more:

Converting A-level results into UCAS points

How to go through clearing