10 Aug 2018

What happens if your teen doesn’t make the grades for university?

What happens if your teen doesn’t make the grade for University?

For students taking A Levels or BTECs this year, waiting for results can be almost as stressful as the assessment period itself. Thankfully the wait is almost over.

This week many will discover whether they’ve achieved the grades they need for the next stage of their careers, including university entrance.

For some university applicants, exam results won’t determine next steps as some Universities may have offered an 'unconditional place' - where you are guaranteed your place no matter your grades.

But for those who need to attain specific targets, the pressure – for them and their families - is palpable.

As a study skills coach, I’ve helped hundreds of students to develop exam revision strategies. But with all the motivation and support in the world, things don’t always go to plan. I encourage teens to aim for the best possible outcome but to consider back-up strategies too.

Top tips to help parents prepare

Here are six tips to help you prepare for Results Day:

1. Don't assume the door is closed

Firstly, if your teen doesn’t make the grade, don’t assume that the door to their chosen undergraduate course has been shut.

If they missed the target by a grade or two, contact the admissions department immediately to ask for advice. Be proactive, polite and positive – if the course isn’t heavily over-subscribed, there’s a possibility that s/he may still be accepted.

Consider applying through 'clearing'

If your teen is still intent on further study, consider applying through ‘clearing.

It’s worth checking out how the system works because you’ll need to act fast. While there may be thousands of places they will get snapped up. From Art History to Zoology, there’s plenty of choice but you may need to look beyond the handful of most popular universities.

Take a gap year

Another option could be to take a gap year, with a view to reapplying to UCAS the following year.

This might involve retakes to improve their grades, perhaps at a sixth-form college or independent study centres.

While many 'traditional' gap years involve travel, we know that's not as possible as it has been in the past due to the pandemic. But, a gap year is also an opportunity to get some really valuable volunteering or work experience on a CV which will set them apart in the competitive jobs market after Uni. Check out the Student Room website for useful ideas and resources.

Uni is not for everyone

While the proportion of school-leavers attending university has increased dramatically in recent years, it’s clearly not the only route to success. If your son/daughter isn’t passionate about studying, check out a broader range of vocational training, apprenticeships and other career options. For ideas and inspiration, see the Not Going to Uni.

Stay positive

Most importantly, remind your teen (and yourself!) that not getting the grades is disappointing but not disastrous. As hard as it may seem, try to stay positive and keep a sense of perspective. Encourage them not to catastrophise: this may be a setback, but it’s not the end of the world.

Focus on the next steps

And finally, there will be opportunity in future for reflection and possibly recriminations. Whatever the reasons for your teen’s academic performance, now is not the time to berate them for not working hard enough or to analyse what went ‘wrong’. Focus instead on helping your teen to think clearly about next steps and to make purposeful decisions.

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