Sugarscape's bumper guide to surviving life after Results Day

Here are your options if things don't go according to plan

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It's always an incredibly stressful time when the countdown to A-level results day starts to be measured in days rather than weeks, but, if you get your head in the right space, you'll see that August 18th doesn't have to be the apocalypse of your Summer.

Because it can be quite tough getting your head around all the UCAS rules about clearing, adjustment, and all the rest of it, we've decided to create a bumper guide for any anxious students out there awaiting results.

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Oh, and because post-results day plans don't HAVE to involve University, we've also added information about apprenticements and traineeships, to make sure you keep your options open about your future plans.

1. University

Hopefully you'll get the A-Level grades you need, but if you only just miss out, don't worry, there are PLENTY of options to consider.

  • You might get a place on either your firm or insurance choice, depending how well your exams go.
  • You might be offered an alternative by the university/college – a 'changed course offer' (which you'll need to accept or decline).
  • You might not get a place, but you can search through the Clearing service to see what courses still have vacancies.
  • If you had a conditional firm offer you met and exceeded, you might be curious about courses with higher entry requirements. If so, you can see what's available in the UCAS Adjustment service.

Adjustment is a chance for you to reconsider where and what to study. If you've had a firm conditional choice accepted – and therefore made into an unconditional firm choice – you could potentially swap your place for one on another course you prefer.

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Adjustment is available from A-level results day until 31 August. It's entirely optional, and a lot of competitive courses will be full – but other applicants might have missed their conditions or swapped a course too, so it could be worth seeing what's available.



You can apply for other courses through UCAS Clearing if you don't get a place on your chosen university course.

You may still get a place on one of your chosen courses if you miss your grades by a narrow margin.

Who can use Clearing?

You can use Clearing if:

  • you've completed a UCAS application
  • you don't get any offers
  • your offers aren't confirmed
  • you've turned down all the offers you received

Find a course through Clearing:

Clearing runs from July to September each year. You can find out which courses have vacancies through UCAS from mid-August to late September. Not all universities or courses have vacancies, and some may be filled quickly.

You can contact universities and colleges about getting a place once you've got your exam results.

Accepting an offer:

You can only accept 1 offer. Once your place is confirmed, you have to accept it and can't continue to look for another place.

UCAS helpline

As the nation's GCSE and A Level students begin the anxious wait for their results, the Exam Results Helpline is starting the preparations to help and advise thousands of parents and young people.

Following the success of last year when the Exam Results Helpline supported more than 9,500 people; the Department for Education has put the funding in place again and the helpline will be hosted at UCAS for the 25th consecutive year.

Telephone: 0808 100 8000

Calls are free from landlines and select mobile networks

The Exam Results Helpline offers free, expert and independent information and advice to students who receive higher or lower exam results than expected and need to explore alternative options for their futures. 

Supporting existing education and careers advice channels, the helpline opens once a year across the A-level, GCSE, Scottish Standard, Higher, Advanced Higher and Intermediate exam results period - offering a lifeline to students who don't get the grades they expect and want to continue into further/higher education or pursue different routes such as re-training, careers, finding employment or taking gap years. 

Each helpline adviser is fully trained with at least five years' experience working in a careers based role and a relevant qualification. 

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The only careers helpline with access to specific Confirmation and Clearing data via UCAS, information and advice offered is timely and accurate, including:

•             Higher and further education choices

•             Confirmation, Clearing and Adjustment

•             Skills, qualifications and subject choices

•             Vocational learning routes

•             Re-sits and re-marks

•             Gap years

•             Careers and employment

The helpline is delivered by Skills Development Scotland from 9 – 17 August for students in Scotland receiving their Higher, Standard, Advanced Higher and Intermediate results and delivered by UCAS on behalf of the Department for Education from 18 – 31 August for students in the rest of the UK receiving their A level and GCSE exam results.

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2. Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships combine a paid job with training, giving you hands on experience, a salary and the opportunity to gain transferable skills and qualifications while you work - even a degree. All of this with some high quality, prestigious companies in loads of different industries.

As an apprentice you'll:

Apprenticeships take 1 to 6 years to complete depending on their level.


Levels of apprenticeship:

Apprenticeships have equivalent educational levels.



Equivalent educational level


5 GCSE passes at grades A* to C


2 A level passes


4 and 5

Foundation degree and above


6 and 7

Bachelor's or master's degree

Who can apply?

You can apply for an apprenticeship while you're still at school. To start one, you'll need to be:

  • 16 or over
  • living in England
  • not in full-time education

How to apply:

There are 3 steps to applying for an apprenticeship.

  1. Search for an apprenticeship.
  2. Sign in or create an account.
  3. Complete and submit your application.

3. Traineeships

What is a traineeship?

A traineeship is a course with work experience that gets you ready for work or an apprenticeship. It can last up to 6 months.

You can expect three things from a traineeship:

  • high quality work placements – where you can learn what's expected of you in the workplace, and develop links with local employers
  • study in English and maths (if appropriate) – employers value these essential skills very highly.
  • work preparation training - in other relevant areas to help you get ready for work, such as job search and interview skills, time-keeping and team working

At the end of your traineeship, if there is a job or apprenticeship vacancy with the work placement host, you should receive an interview. If there isn't a job or apprenticeship opportunity at that time, you will receive an exit interview with the employer who provided the work placement. In this interview you can discuss what you've learned, and how it might help you with things like updating your CV and getting into a job or an apprenticeship.

Whether you go for a traineeship or apprenticeship will depend on your age and qualifications.

Which qualifications will you get?

All traineeships are the same level. You'll get a work experience placement and help with English and Maths (if you need it).

Who can take a traineeship?

You must be:

  • 16-24yrs and qualified below level 3.
  • 16-25yrs with Learning Difficulty Assessments or Education, Health and Care Plans (a Supported Internship is also available).

What sort of experience will you need?

You must be:

  • out of work with little work experience
  • leaving school/college
  • finding it hard to get an apprenticeship
  • not sure you have the skills for an apprenticeship

How long does it last?

Six weeks to six months.

You need to have a reasonable chance of being ready for employment or an apprenticeship within six months of engaging in a traineeship.

How much will you earn?

Traineeships are unpaid but often pay travel and/or meal costs, although this is not a requirement. The 16-19 Bursary Fund may help – it depends on your circumstances whether you qualify for it or not.

How much will it cost?

Nothing - there aren't any fees.

Find out more - what types of traineeship are on offer? finding out more?

There are a wide range of industries that offer traineeship opportunities from childcare to media and financial service to retail.  You can find out what is on offer in your local area at

The main thing to remember is that there are plenty of options to consider, and that no matter what happens when you log into UCAS in the morning, there's a route out there for you.


Your thoughts on this? Let us know with a tweet @sugarscape or drop us a comment in the box below.


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