So your child is getting ready to fly the nest…
Thursday, August 18th is a crucial morning. This is my first year for many years that we won’t be nervously awaiting important exam results. It was a steep learning curve during the previous 4 years, and I apologise for how little I knew and help I was to my eldest retrospectively. In this spirit, for any first-timers out there, here is my advice on how to prepare for and deal with results day for your child, let’s call her Edwina who wants to study at, say Readingham University.
Before results day…
Have that chat with your child about the various options following on from the results. Does Edwina still want to go to Readingham University if all goes well or has she had second thoughts since she made her choice – which could have been all the way back in February? Does she even still want to go to university? There are other options here, too – take the calm after the exam-storm to have these discussions. If she still does, what is Plan B if she misses her offer grades? (see below for various options) Having answers for these questions will mean you can be the calm and collected one if things don’t go so well. In my experience I have come across a surprising number of parents who are completely shocked and unprepared for bad news on results day, which is not helpful for some of the decisions which may have to be made quickly in the subsequent days.
Semper paratus – always prepared is my motto. You can go with the flow in yoga and your chill-out playlist, but not with Edwina’s A-levels.
- Set up a folder of useful information, hardcopy or on your laptop, which ever works best for you. As an old-schooler, I liked to be able to flick pages. Page 1 in the folder should be her ucas track details and the Admissions details of her course at Readingham University (Admissions Tutor’s name and phone number, course details)
- If Edwina felt she may have surpassed herself in her exams have a page 2 for details of courses with higher offers – she may be able to look into Adjustment on the ucas website.
- The following pages should contain basic course information of any other potential university courses, plus, crucially the contact details for their admissions teams.
- Get the Telegraph Clearing app now. This clever little app lists university places as they become available. Some are online now, so if Edwina knows she had a nightmare with that Maths C4 paper – start looking! The majority will be listed at midnight on results day.. Clearing will feature a lot of places from universities further down the league table, but even top universities can get their numbers wrong sometimes so it’s worth having a good look to see what’s out there. Roughly 10,000 students get their uni places through clearing and they’re not all in Parapsychological Studies.
Before results day from July onwards
Keep an eye on Clearing to see if there is any overlap between available places and the Edwina folder. If not, then Plan B may come into play – lots to discuss tomorrow.
Results Day – Crunch time
- Officially ucas track goes live between 6 – 8am. In reality timing varies hugely which can be rough on kids who hear from their mates on social media about their successes while they themselves are still waiting for news. There are different sources of information at play:
- The school will communicate Edwina’s exam results to her either by handing them to her in person, or by sending an email – this will have been agreed beforehand.
- Any time between 6 -8am – depending on the powers behind website stability – ucas track may advise Edwina that her university place has been confirmed or declined. This could mean Edwina got the grades required, or it could mean the university was lenient and accepted a lower grade – you still need to check her grades with the school.
- If it accepted your child with a higher grade, you may want to go back to your folder and see if there are any ‘better’ options available in ucas ‘Adjustment’ – very exciting stuff.
Don’t do anything until you have full information: the grades and the update on the ucas website. I have seen people cry in school car parks because they missed their offer grades of ABB to get BBB – and then dance with joy at home when they spotted the welcome email from their firm university choice. (You see why you need to stay calm around your child here? It’s one heck of a day.)
You got the grades, you got the uni – fantastic – it’s definitely Prosecco time!
Make sure Edwina confirms her offer on ucas. Do what you need to accept and work out quickly what is required to sort out accommodation on the university website. Don’t hang around with accommodation, those rooms will go quickly. Hopefully Edwina will have registered earlier on to pick a couple of preferred halls, so that this can now be finalised. Note that even though Edwina will be able to see Clearing on her ucas Track, she is not eligible for it as long as she has an offer from one of her original university choices. Edwina would have to ask to be released from her firm choice offer if she wanted to apply for a Clearing place – frankly, it’s an unlikely scenario and I would make damn sure she has all her ducks lined up before she presses this button!
Edwina did better than expected – Hurrah!
Not only will her offer have come through, but she can also have a look at Adjustment to see if there are any university places/courses for higher offers out there she could apply for. She will not lose her original offer place before she releases it, if she so wishes. Again, ducks in line first – press button later.
Either way, make sure your child goes to get their grades from school – ucas does not provide them, it only deals with the university side of things.
Edwina didn’t get the grades needed for her offer – what is Plan B?
First reaction – don’t panic!
The very first step is to talk to your school’s exams office to analyse Edwina’ results. When schools say it is a good idea not to be on holiday during results day, this is what they mean. If she missed the required grade by a hairline you may consider a priority remark if you can afford it (they can cost up to £45 but this will be refunded if the grade goes up – however, it can also go down!). There are debates about remarks but if it’s a matter of getting that dream university place then I believe they are wholly justified, especially since there have been reports about ‘guestimated’ marking more here.
This outcome would also warrant a call to the Admissions Tutor at Readingham Uni, as universities don’t get to see UMS marks, they only get full grades. So Edwina can explain that her grade may come through after a priority remark. Go and talk to our child’s Head of Sixth Form, who should have in-depth knowledge of university admissions and may be able to give further advice. I would say that speed is of the essence here. Ideally you want to speak to the university admissions tutor that very morning. And when I say ‘you’ I actually mean: your child. Helicopter parenting is very unpopular with universities, plus Edwina is an adult now striving for higher education and she needs to sort this out herself.
Never considered the Gap Yah? Now is the time to think again..
Edwina is adamant she only wants to go to Readingham University and has no insurance place, so if she misses doesn’t meet her offer then she will take a gap year, retake her exams and reapply. I have a feeling if this happens on the day she may want to have a look at Clearing (and my trusted folder) – and we will try and work out what it is that she wants to do and what attracted her to the course in the first place. If studying Viking and Norse studies in a lovely campus university is still the main aim then perhaps a gap year travelling and, of equal importance, working to earn the money for that trip, is a great idea. It doesn’t even have to be the infamous Gap Yah in Peru, although my eldest reports that lots of graduates she knows say they wish they had travelled before going to university. Why not read up on gap year opportunities such as this Guide from the Sunday Times.
Clearing is Plan B for thousands of students each year, look into it. On a practical note: Your child needs calm surroundings again at this point in time. If Edwina sees course vacancies that appeal to her then she should prepare herself for a phone call to the admissions tutors – this could be a very quick phone call to chat through grades, or it could be a mini interview. Clearing does go on for several days, but a lot of the action takes place in the first two – if you’re prepared and your child has realised that her exams didn’t go to plan, she might be able to spot that alternative course at midnight on Clearing, ring the university at 8.30 and have her new place sorted out by 10am on results day. She can only put the university choice on ucas from 5pm onwards on results day, coinciding with a much more civilised time for Prosecco!
Phew, what a day! I hope I have been able to give you a bit of an idea of what August 18th can be all about for you and Edwina. I don’t claim to cover all aspects of university applications by any means, but I wrote what I wish I had known when my first daughter went through this experience and I could have been a little more helpful and a little less Harriett Hindsight…
There is also a lot of really helpful information out there:
Alternatives to university
As I haven’t got direct experience of these I can’t really comment on them but I am aware that there are many more attractive apprenticeships out there these days, so why not investigate:
Good luck to you all and remember: Prosecco ! xxxx