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Advising Students with Poor A Level Results

Advising Students with Poor A Level Results

Advising Students with Poor A Level Results

A Levels are the most common way to get into university but there are other options that your students can take if they didn’t make the grade. A teacher’s advice is invaluable at this confusing time, so we’ve put together a list of alternative options for students who have been left in the dark after results day.

Considering all options

As a careers adviser your role is to encourage your students to look at alternative ways to reach their goal of higher education.

UCAS research has shown that in 2015 a record number of students were accepted into university: a total of 532,300 people, which is a 3.1% increase on the previous year. The growing number of students reaching higher education is a positive sign that universities are now changing the way that they look at applications.

In the absence of A Levels, some universities now accept work and life experience as an alternative to traditional education, with more and more accepting students without formal educational backgrounds. So what are the alternatives?


Clearing is a great option for students who received lower grades than they were expecting but still want to start university in September. If one of your students is going through Clearing, we’ve put together these easy-to-follow steps to help you guide them through the process.


Clearing is a stressful time and students may feel rushed into making a decision that isn’t right for them. If students are worried they won’t get the A Level results they need, encourage them to make a shortlist of potential backup universities and degrees, and thoroughly research each one during the run up to results day.

Be Prepared

Students will need the following things when speaking to universities on results day; their UCAS Clearing number, the course code and name of the degree they are enquiring about and their personal statement. Take time to go over their personal statement with them and ensure they are prepared to talk about the course they are applying for.

Phoning Universities

Discuss the possibility of difficult questions that may come up with your student before they make the call. Are they prepared to answer questions designed to test their suitability for the course? Do they have an answer as to why they didn’t get the grades they needed? Students can never be too prepared, so talk about every possibility with them before they call their chosen universities.

Confirming a Place

If your student has received offers through Clearing, discuss with them the pros and cons of each one to ensure they make the right decision and aren’t simply rushing into it.

Access to Higher Education

The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification that will advance students who did not get the necessary grades in their A Levels. It is a one-year intensive programme, which develops the student’s subject knowledge whilst simultaneously preparing them for studying at a degree level. It can also be taken part-time over two or more years through distance learning or evening sessions, perfect for students who would like to get hands-on work experience after leaving college or sixth form.

Access to HE courses are delivered by colleges in England and Wales and are offered in a range of different subjects from art and design to law and nursing. There are over 1,100 courses available, all of which are widely recognised by UK universities, with around 20,000 Access to HE students applying for a degree course each year.

Most universities make offers to Access to HE students as long as they obtain certain grades. If the Access to HE Diploma isn’t listed on the entry requirement, students will need to call the university to seek their advice and discuss their qualifications.

Gap Year

As a careers adviser it may seem unnatural to encourage your students to take a year out of education, but it may be the perfect option for those who are unsure of the next steps they want to take.

A year out gives your students a chance to develop new skills and get some invaluable life experience to help enhance their CV or personal statement.

Whether they choose to volunteer at a local charity, get work experience in their field of study or work for a year to get to grips with their finances, it will all help to set them apart when they do decide they are ready for higher education.

For those who have missed out on the grades they wanted, having a teacher they can trust and talk to is crucial, not only on results day but in the days and weeks following it. Encourage your students to talk about their options with you and assure them that there are many possible future paths available.

Whether they decide to carry on with education this year or take a year or two out, the support and guidance you give them will ensure they leave sixth form with the confidence that they can reach their goals, A Levels or no A Levels.

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