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A-Level results: Help at hand for Stortford and Sawbridgeworth students


By Paul Winspear


Hundreds of school leavers in Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth awaiting their A-Level results on Thursday (August 15) can rest assured that they have plenty of options available to them – whether that’s in further education, training, an apprenticeship or employment.

Whatever grades they get, Hertfordshire County Council’s YC Hertfordshire personal advisers will be on hand on Thursday to help them make the choices that are right for them. Whether those results are better or worse than hoped for, there will be a variety of opportunities to think about.

And while almost a quarter of students who want to go to university are likely to miss out on their first choice, it doesn’t mean you won’t get a degree if you still want to, thanks to Clearing, the system which helps match universities with spaces and students without places.

Information, advice and guidance will be available from the YC Hertfordshire Access Point at the Bishop's Stortford Young People's Centre at 14 Northgate End. Call 01992 588220.

You can also search for jobs, apprenticeships and traineeships on the YC Hertfordshire website at www.ychertfordshire.org and register to get job alerts via text or email in your chosen occupational categories.

You’ll receive job details, including how to apply, get access to an online CV builder and further support from the team.

What next after A-Levels? (15234414)
What next after A-Levels? (15234414)

You can call them to discuss vacancies on the site on 01438 844766 and text them on 07860 022898 until 7pm every day. You can also follow them on twitter @hertsjobs16to19.

Cllr Teresa Heritage, Herts County Council's cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “It’s a nervous time for both students and parents, but getting your results marks the start of a new era. Whether your results are better or worse than you expected, it’s not too late to rethink your plans to make the most of the opportunities available to you."

More than three-quarters of students who want to go to university are likely to get into their first choice. But not everyone will get their required grades – and it doesn’t mean you won’t get a degree if you still want to, says Ruth Sparkes, editor of teen magazine Future Mag.

Last year, a record 67,000 students found uni places through Clearing, the system which helps match universities which have spaces on courses with students who don’t have a place.

Two girls celebrating exam results in school corridor. (15232754)
Two girls celebrating exam results in school corridor. (15232754)

This summer, Ucas (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) expects most universities and colleges to be offering Clearing places across the full range of subject choices.

“I completely ballsed up my A-Levels,” remembers ITV Anglia news presenter and journalist Becky Jago. “It was so disheartening.”

She was rejected for her first-choice university, but through Clearing she found a place at the now University of Bedfordshire to study for a degree in media performance – and went on to work at the likes of Capital Radio before becoming a TV journalist.

“Coming through Clearing wasn’t an issue at all. I just focused on what I was doing," said Becky. "I dealt with the rejection and just got down to the course, which I honestly loved.”

What you probably won’t find during Clearing are Oxbridge places or spaces on the most popular courses – medicine or veterinary science, for instance – at elite universities, though some, such as St Georges University London, have held back spaces in medicine for students who do better than expected.

Last year’s most popular choices in Clearing were business studies, nursing, sciences, creative arts, engineering and law. Many joint subjects still have vacancies, though these courses might be more gruelling than single subjects.

And it’s a hectic time – courses are snapped up and students often need to decide swiftly on their futures. Every careers adviser will advise you against making panicked decisions, and some prefer students to defer and reapply the following year.

Some universities advertise course vacancies on their websites from July, when Clearing opens, while others wait until around A-Level results. But you can only enter Clearing once you’ve got your results but don’t have a confirmed place.

And more than ever, students are using Clearing to apply to university directly for the first time, submitting a full Ucas application after they’ve completed exams – numbers of direct applicants rose by 14% last year.

While universities won’t accept you through Clearing until you have results to hand, you can do a lot of legwork beforehand if you think you may have missed your grades – and remember your first-choice university could still accept you on the day even with slightly lower grades.

You could research courses in the same subject at different institutions, or look at what similar subjects are offered by the same university – biomedical science instead of medicine for instance.

Universities advise students to write a list of potential courses, with bullet points and important details. You can even phone some universities in advance and register your interest and details with them, which will save time on results day – you’ll already be on their system.

When you call a university in Clearing, they might offer a course straight away or want to know more – fundamentally “Why this uni? Why this course?”

On the day itself, you can check Ucas Track first thing to see if you’ve been accepted or if you’re in Clearing. If you are, remember it’s fine to feel emotional and that admission staff are friendly and used to calming tearful students. Many people on the end of the phone are student volunteers who’ve gone through the whole process themselves.

Dr Lisette Johnston, head of school at ScreenSpace, part of the MetFilm School in Ealing, said: “All universities will have a minimum grade threshold. But even if your grades aren’t as good as you’d hoped, you can still get a place if you’re able to express why your grades weren’t as you’d expected and your enthusiasm for the subject shines through.”



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