I didn’t get the results I needed

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

Results day can be difficult if you didn’t get the results you wanted or needed. While you may be finding things difficult right now, it doesn’t mean that you’ll feel this way forever.

With the right steps you can still create a happy and fulfilling life for yourself – which, after all, is the point of education. While the next stage in the journey may be different from what you expected, that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun, fulfilling and right for you.

You may find the ideas below help you to begin moving on and starting to create that life.

Accept how you feel

Our first reaction to any setback is usually emotional. It is normal to feel upset, angry, disappointed, overwhelmed, numb or a combination of many emotions.

Try not to place unhelpful expectations on yourself – like the idea that you should be able to manage this without getting upset. Emotions are what make us human. Give yourself time to recognise and accept your feelings.


It can help to pay attention to how you are doing physically and emotionally and to take some steps to help you process the feelings and calm down.

Our 7/11 breathing exercise may help you to reduce your emotions and think a little more clearly.

Identify what you really want

If you haven’t landed the place you wanted, at your chosen university, try to take a step back. Think about why you wanted to go to that institution and study that course. What was it about the place and programme that attracted you? This might offer you a chance to rethink and choose something you want to do even more.

On the other hand, you may really have wanted that place for intrinsically motivated reasons – because you would have found the course exciting, fulfilling or intriguing.

If so, think about what it was about that particular course that caused these feelings. Then you can see if there are other courses available that meet these same motivations, or consider whether it is worth waiting a year to take up this opportunity.

Make positive decisions

It can be difficult to let go of our expectations, and in these circumstances, other options can feel like compromises. This is normal. But it will help you, as you move forward, if you can make positive decisions, choosing things that you actually want and can feel positive about and focus on the advantages they bring you.

Remember, even if you’d had your first choice, life at university would not have been perfect. Perfect does not exist in the real world and every student has ups and downs. Try to focus on the positives ahead of you and commit to making whatever decision you make work.

Do some research

The change in grades means you have some time to make your decisions.

Doing research might include:

  • Speaking to any university you’re considering
  • talking to the programme team
  • have a look on student forums like The Student Room.

You may also find it helpful to speak to the UCAS Clearing hotline for advice.

Recognise your freedom

Remember that you have freedom to make a choice that is right for you.

You do not have to decide to go to university this year or to take a place you don’t really want. You can decide to take a year out and reapply for next year. Or you can choose a course now that excites you and that you will find stretching and fulfilling.

You have a choice. Make whatever decision is right for you and then think about how to make that decision work.