Recent issues with A Level results have caused genuine emotional difficulties, for many students, right across the UK. If your grades or university place have been affected, it is understandable that you may feel angry, upset, despondent, numb, powerless or a whole mix of different emotions. You may even have found your mood going up and down in ways that feel unpredictable.
In highly unusual and uncertain times, it is perfectly normal to experience more extreme emotional reactions. Sometimes it may even feel as though you don’t know how to react or be – this isn’t surprising. As no one has ever experienced this before, how would you know what an appropriate reaction is? What has happened to you may also feel unfair or unjust and this can be difficult to accept and let go of.
However, it is important to remember that just because you feel like this now, that doesn’t mean you will feel this way forever. Nor does it mean that you can’t have a great time at university or that you won’t go on to have a fulfilling and happy life. This is a difficult and confusing time but it will pass.
In these circumstances, different decisions will be right for different people. Try not to get distracted by what other people are doing or saying and focus on what you want and need and on finding the best route forward for you. You may find the following tips helpful in finding your way forward.
1. Be kind to yourself
Experiencing emotional ups and downs can be exhausting. Allow yourself to feel however you need to feel and plan to nurse yourself back to recovery. You probably have lots of thinking and planning to do but alongside this, try to get some rest and give yourself some treats as a pick-you-up (you deserve them).
You may benefit from paying attention to your sleep, eating healthily and spending time with friends (socially distanced where appropriate). It may also help to find ways to switch off for a while and have fun if you can. It’s possible that after enjoying yourself, you are more able to look at the situation with a fresh perspective and are better able to reach decisions.
2. Work with reality
Of course, we would all like to go back and undo the last few months, so that the pandemic didn’t appear and the problems with grades never happened. But however difficult the current situation is, we can’t wish it away.Try not to get locked in cycles of thinking ‘if only’ and instead turn your attention to how you can make the best of things as they are now. This doesn’t mean you have to stop caring about what has happened, but it does make sense to limit the effect it can have on your life. While you consider what you want to do next, try to forget (just for a moment) what you were hoping to do and instead review the options available to you now. This will allow you to make a better decision about what you can do in these circumstances.
3. Identify what you really want
If you haven’t landed the place you wanted, at your chosen university, try to take a step back and 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? Be honest with yourself – if you wanted this place because of what other people thought or wanted for you, then this might offer you a chance to rethink and choose something you want to do.
On the other hand, if you wanted that place for intrinsically motivated reasons – because you would have found the course exciting, fulfilling or intriguing – then 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.
4. Make positive decisions
It can be difficult to let go of our expectations and hopes 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 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.
5. Do some research
The change in grades means you have some time to make your decisions. Speak to any university you’re considering, talk to the programme team and have a look on some student forums for more information. You may also find it helpful to speak to the UCAS Clearing hotline for advice.
The UCAS Clearing Hotline can answer any questions you might have about the Clearing process.
6. 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 choice. Make whatever decision is right for you and then think about how to make that decision work.