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*** *** THE DAILY TELEGRAPH THURSDAY, AUGUST 20, 2009 *** *** A-LEVELS & BEYOND Facing your future J udgment day is here at last, which means two years of hard work are reduced to one small envelope and a few vital letters of the alphabet. But while the contents of that envelope will determine what options are now available to you, they are not an irrevocable sentence. Whether your results leave you rushing to toast your success or desperate to drown your sorrows, you still have a range of choices. Here, we examine the different scenarios and action you may want to take in each case. I IN ASSOCIATION WITH HOW TO NAVIGATE THE CLEARING MAZE Make the system work for you: page II WILL A GAP YEAR IMPRESS EMPLOYERS? Make your CV stand out: page VI telegraph.co.uk/educati EDITED BYGRAEME PATON AND FIONADONALD FOR THE LATEST A-LEVEL NEWS, RESULTS AND SCHOOL-BY- SCHOOL PERFORMANCE PARENT TRAP Chances are its not just the school leaver in the family whos happy or sad with their grades. Eileen Tracy suggests ways for parents to deal with success and failure W The big day has arrived, and with it many possible destinies. Matilda Jackson looks at some situations you may be faced with and gives the low-down on your options adviser with the Government careers service Connexions, warns against making any impetuous decisions. Is it right to change institutions within such a short space of time? he says. Remember that you spent a long time making your original choices. grades do not 3 Your meet either of your offers Not getting the grades for either your first-choice or your insurance offer can be a devastating experience. But it does not necessarily mean the end of your academic ambitions. Dont despair, says Delyth Chambers, an admissions consultant who has worked at Manchester and Birmingham universities. As peoples grandmothers say, sometimes things just arent meant to be. Think about your choices. The Ucas system is computer- run, so if you have failed to make the required grades, its website will automatically show that you have been rejected. But people dont work like computers. So telephone the universities that have made you offers and speak to an admissions tutor. Phone them, phone them, says Beverley Woodhams, head of recruitment at the University of Greenwich. If you only missed your offer by a little bit, they may still accept you. Anyone who fails to make the grades for their insurance offer is automatically entered into clearing. But, with 60,000 more people applying to university in the recession this year, clearing is going to be highly competitive. This is particularly true of vocational courses. For example, applications for nursing training were up by 24 per cent on last year, while journalism courses attracted 27.2 per cent more applicants. This means that speed and efficiency will be vital if you want to find a place through clearing (for more information see Easy Guide to Clearing on page II). Be organised, says Chambers. Things happen quickly. Youll find the right place if you have the right grades. But you need to be ready to pick up the phone and start contacting institutions. to satisfy one of your offers 1 You have the grades you need than you expected 2 You have higher grades For the first time, candidates with higher-than-expected grades can officially shop around for something better. Ucas has introduced Adjustment, a period of five days (including weekends) from the day your first-choice university confirms its offer. During this time, you can try to upgrade to another course or university, without fear of losing your original place. Given the large numbers of applicants this year, competition could be tough. However, Darren Barker, of Ucas, says he is not anticipating a higher-education version of musical chairs. I dont think many people will be moving around, he says. But its a case of seeing how it goes. Eligibility for Adjustment depends on the offers youve already received, so take a look at the rules on the Ucas website before you embark on fruitless telephone calls. And Gerald Pryke, However, dont feel under pressure to accept an offer immediately. Most universities hold open days over the weekend of August 22-23, and tutors should be happy to allow you to visit the campus before making a decision. You wouldnt buy a pair of shoes without trying them on, Woodhams says. So please dont think about going to a university for three or four years without visiting it first. If you cant find a place through clearing, first consider whether that course is really right for you. If youre absolutely certain, it may be worth taking a year out and resitting your exams. But this is not a decision to be made without proper research. Talk to teachers and university tutors. In some institutions, candidates are asked to get better grades in resits, says Pryke. Or resit candidates If you only missed your offer by a little you may still be accepted may be seen as weaker, and not considered. Dont embark on studies that are not going to benefit you. Also, how will you fill your time when youre not studying? Admissions tutors will want to know what else youve done during the year. planned 4 Youve year a gap If youve made the grades, go and enjoy, but if you havent, you may need to adjust your gap-year plans. But dont abandon all your travel ambitions: exams can be retaken in January, which still leaves nine months of gap-year freedom (see page VI for more on taking a gap year). Also, a year off can provide time to rethink your university choices, away from the panicked rush of the clearing stampede. Consider taking a few months to look carefully at different courses or universities, then reapplying later this autumn. Or look into work-based apprenticeships and trainee schemes (see page VII for more on these). Teachers and careers advisers should be happy to help you with CV-writing and interview techniques. For young people, as well as their parents, teachers and tutors, this is an extremely tense time, says Pryke. But remember that things can always be worked through. ILLUSTRATIONS BY SPENCER WILSON Congratulations! You can now kick back and relax, safe in the knowledge that you have a guaranteed university place. Applications for places increased by 9.7 per cent this year, as many sixth-formers were reluctant to enter the uncertain job market. So you definitely deserve to celebrate. But, as the relief floods in, remember that your first term will be much less stressful if you take care of university paperwork in advance. In particular, you need to book accommodation and get your finances sorted, including making sure your bank account is giving you the best possible deal for your circumstances (see page V for more on finance). elcome to the season of discontent. Your teenager, just as you predicted, has messed up. In your mind, his woeful performance heralds a lifelong course of underachievement. Curiously, anxiety doesnt just follow exam failure. Lets take a best-case scenario: your child has triumphed in all her exams and is headed for the university of your dreams. You grab the bubbly. But as you fiddle with the cork, doubts that pestered you throughout her schooling creep back, albeit in slightly altered form. Will she compete as well at higher levels? Wont she fall prey to extra- curricular distractions? Will she underperform in her Finals? Anxiety of either kind is your cue to scrutinise your beliefs about academic performance. Of the many myths surrounding this subject, I would single out three that cause most of the unnecessary suffering among parents and their teenagers. First is the widespread notion that there are winners and losers and that exam results mark out these two groups. Wrong. People are more than their grades. Your son is not a failure because he failed an exam (or didnt get the B youd hoped for) its your thinking thats failing if you believe it. Conversely, being marked out for a First is no guarantee of a first-rate quality of life. A second, related fallacy is that exams measure overall ability and so predict futures. Since they test a number of possibly irrelevant skills (such as the ability to memorise and write legibly), exams shed little or no light on career prospects. They can even fail to assess academic ability accurately, as often happens when a capable pupil is too blasé, distracted or terrified to prepare effectively, or underperforms on the day by panicking, misreading questions, forgetting the time, skipping the planning stage, and so on. Estelle Morris, for one, failed her A-levels entirely before embarking on a career that led her to become Secretary of State for Education. Finally, theres the myth that failure is bad and should be avoided. If Thomas Edison had fallen for this one, wed still be in the dark. He said: If I find 10,000 ways something wont work, I havent failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. When youre dealing with your son or daughters A-level results, it helps to remember that failure and success are not enemies, but partners. Eileen Tracy is a study consultant and author of The Students Guide to Exam Success (Open University Press, 16.99). If you are a parent or student and would like to join her free teleclasses, visit www.eileentracy.co.uk
*** *** THE DAILY TELEGRAPH THURSDAY, AUGUST 20, 2009 *** *** A-LEVELS & BEYOND Facing your future J udgment day is here at last, which means two years of hard work are reduced to one small envelope and a few vital letters of the alphabet. But while the contents of that envelope will determine what *** II *** *** THURSDAY, AUGUST 20, 2009 THE DAILY TELEGRAPH *** CLEARING telegraph.co.uk DECISIONS , DECISIONS In the current economic climate, should you be thinking about doing a course directly related to your future career, asks Dorothy Lepkowska, or is it still okay to follow your heart? hoos*** *** THE DAILY TELEGRAPH THURSDAY, AUGUST 20, 2009 *** *** III CLEARING telegraph.co.uk significant shortfall in the number of vacancies likely to be available through clearing. But things have improved slightly since then, with a further 10,000 places now to be made available in maths, science *** IV *** *** THURSDAY, AUGUST 20, 2009 THE DAILY TELEGRAPH *** UNDERGRADUATE LIFE telegraph.co.uk WAYS TO SURVIVE UNI BY CHRIS ALDEN 3 Dont leave home without... Jamie Oliver (and if you cant persuade him, make do with one of his books). Enough staple food rice, pasta and tinned stuff to surviv*** *** THE DAILY TELEGRAPH THURSDAY, AUGUST 20, 2009 *** *** VII ALTERNATIVE PATHS TO SUCCESS telegraph.co.uk Opportunity knocks University isnt by any means the be all and end all of life after school, the world is full of successful non-graduates, says Fiona Donald O kay, so were not all the nex*** VIII *** *** THURSDAY, AUGUST 20, 2009 THE DAILY TELEGRAPH ****** *** THE DAILY TELEGRAPH THURSDAY, AUGUST 20, 2009 *** *** V STUDENT FINANCE telegraph.co.uk MONEYMATTERS helps to ensure you dont overspend and then find yourself with nothing left to live on, McGrath adds. Once you have sorted out your finances and found a bank account, its time to start plann