What to do if you don’t get the grades

A student looks to the side, her pen poised over her notebook

Examination season is a challenging time for individuals, both physically and mentally. Whether you know that you haven’t got the grades that you require, or just think that you haven’t got the grades because your exams were more challenging than you imagined, it’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the road, and that there are plenty of other options available.

Person on laptop

Here are five tips on what to do if you haven’t got the grades that you wanted and/or needed:

1.    Process your emotions

Many people will advise you to ‘not panic’ or to ‘stay calm’, but this can be really challenging when you are disappointed by how your exams went. Whilst we don’t encourage you to panic, it’s important for you to take some time to acknowledge the way that you are feeling and process your emotions. Consider speaking to your family, friends, or even a teacher in your sixth form/college about how you are feeling, as they may help to ease your stress and provide you with some useful guidance. Taking time to process your emotions and come to terms with things will allow you to open your eyes to the other opportunities that await you.


2.    Plan your next steps 

Once you have taken time to process your emotions, form a plan of what you are going to do next. It’s important that you don’t rush into anything when you are unsure of what you should do. You can start by considering foundation courses; many universities offer foundation courses which are designed to prepare you for study in the university. See if the university you applied to offers a foundation route for the course that you are interested in – if so, consider enrolling on to this as it means that you can still go to the university of your choice, and after a year you will be enrolled on the course you initially applied for.


3.    Contact universities directly 

If you don’t want to do a foundation year, or if your firm university choice doesn’t offer foundation years, consider reaching out to the university directly. If you narrowly missed the grades required, some universities may still be able to offer you a place or may suggest alternative courses that you may be eligible for.

Remember, don’t make any rash decisions if the alternative courses don’t interest you, as there’s many other options available.


4.    Clearing

Another option is to obtain a place at university through clearing. Clearing is the period wherein students can apply for university places which haven’t yet been filled, outside of the normal application window. If you can, plan and research any other universities and courses that appeal to you ahead of time to reduce your stress on results day. When the clearing window opens, get in touch with the alternative universities directly to see if they will accept you for the course you’re interested in. They will then be able to give you advice on the next steps of the application process. Click here for more tips on clearing.


5.    Short courses

If you are unsure what you want to do but know that you’d like to continue your education and eventually enroll in an undergraduate course, you could consider doing a short course at a university of your choice. There are various reasons why you should do a short course; they allow you to get a taste of university life, they are short in duration, they can boost your credits, and they can allow you to grow in confidence. Overall, embarking on a short course can be a great steppingstone to further study at degree level, and can help to boost your confidence after the setback that comes with not getting the grades you required.


What if I’m still unsure about what to do next?

If you are still unsure about what you should do next, consider taking a gap year. Gap years have become increasingly popular and will give you more time to explore your options. The last thing you want to do is rush into a course, university, or alternative route without being 100% sure whether it is right for you, so take some time to reflect on your options.


If you’re interested in one of our undergraduate courses or short courses and want to talk through your options with our friendly admissions team, speak to us via our live chat or fill out an online clearing form