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A Level Results Day: Clearing, foundation year and resitting.

If you are at sixth form or college then later on this week you will be getting your A level results. You are probably stressing over whether you met the requirements for your university… 

We have written this post to help you realise that not getting the results you want is not the end of the world – you can still attend top universities for the degrees you want, you just may need to change your approach.

There’s more than one way to get to where you want to be academically and career-wise. There is no timeline that exists that you have to stick to. 

This article will help those of you who want to go to university understand all the options available to you. There are other options (apprenticeships, gap years etc.) which will be touched on in an article later this month. 


1. Be sure to check your UCAS track and still call the universities you firmed and insured.  

On results day there are two things you need to find out: your grades and whether you got into your 1st choice or insurance university. Your college/sixth form is best placed to give you your results whilst the track is the best way to tell you whether you got in. If you collect your results first and are disappointed with your results do not stress straight away – check UCAS Track because it is possible you have still been offered a place.

Universities can be very flexible during clearing. It is of no cost to you to call your firm and insurance university and see if you can still get in with the lower grades you’ve earned. Departments tend to offer more than one degree. For example, say you applied to Economics and Maths but got ABB with a B in Maths, it may be worth inquiring about straight Economics or Economics joint with another degree. Only do this if you are genuinely interested in the other degree – there is no point rushing to university as we will discuss at the end. 

2. Clearing

If results day has not gone your way but you are adamant you want to go to university that year then clearing is for you. Clearing is the process by which universities advertise the courses with space left. To fill their spaces they will typically reduce the entry requirements and widen the range of A levels that they accept.

Some universities advertise places before results day but a majority of roles are advertised on results day. It is your job to both find the course you want to apply for and contact the university (through the phone). This phone call acts as an interview – you will be asked what subjects you studied, the grades you received as well as a few other questions dependent on course/university.

There is nothing wrong with going through clearing – plenty of top universities offer top courses through clearing, ranging from finance to engineering at institutions such as York and Manchester.

3. Resitting a year of A Levels

If your results have meant that you haven’t got into your university for the course of your choice then do not stress – you can still get there. Your career (and studies) are a marathon not a sprint.

You could resit them at your previous place of study or go to a different college – plenty are happy to accept students.

I was in this predicament in 2014 – my results sheet read out 4 D’s so I decided it was best for me to resit. I stuck with two of my A levels and then picked up Economics. If I hadn’t picked up Economics then I probably wouldn’t have gone to university as there wasn’t anything else I had a passion to study for. If it wasn’t for me resitting my A levels I would not be starting a graduate role with EY next month!

Hizzer Ramzan

It can be a hard decision deciding to stay in sixth form whilst your mates are at university but it is more important that the decisions you make re: your career and academia are made for your best. Honestly speaking a lot of people at university took longer than two years to do their A levels, there was no stigma at all. Taking that extra year means you are more mature by the time you are at university, understand your subjects more and possibly have a better understanding of the career you want to go into.

The only thing is that there are some courses at some universities that may not accept resits – typically medicine at the top medicine schools but be sure to check with the university before you make your decision.

4. Foundation year

Not a lot of people know but universities offer something called foundation years. This is a one year course at university that introduces people to a wider area of study e.g. economics, engineering, maths, etc. Plenty of top universities (Durham, Nottingham, etc.) offer them and they typically have lower entry requirements than three-year courses. The foundation degrees work closely with the undergraduate degrees, so completing a foundation year can be really helpful at getting onto an undergraduate degree if your A level results didn’t get you there. You are also eligible for student loan funding for this year, as the student loan company allows students a maximum of four years of funding.

“The first thing I really appreciated about the foundation year was the academic development sessions. These were sessions where we are taught essential academic skills like citations (both in-text and bibliography), how to plan and write an essay, what an appropriate source of information is and to practice making and giving out presentations. Another thing I gained from doing a foundation year was meeting a more diverse set of students than I would have met in doing a bachelor’s degree like those who have taken gap years and mature students who want a career change. I also met students branching out into different degrees like accounting and finance or business studies. The last thing that I felt I benefited from doing a foundation year was that I had the option of changing to another area of study for my bachelor’s.”

Karim El Houssami

As these anecdotes above show, you can still do well even if your grades were not as expected. It can be really easy to feel like you are falling behind by resitting or taking a year out but the long term impact on your career is practically non existent. It is better to have a good set of grades in subjects you want to study and are good at rather than rush to university just because you want to stick to the typical timeline. 

All the best to you all for results day and if you have any worries in the next few days then please comment below on the article.

Author Profile

Hizzer Ramzan
Hizzer RamzanEY
Hizzer is an Economics graduate from York. During his time at York he was President of the Economics Society and ambassador for the careers department. After interning with the Corporate Finance Strategy team in 2018 he will be returning to EY in September 2019 to join the Leeds Transactions Services team.

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