Results day still makes me feel a little bit sick even though I haven't actually collected results from school for four years now. It's always got so much hype surrounding it and I can absolutely understand why, it's often the mark of the next chapter in the lives of 18 year olds around the country. It is also such a source of stress though, so I wrote a list; it's fairly tailored to those of you who are looking to go to university, but that's about as specific as it gets. I'm not claiming to be the fount of all knowledge here at all, but UCAS, student finance and all things university related is something which has become almost second nature to me, thanks to my super informative sixth form, my mum, who is the queen of the Plan B; and my incessant need to actually understand the processes behind everything. (In fairness, my Mum has to be the queen of the plan B, none of her children have ever made anything easy to plan...)
- Don't spend all week thinking about it. I know. I know this is really hard, it's so easy to do, but if you do everything on this list (I think...) you literally cannot do anything else, so you might as well continue to enjoy your life for the week.
- Know what you want from life. You might have thought that you knew exactly which university course you wanted to do, but if it doesn't work out, you need to know on a much broader scale, what actually makes you tick. What will make you wake up in the morning and smile, most days. What is it that you want to get out of your experience at university and make you want to get up in the morning?
- Don't go around your school/college asking people what they got. It's unnecessary, and it's only really appropriate if it's one of your closest friends, and you know what they were hoping for. The question 'are you happy' or 'are you okay' is always a better option, and that's what you'll want to know if you're asking because you care about people and not because you want to compare yourselves to them. We so often don't realise that we're doing it, but insist on asking people things like their grades or place of higher education just so that we can pit them against ourselves in our mental hierarchy.
- Pick up your results as early as you can from your school or college. It might not be a problem, but if anything goes really wrong, it's best to be first in the UCAS/student finance/university queues on the phone, results day is literally the worst day of an admissions team's year so you should be doing everything in your power to speak to them before they want to personally execute every 18 year old in the country. If your offer comes through on UCAS earlier than you get your results (which is very very common), still go and get your results, as sometimes they don't match up!
- Do have a plan. So, have options as to what you're going to do in every reasonable scenario. Probably write it down or you'll get overwhelmed and confused. So, say you need BBB to get into your uni course; know what you're going to do if you get AAB, ABB, BBC and BCC, or maybe even more options than that depending on how confident you are that you know roughly how you've done. (See 'clearing' and 'adjustment' below.)
- Have the phone number of your department at your first choice university ready, so that if you miss your offer by one or two grades, you can call them. They often value the fact that you chose their university as your preference pretty highly, plus it's less admin for them just to let you in, and they're not actually spawn of the devil who are trying to ruin your life; so it's always worth asking what they can do. I missed my offer for QMUL by two grades and they told me that I could change to any course in the same school, hold my accommodation offer, and still go to QMUL as planned, winner.
- Know your options in clearing. Like I said above; have a plan for what you're going to do in each case. For example, if you need BBB and you get BBC, you will probably want to call the university where you are holding your firm choice first, because there's a good chance that they'll accept you anyway. However, if you miss your grades completely, there will be other options and other courses; perhaps the same course at a different university or something entirely different. A lot of this information is available now, you can search UCAS for courses which are available in clearing in September 2016, or search specific universities for specific courses through their own websites. It's worth having the phone numbers of the correct departments of any course you're interested in written down before you collect your results so that you can get in that clearing queue speedily should you need to. However:
- Don't go to university for the sake of it. This is something which you will have an opinion on, whether you realise it or not, but your opinion will likely depend on your parents or education so far. I could probably write a whole post on this, but just remember that although many degrees do increase employment opportunities, there are also HUNDREDS of internships and apprenticeships, positions which value experience over qualifications, and although I uphold the view that nobody should be scared of a student loan, it is a waste of money unless it's going to significantly enhance your life. Don't be afraid to take an unexpected gap year and work out whether university is where you want to spend the next few years, work out what's important to you, and don't force yourself to go to find any random university to do any random course through clearing just because that's what your friends are doing.
- Know about adjustment. If you're someone who is lucky enough to do better than expected (eg your grades were AAB and your firm choice only wanted BBB), you should know about adjustment. It's like clearing, but for people who got higher grades than expected rather than lower. Again, it's worth remembering that you won't be guaranteed accommodation if you don't go with your firm choice university, so the quality of the course/uni/location is something you'll have to weigh up against how likely it is that the university will find you accommodation, or how likely it is that you'll be able to find private accommodation, and the expenses involved in that. Also, find out before results day whether the university you have chosen as your firm choice offers any scholarships - a lot of universities which want ABB for example, have a monetary incentive/reward for anyone who gets AAA. This might be of more value to you than choosing a different institution, so that's something that you'll need to weigh up preferably before you get your results, so that you can make a quick decision on the day!
- Have your accommodation offer to hand, and know what you need to do with it. You might need to confirm it if you got into your firm choice, or reject it if you go through adjustment; or you might need to do nothing. Even if you change your course, you can often keep your accommodation offer, which is almost always cheaper than renting a room in private halls, and far more conducive to making friends with people at the same university as you in your first year.
- Call student finance after you have done EVERYTHING else in order to inform them that you have changed course, if necessary. If you've just accepted your offer, then make sure you log onto student finance online and complete your 'to do list' which student finance now handily write for you. This is particularly important if you're changing your place of study to inside/outside of London, as the amount of money loaned to you by the Student Loans Company differs depending on area in this respect.
- THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE. Remember that your value as a human does not increase or decrease based on academic achievement. If anyone tries to make you feel like it does, or even implies that it does, they are wrong, even if you've been brought up with the idea that you should believe everything they say. You still have a lifetime of endless opportunities ahead of you and you really have no idea what is going to happen from this point onwards, so do your very best to see it as an opportunity and not to let either disappointment or pride prevent you from moving forwards in your life.
Hopefully this covered most bases but if there's anything anyone thinks I should have added, make sure to let me know!
Basically just don't panic.