A-level results are out on 16th August and unless you are already holding an unconditional offer or already have a great set of BTEC results, this will be a very big day in your life.

On the day, keep a close eye on UCAS Track for the information you’ll need about your offers. And try to prepare in advance as much as possible to save yourself a lot of time should you need to take any action.

Check out all the information and great videos on the UCAS website as well as on other higher education sites such as The Student Room, The Telegraph and Which? University. And please seek personal advice and guidance from a careers adviser. But in the meantime, here’s an overview of what you can expect if you don’t quite get the grades you need …

You’ll probably know before you even get to see your grades

The Unis find out your results several days before you do. This allows them time to put their applicants into order and – assuming that your grades didn’t quite match their offer – time to decide if they are still able to offer you a place. On the morning of your results, UCAS Track will then be updated to show their final decision. It is usually updated by about 8.00am, but it may be earlier / later so, be patient and if you can’t see your decision, the chances are that others can’t either!

Unconditional (Firm) – Even if you don’t quite get the grades, your offer may change to ‘unconditional’ if the Uni still wants you on their course – perhaps because you slipped up by one grade, but not in your main subject. This means that without yet knowing your actual exam grades, you may find out that you have got a place anyway!

Unconditional (Insurance) – Again, this means the Insurance Uni will accept you, but they are only your back-up choice so please don’t assume that you are going there until you have heard from your Firm choice Uni. If your Firm is still showing as ‘conditional’, they are either being slow, or they are still deciding about you and that suggests you may not have exactly the right grades. As soon as you have your A-level results, give them a call to find out why and see if you can confirm their final offer. If your Firm choice does still change to ‘unsuccessful’, you’ll at least know that you can then rely on your Insurance choice.

UCC – This means Unconditional Changed Course, so the Uni is changing their offer and it might be deferred entry to start in a year, or a place on another course of their choice because you didn’t meet the required grades. There’s no obligation to accept either of these if they are offered, but you’ll only have five days to make up your mind and then the UCC offer is withdrawn, so perhaps give the Uni a call to discuss.

Unsuccessful – If both your Firm and Insurance show as ‘unsuccessful’, you haven’t met their requirements and sadly, aren’t going to either. Track will have been updated to show that you are now in Clearing and you will need to work fast to find and apply to an alternative Uni. More on this below …

You can find out more details about updates to your UCAS Track status on the UCAS website here – https://www.ucas.com/ucas/undergraduate/apply-and-track/results/what-your-results-mean

Warning! Clearing on Results Day can be like the January Sales!

Unis allocated their spaces earlier in the year to students who then get the required exam results and Clearing represents only the few places left unfilled. So, if you are now officially in Clearing and you still want to go to Uni this year, there’s a few things to be aware of on Results Day –

Competition – Thousands of sixth formers around the UK – and overseas – will be in Clearing alongside you. Many will have already applied for places because Clearing opened on 5th July and they get their exam grades earlier than the A-level results: these include the Scottish Highers, the International Baccalaureate and many of the BTEC exams. Then there will be some who wait for A-level Results Day because this is when many more places are made available in Clearing.

Emotional – You’ll be upset, your parents and teachers may also be upset for you, and your best friend could well have got onto the course without you. It is a very emotional time and now you’re being expected to find a replacement Uni and course ASAP!

If you are unprepared for Clearing

Finding a suitable course – Your teachers will want to help you choose an alternative course and Uni, but there may well be a queue on Results Day as they could be busy with other students – after all, getting A,B,B grades may be as disastrous for one person as getting C,D,D for another. This means that you will need to be doing the research as much as possible yourself.

Making the call – And you’re the one who has to make the call to any Uni that you would now like to apply to via Clearing. But what if the University phone lines are all jammed because it’s now peak time? And are you prepared for the mini-interview which you may need to have on the phone …?

Being prepared for Clearing

You will need to act fast if you want to study a particular course at a particular Uni in the autumn so – uncool as it may sound – we’d ask you to please go back to your research and wake up on 16th August with a list of possible Unis and courses that you would be happy with if things don’t quite go to plan.

Ahead of Results Day they won’t all be in Clearing because the majority are released around that time, but well in advance you can have a good idea of what you might be happy studying for the next 3 or 4 years and this will save you a considerable amount of time on the day.

Just like the Sales – It is just as though you checked the store – or Uni – in advance to see what you might want and are then able to head straight for that section on the day. The exact item may not be on sale – or in Clearing – but something similar may be on offer and you’ll be happy to grab that instead.

Another thing you might want to prepare in advance is your response to any questions about why you didn’t quite get the right grades. It is very likely that a Uni will ask this when you call to try to secure a place and you may want to have a think about this in advance.

How to handle Clearing

As early as possible, find a course that you’d like to study to help avoid the emotional last-minute rush to research this when you collect your exam grades. It doesn’t need to be the same subject or Uni that you originally applied to, but you may want to think carefully as you’ll need to justify this when you phone to apply. Then, if you are in Clearing, simply use your list to check if and where there are any vacancies.

Once you know exactly where you want to study, go direct to the Uni’s own website, but if you are looking more generally, the UCAS Search website is ideal. On there, you’ll find all the Unis with courses which still have vacancies under the ‘Search for Clearing vacancies’ filter on the left of your screen. Other places to look include The Student Room website and the Telegraph Clearing App on iPhone or Android.

Then once you have made your choice, and got your exam results, find a quiet room and call the Uni to apply for the course that is in Clearing. Wait for them to make you a verbal offer before you add your Clearing choice on UCAS Track. And, assuming you are successful, ask for an email to confirm their offer as well.

The Uni may well want to interview you over the phone to find out your reasons and motivations for wanting to study the course so be prepared for that, especially if you are choosing a completely different subject to the one you originally applied for.

If they then make you an offer you then add your Clearing choice to UCAS Track after 3pm on Results Day. The Uni formally accepts your Clearing application in UCAS Track and you can then expect an email and a letter to confirm your place. Job done – and just remember to read the correspondence carefully and to follow up with any admin requirements as it may jeopardise your offer if you miss any deadlines.

Other matters if you are in Clearing

Accommodation – cancel the Firm choice accommodation and arrange new accommodation at your new Uni, although at this late stage it can mean fewer accommodation choices or not getting any on-campus accommodation at all. Talk to the Uni Accommodation Office and Students’ Union about it: get their advice because they know the local housing market really well. And even try to visit once you’ve sorted your place. It could mean you end up somewhere cheaper and have more spare cash to spend as a result!

Student Finance – To minimise any potential complications (or costs), always let Student Finance England know if you are changing the Uni and/or course you have been accepted onto, or if you are changing the year of entry. You can make these changes online by logging into your Student Finance Account.

Help and advice – In addition to the personal attention you’ll get from careers and teaching staff in school, try the Exam Results Helpline for free, independent advice between 16th – 30th August on 0808 100 900. Individual Unis will also have helplines and we’ve linked to the local ones on Careersnearhere.

And finally, …

Not getting the required grades can be a mixed blessing. Even if you still get a place at either your Firm or Insurance choice Uni, it could well be a wake-up call to work harder in your studies.

However, if you missed your grades by miles without a major underlying excuse, you may need to reflect on whether you could realistically achieve them in a second attempt next year – or whether you’d be better looking for a course with lower entry requirements, such as an Access to Higher Education course or a foundation degree from which you can transfer to complete a full bachelor’s degree on graduating. There are numerous opportunities for both around the region so take a look on the Academic noticeboards on Careersnearhere or go direct to the Uni websites.

This may also be a time to perhaps take a Gap Year and re-apply for 2019 – or perhaps to consider an apprenticeship as there are many that only require GCSE grades as entry criteria. Again, there are local vacancies on Careersnearhere as well as on the national Find an Apprenticeship website.

Careersnearhere.com: It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started!

Follow @helping16to21s on Facebook to get these blogs before they land on the website!