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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 04:55 GMT 05:55 UK
Got the results - now what?
You have got your A-level results: What happens next?
1. You have got the grades you need to get into the university which has given you a firm offer of a place, or your insurance offer.
Congratulations, you are on your way.
You can check your progress on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service website.
The bad news is: It is going to cost you.
If you do a three-year degree you can expect to end up with debts in the region of £10,000 to £12,000.
You might have heard much of the impact of tuition fees, now £1,075 a year. But most people do not pay that much.
The real problem is that there are no grants now to help with living costs - though there are some hardship funds available.
Instead you might qualify for a student loan, which you start repaying once you are earning at least £10,000.
The good news is average graduate starting salaries are now about £18,000. And employers increasingly want graduates - of any discipline.
2. But what if your grades are not good enough to meet any of your existing offers?
You have various options.
You could ask for your papers to be re-marked.
This costs money - the amount depends on the exam board.
It also takes time - you are unlikely to get the new marks before September.
And be warned: From this year, your marks can go down as well as up.
You could try again, by re-sitting some or all of your exams.
But because of the changes in the curriculum it may not be possible just to re-take A-level exams this year, you might have to take some of your course again.
Re-sit dates vary depending on the exam board - usually they are in November and January.
You do not have to return to your old school or college, you might revisit your work, perhaps with the help of a private tutor.
Or, if you have the money, you might go to one of the private "crammers" that specialise in boosting grades.
But you can also press ahead with going to university by going through the clearing system to find another course or institution.
This is not the "last chance saloon" - over 60,000 people each year find a place through the system designed to match students with universities with spare places.
Because of the expansion of the higher education sector there are more places available this year than ever - to the point where even prestigious universities are taking part in clearing.
If you are eligible for clearing the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) will automatically send you a form.
And now you can do the whole thing online.
Ucas's website - which had had more than 80,000 visits by first thing Thursday morning - has an enquiry service which lets university applicants check the status of their offers.
Those eligible for clearing can use it to find their clearing entry number, then to search the course vacancy service.
This accesses the only official database of vacancy information for full-time undergraduate courses in the UK, updated constantly by more than 300 institutions.
Applicants can search for suitable vacancies by keywords, universities and colleges, geographical regions and the type of course they want.
Ucas recommends that people do not panic and think they have to take the first vacancy they can find.
Information and advice
"Take your time about making a decision," a spokeswoman said.
"You are probably going to be spending three years at the institution and you really need to make sure it is the right decision for you.
"We recommend that when people decide on a course, they take the clearing form to the institution in person - have a look around and talk to some of the teachers to make sure it's right for them."
There is a Ucas helpline: 01242 227788.
There is also a free helpline as part of the Student Essentials advice and information service being run by the BBC with the Department for Education and the Independent newspaper.
That number is 0808 100 8000. Or click on the "light bulb" link on the right of this page for the Essentials website.
3. That's enough education, thanks.
Most people who have done advanced qualifications will be intending to go into higher education, but you might be keen to start earning.
Looking for work has never been easier, thanks to the internet, and unemployment is relatively low.
Focus on things you are likely to enjoy and be good at, otherwise you could soon end up demoralised.
Many employers prefer to receive applications on their own forms, so check before sending off a speculative letter.
4. You haven't applied for anything yet.
Have a go
You might have found that your grades are better than you had expected and are now wondering about going to university.
It is still not too late to apply for a place at university or college.
Most degree courses require at least two A-levels at grade E or above, or the vocational equivalent. For HND courses, it is one A-level or the equivalent.
You need to contact Ucas straight away - as it is now late in the application year you will automatically go into the clearing system (see above).
Or nothing terribly academic: More and more people are taking a year out - in part to earn money to sustain them as they clock up those student debts.
But it is also a chance to see the world, learn new skills or do voluntary work.
You can take a year out in many different countries as well as in the UK.
How you spend the year is entirely up to you. Make the most of it - you are unlikely to have such a golden opportunity again.
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