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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 00:26 GMT 01:26 UK
Life after A-level disappointment
By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News Online education staff

A-level results have hit a record high pass rate this year and the media may be full of pictures of ecstatic teenagers waving their results slip in the air, but not everyone is celebrating.
Mike Hooper
Mike Hooper: A clearing success story

There are always tears as some students fall short of their predicted grades and lose their place at their chosen university.

But if you have not done quite as well as you had hoped, all is not lost, with thousands of university places being offered through the clearing process.

Last year around 40,000 applicants were accepted on courses through clearing, figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) show.

Business student Mike Hooper recalls the feeling of despondence when he got poor results.

"I remember being very disappointed with my A-level grades and seeing I didn't have enough points to do a degree course," says Mike.
Just because you've missed your own goals doesn't mean you've failed, you just need to re-focus a little bit
Mike Hooper, business student

But he urges anyone feeling like this on Thursday to mop up their tears and pick up the phone.

"Don't sit back, sort it out. Don't let the disappointment take hold of you, take the bull by the horns and move onto your next option.

"I remember people were walking around looking really glum, but just because you've missed your own goals doesn't mean you've failed, you just need to re-focus a little bit."

Mike Hooper
Mike has been through clearing twice
Ucas advises students entering clearing to check course vacancies on their website and in the national press.

They should contact universities as soon as possible and be ready to answer questions about their suitability for the course, their qualifications and interests.

"Clearing does give you every opportunity to go onto the next course, the next choice. It doesn't mean you're not going to be successful in your degree or have fun," says Mike.

And he should know - he's gone through clearing twice - once after getting his A-level results and once after travelling around the world for a year and applying to Kingston University, Surrey.

Mike, 32, has just successfully completed a one-year Business Administration course at Kingston which converts his HND from previous studies into a degree and means he can start a post-graduate teacher training course in September.

"It worked out fantastically in the end," he says.

You're not second-class because you've been through clearing
Esther Ferguson, Kingston University
Kingston University spokeswoman Esther Ferguson believes students who go through clearing are often more focused on their studies as a result.

"It's a lesson in being proactive. It's a really tough thing to have to do, but it does show a student's commitment to going to university," says Esther.

"You find some people who've been through clearing feel they've been given a second chance and, because of that, apply themselves to their studies and do really well because they don't want to make a mistake again.

"You're not second-class because you've been through clearing."

Aiming higher

Of course, not all students go through clearing because they have slipped up in their A-levels.

Some get much better grades than expected - hence recent proposals to make students apply to university after their A-levels - and want to get on to a better course or attend a more prestigious university.

Others who had not previously considered higher education may have a change of heart.

"Some people get their A-levels and think 'Hey, I can go to university with this, I've got grades I wasn't expecting'," says Esther.

When your place is sorted

Once all the stress of getting a university place is over, Mike says it's time to enjoy the rest of the summer.

"The hard work is over for now.

"If you can get up and see the university and the town, do - you're going to spend a lot of time there," he says.

And his final piece of advice?

"Start to get excited, sharpen your pencils."

Course vacancies are listed on the Ucas website.

University places fill up fast
15 Aug 02  |  Education
Would-be students wrongly rejected
05 Jun 03  |  Education


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