It may not be all smiles this week when A-level results arrive and some pupils are faced with considering alternatives if they fail to make the grade.
Lower grades may not mean the end of the university dream
A dream course at university can be the prize for all the years of study, but what happens if that dream is left in tatters because you got three Bs instead of three As?
Every cloud has a silver lining and it is open season at the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas), whose Clearing service matches students who do not have places with institutions that have unfilled ones.
A Ucas spokeswoman said: "The important thing for anyone awaiting exam results is not to panic.
"Ucas is here to help you whether you achieved your expected grades or not.
"For those who haven't, or who applied late or have changed their mind about what they want to study, Clearing is available."
Almost 38,000 people found a place at university through Clearing last year.
"Try not to rush your choice, and the more flexible you are, the more options there will be available to you," she added.
In the 40 years it has been operating, Ucas has helped millions of students secure a place at university.
One of them is 19-year-old Stephanie Claxton, whose childhood ambition was to become a doctor.
She applied to four medical schools and two biomedical sciences courses and received offers for all six places.
Her future was looking bright. She thought her dream was assured.
Ambition 'slipping away'
She said: "However, things began to slip. My attendance wasn't what it should have been, and I lost interest in school.
"I went out too much and so wasn't receiving the grades I should have been.
"This outlook continued, until I received poor A2 results in the January exams.
"I realised that my ambition was slipping away from me and so I bucked my ideas up.
"I worked very hard for the last lot of exams, but with re-sits to do and 13 exams overall by then it was too late.
"By the time results day came, I had a fair idea that I wouldn't get the grades that I needed and when I picked up my results I thought my ambition to become a doctor was over before it had even begun. "
The medical schools refused to take her so she reconsidered her career.
Last August she rang the Clearing hotline at Bradford University to see if there were places available on a clinical sciences course.
There were and after a successful interview she was offered a place.
She said: "It all happened so fast - one minute I was panicking about not knowing what to do next, the next minute I was starting university.
"Having learnt from my mistakes, I work hard and am currently doing well.
"I still aim to become a doctor and if the results go to plan at the end of this year I hope to transfer to Leeds University to study medicine."
Ucas has compiled a list of tips for students using Clearing including:
Contact universities and colleges about courses that interest you as soon as possible Talk to as many universities or colleges as possible during ClearingDon't feel as though you have to accept the first offer you receive