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Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
After the results, where now?
Ken Macdonald exams graphic
You've got your grades, what now? BBC Scotland education correspondent Ken Macdonald goes through some options

If you've got the grades you wanted, great.

But for a significant proportion of prospective university entrants, the Higher results herald the start of an uncomfortable process: clearing.

It's a bit like a matchmaking agency for school leavers and universities.

It attempts to pair candidates whose initial applications have been unsuccessful - usually because they've failed to get the grades required by a conditional offer - but who are still good enough to get into a university or college somewhere in the UK.

Don't panic. That's perhaps the most difficult thing to do

Ken Macdonald
Clearing is carried out by the Universities and Colleges Admissions service (UCAS), which runs a clearing service specifically tailored to Scottish Highers candidates wanting to go to Scottish institutions.

Until now prospective students in Scotland have had to wait until the A Level results came out and then search through the much bigger UK listings for details of possible courses.

Regularly updated details of the UCAS clearing list are on the UCAS website (which also has guides for both parents and prospective students) and in many newspapers.

There may be a new system, new courses and new certificates, but the best advice never changes.

Here are five points to help you cope with Highers fever:

  • 1. Don't panic. That's perhaps the most difficult thing to do, but whatever the brown envelope contains you're going to have to make some of your most important decisions yet. Try to do it with a clear head.

  • 2. If your results aren't all you hoped for, it isn't the end of the world. It only feels like it. Highers are not a measure of your personal worth.

  • 3. If you failed to meet the targets set in a conditional acceptance for university or college you can still go into clearing. But it's important you make informed decisions. Research possible institutions thoroughly - and make yourself available in case you're called for an interview.

  • 4. Remember the Scottish education system offers plenty of roads back. If you're at the end of fifth year you can go back for a sixth. Colleges also offer second chances to sit Highers and A Levels.

    The new Scottish Qualifications mean units and courses you've done at school can be added to later. Consider doing an HND at college: many universities accept these as entrance qualifications - and will let you straight into the second year of a degree course.

    You could take a year or two out to travel or enter the job market. A financial cushion will help you through higher education - and you'll be older and (just possibly) wiser.

  • 5. Seek help. There's plenty of it. There are free helplines and websites standing by to help answer your questions. You can contact your school, college or local careers service for advice.

What these sources can't do, though, is make your decisions for you - nor can other members of your family. It's your life and it has to be your decision.

For free impartial advice call BBC Scotland's Student Essentials line 0808 100 8000.

BBC Scotland is hosting a live online chat session at 1900BST on Thursday with Catherine McKenzie from Glasgow Careers Service.

So if you'd like some advice on your exam results, log onto BBC Online Scotland and email your question.

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See also:

16 May 00 | Scotland
D-day for Scottish pupils
15 May 00 | Scotland
Pupil sets site on exams
25 May 00 | UK Systems
Higher education
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