A-Level Results: Got Your Results?

Congratulations! But before you rush off to the boozer to celebrate your cerebral success (and kill off a few of those valuable brain cells) there are a few issues to be addressed. You may have got exactly what you needed, done just enough or confounded everyone with your scintillating grades - whatever - you should still think about your choices carefully.

Each of the statements below give specific advice for whatever situation you might find yourself in right now. Following that 'What are my options?' should help you to plan your next step. (We won't keep you from that first drink for long, honestly.)

I Did Better Than I Expected - Time for a Gap Year

In short - of course! . But whether you should or not is a different matter. Obviously if your plans have come together, right results, gap year planning underway, then go for it!

If, however, you've only just come up with the idea of taking a gap year in the euphoria of results day then think again. You may well have a brilliant year, but don't rush into this decision.

If you're thinking about a gap year, you'll have to think about deferment first. Whether or not you've considered it in the past is probably a good indicator of whether it is a good idea overall (if you haven't, why are you suddenly thinking about it now?).

I Did Better Than Expected - Time for a Better Degree

So you've spawned your results, eh? Only joking - revel in the glory, you (probably) deserve it. Anyway, if you're thinking that the course you originally applied for is now beneath you, stop and have a think.

Did you choose this course because you wanted to do it? If so, then it's probably the right one for you. If it was an informed choice based on where the course leads you in the future, its reputation or that it holds a particular interest, then you shouldn't really be thinking about changing. You've got the grades you needed - so follow your initial instincts.

If, however, your choice of course was more an arbitrary decision designed to get you in somewhere, then it may be better to reconsider your options. A snap decision over the next day or two is probably inadvisable, though, as the pressure of the clearing system can lead to accepting an equally inappropriate place.

Now is the time to chew over in full whether this is the course for you. If it looks good and seems to suit your desires, stick with it. If it's not: reconsider. If this is the case, you may be better off deferring.

In all these cases, a gap year may be a good idea giving you time and breathing space to mull over your options, but this in itself is not something to rush into.

What are My Options?

Deferring entry

If a gap year is now your goal, you'll need to defer your university place.

If you planned to defer when you first applied to university - and made that clear on your UCAS form - UCAS will organise the deferral for you. If, in the light of your results, you now plan to defer, UCAS can't help you.

In that case, you now have to contact the university in question to arrange deferral yourself. Talk to the relevant admissions officer to see whether deferral can be arranged. It often can - in which case, great. If not, the only option is to leave the system to re-apply next year.

Changing course

If your results are higher than you expected, then you may want to change course. If you are certain about this, then think about the following:

Make sure there are suitable courses available in Clearing.

Get released by the university who have offered you a place.

Before you follow this route, though, think hard about whether you really want to reject the course you had initially decided to pursue.

Take a gap year!

All in all the world's a bit of a breeze, isn't it? Exams in the past, results in and now a gap year to look forward to. Now you've just got to work out where to start: Australia or the Arctic, voluntary work or paid work, inter-railing or a round the world ticket. There's a whole lotta world out there, you've just got to go explore it!

Get a job

Having got the grades, it may be tempting to look to the world of work to get you started on the career ladder. The thought of cash in your pocket played off against the prospect of penniless studentdom is an alluring prospect. We would strongly advise, however, that if you have a suitable university place or gap year lined-up that you take these opportunities first.

Having done this well in your A levels, a good degree will definitely improve your prospects over all. And, in years to come, you could well find yourself looking back at missed opportunities when you should be reminiscing about your excellent time at uni, or your marvellous gap year.