If your A Level results come in and they’re not quite what you wanted or expected, it’s not the end.
You can do one of three things:
1. Sit and cry about it.
2. Go through clearing to your number two university, or three, or anywhere that’ll take you.
3. Take a year out.
I assume option one will happen for a while either way, and UCAS or a similar education site can help with option two. So we’re here to support you with option three.
Taking a year out.
1. You can take your time to think
Not too much time, but time. Take a local minimum wage job for six months if you’re unsure what to do, and if that’s all that’s available. You can even cut it short after three when you’ve made some sort of life decision.
Going from class to class at school can be a pretty hectic time. Mixed with any weekend work you’ve picked up and the weight of knowing what you want to do when you ‘grow up,' you can leave school feeling pretty drained. I’m definitely not recommending you sit on your bum all day at home, but find some work, or volunteering, or something useful to do, that isn’t too taxing to your mind. That way you have the time to work out your next move.
Stay busy, active and keep on learning. You never know who you’ll meet or what opportunities will come up.
2. You can travel
Hopefully you’ll have been working the summer and so have some money saved. Save up some more and then go and travel. You don’t have to travel far, or for long, if that’s not what you’re into, but you can take a short trip and see if it’s for you.
Try and get a friend involved, but just go anyway if not. Join a tour if you’re nervous; instant friends and someone to show you what’s what, what’s to lose? Or join some kind of project – summer camp in the USA is one of the cheapest things you can do and you earn too. It changed my life.
When you have the money, just go. A flight to Thailand is only around £500, and when you’re there a night’s accommodation is probably cheaper than a bag of chips at your local.
3. You’re forced to realise what you really want
You know when you can’t decide what to order off the menu in a restaurant, and then the option you go for isn’t available and you suddenly realise that you’re relieved because you wanted the other thing anyway?
The fact that you had to decide what to do at university, or whether to even go, when you were already busy at school trying to pass your exams, means you might not have made the best decisions for you.
This is your chance to put some serious thought into what you want to do at university, and whether you even want to go.
4. You could get a ‘proper job’
Options are more limited for people without degrees but they’re definitely out there.
If you’ve never worked before, or even if you have, this is your chance to get valuable experience. You never know how important this could be to your future career. Sign up to a temping agency and you can sample different industries, see what jobs are out there, and experience different kinds of offices.
And then if you don’t like it, you can just leave.
5. Do some work experience
If your current life plans involve some sort of media work, or fat cat business, or something that doesn’t really have a direct entry plan, use your year out to get work experience. This will undoubtedly set you apart when it comes to applying for university again, if you choose, or a job.
And you never know what a week’s work experience here and there can lead to.
6. You could get that work experience abroad
There are so many projects abroad to help you gain work experience. Even just learning more about the world, different cultures and languages can change you more than you might realise. It'll give you the chance to grow differently from your peers, making you all the more employable.
Take a look at all the projects available on the site [link].
7. Start up your own business
If you’ve had a cool idea for a business that you’ve always wanted to pursue, now could be the time to do your research and make a plan. This would be especially good if you plan to read business at university – getting first hand experience in the field will really make you stand out from the rest.
And you never know, you could be such a success you never actually have to go to university anyway.
8. Do something different
Ok, you didn’t get in. If you were worried about disappointing people, including yourself, it’s already happened. So now you can think about what will make you happy.
You could take a year out and learn another language. Go to Spain, learn to dance and to speak Spanish. Or learn to surf, to scuba dive or even get a job on a cruise ship. There areso many options out there for anyone with a bit of curiosity and determination, make the most of them.
9. Get to know yourself
Finishing school is a real transitional time. If all your friends are going off to university and you’re ‘left’ at home, it’s a great time to really get to know yourself, and to find out who you are outside the friends that you’ve had forever.
You’ve been in the hamster wheel of education. Exam after exam, coursework after coursework – this is a great time to find out who you are beyond what the curriculum decrees you are.
Try different jobs and activities. Travel. Pursue different hobbies, or even sign up to some sort of course in something different from your A Levels or vocational subjects. Find out who you are.
10. Time to study
If your results mean you don’t get into your first choice of university, this is the perfect opportunity to ‘go back to school.' Having another year to study will help you to get on the course you want, if you decide in the end that’s what you want to do.
Look at local college courses to do in the evening, try a different A Level or GCSE or do something vocational for you. You could even study something abroad or online. You can never have too many skills!
11. Be creative with your personal projects
Thanks to technology, YouTube and all that good stuff there’s so much potential for you to push your career in any direction you want. If there’s a book you want to write, or a blog you want to start, or video, or anything you want to learn or work on. This is a great time to see what you’re capable of.
Follow your passions or create new ones. You could learn to play an instrument, or to DJ, or set up an Etsy shop, create art, or learn to cook. There’s so much you could do, and if you already have a skill, learn to teach online and set up a YouTube channel to facilitate it.
Just try new things. You never know what could happen.
12. Learn from your friends at university
Visiting your friends at university is one of the best ways to learn about university life, and to work out what you’d look for in a uni and its city.
If you’ve never been to a university before it can be difficult to know what exactly you should be looking for, so make the most of your friends and get their tried and tested opinions.
13. Make your year brilliant
Having a year out can really make you stand out from the crowd when it comes to applying for a job or university – provided you make it valuable for you. Make your gap year count with work, volunteering, personal experience or even just a change in mindset.
You could divide your year into four. For example, working nearby to get money and research, then do a ski season, then three months travelling South East Asia and then a summer learning a new skill.
You don’t have to stick with one thing for the whole year. This is your chance to experience new and different sides of life.
University vs. a gap year
You don’t have to have a degree to be successful. I did go to university and I didn’t take a gap year in between, but sometimes I do regret that. Instead, I took two after university in between jobs.
If you’ve not been accepted at the university you wanted, it’s not the end. There’s SO much you can do to make this year count towards your future. It could even make it all the more lucrative, exciting and interesting for you.