If you didn't get the grades you wanted in your A-levels, chances are you feel like it's the end of the world, especially if all your friends passed and your parents have gone ballistic.
It might help to know that all kinds of people who have made a success of their lives didn't excel in their exams the first time round, so it doesn't have to be all doom and despair. There are still several avenues for you to explore, so think about all of them. The most important thing to remember is that you should avoid making hasty decisions. Don't get panicked into making an unsuitable choice; sometimes it's better to take time off and get it right, rather than settle for second best.
What can I do?
Start by having a very honest chat with your teachers and your careers officer, to work out why you didn't get the grades you wanted. If you were ill, panicked in the exam, or just didn't work hard enough, you might wish to consider resits. If you don't stand much chance of improving your grades, it's time to look at Clearing, other qualifications, or the world of work. You might even want to take a break from education while you consider what you want to do with your life. Here's the lowdown on the lot:
You can resit A-level exams in January or in the summer. A-levels can often be re-taken at your old school, minimising any upheaval by staying in a familiar environment. You may wish to go to a sixth form college or further education college instead. If you can afford to pay, you might want to consider going to an independent tutorial college (a 'crammer') for one year to improve your grades.
If you wanted to go to university or college, but didn't get the grades, it may still be possible to find a similar course with lower entry requirements. This is known as the Clearing process, and is used by 25% of all students. There will be loads of places advertised in the next few weeks, so look for courses listed in the newspapers or visit these websites: UCAS (Scottish places here) and ECCTIS.
- Alternative qualifications
Study for GNVQs, BTECs, or NVQs, or train with modern apprenticeships, City and Guilds, London Chamber of Commerce, or OCR (formerly RSA). Contact your local Careers Service or Training Enterprise Council. As well as being recognised in many kinds of employment, some BTECs and GNVQs can be accepted by admissions officers to get you into university.
- Gap year
Take some time out to work, travel, teach, learn a new language, or volunteer. More information can be found on TheSite. Also check out http://www.gapyear.com/ for more advice and information.
- Get a job
This will allow you to get some cash coming in while you decide on your next move. You may even want to consider it as the first rung on your career ladder. Look through our Getting a job and Workers' rights sections for some more ideas.
Things don't always go to plan in life, but the important thing is to not let it get you down too much, and find a find a positive way to deal with the situation. Just because you failed some exams doesn't mean that you are a failure as a person.