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You've Received your A-Levels Results: What Next?

Congratulations! After years of hard work and anticipation, you've finally received your A-Level results. Whether your results met, exceeded, or fell short of your expectations, remember that this moment is just one step in your academic journey. This blog will guide you through the next steps based on the grades you've achieved, with a particular focus on how to decide whether it’s a good idea for you to take a year out and reapply to a top UK university.


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What to Do If You've Made Your Offer

If you've achieved the grades required for your firm offer as expected, you're well on your way to starting your chosen university course. Make sure to follow these steps:


Celebrate: Take a moment to acknowledge your accomplishments. You've worked tirelessly to achieve these results, so treat yourself to some well-deserved celebration.


Confirmation: Check UCAS Track to confirm your place. Your university will likely send you instructions on enrollment, registration, and any other pertinent details.


Preparation: Look into the university's resources and prepare for the start of term. This could include reading lists, accommodation arrangements, and any necessary documents.

What to Do If You've Exceeded Your Offer

Exceeding your offer can open up new possibilities, including the option to ‘upgrade’ to a more competitive course, either through clearing or by taking a year out to reapply. Here's what you should consider:


Evaluate Your Options:

Decide whether you're content with your current offer or if you're considering upgrading through clearing. Research the courses available, their content, and the universities offering them. Although it may be tempting to ‘upgrade’ simply because you’ve got higher grades than anticipated, it’s important that you take the time to really consider what you want out of your university career going forward; you should certainly not settle for a course that you’re not happy with, but neither should you switch from something you’re happy with simply because you feel pressure or feel it’s what you should do. Think critically about yourself, your future goals, and the potential risk of looking through clearing or taking a year out to reapply.


Clearing and Upgrading:

The UCAS clearing system, although perhaps more commonly considered by students who have missed their offers, is also a viable option for students whose grades are higher than anticipated and who are no longer satisfied with their original form offer. However, with the opportunities afforded by Clearing also comes relatively hefty risks. Gaining access to the UCAS Clearing portal involves declining your current place, meaning that there’s no chance to take back your original place if you don’t find a course you’re interested in.

Additionally, the very nature of Clearing is that it is where universities list courses which still have spaces open, meaning that choice can be limited and very competitive courses, which are usually oversubscribed and over-offered by universities, are unlikely to appear at all. If you’re unsure about your next move and wish to consider your options more carefully over some time, or if you’ve got your heart set on a specific course at a competitive university that your grades now qualify you for, it’s unlikely that going through Clearing will allow you to do this satisfactorily. If you do go via Clearing, be sure to contact your University or College first and discuss it with your school or careers advisor, as it’s a big step to take. Keep an open mind as to where you might end up, and be sure to maintain your enthusiasm whilst approaching new universities.


Taking a Gap Year:

If you're tempted to reapply to universities like Oxford, Cambridge, or other top institutions, carefully weigh up the pros and cons before withdrawing from your current offer. A gap year can offer valuable experiences, but it's crucial to consider its relevance to your academic goals as well as whether it’s something that you personally can get excited about.

Applying post A-Level, especially if you’ve already been through the process before, can in many ways be easier given the experience you’ve gained, but it can also be stressful and, if you’re not doing it for the right reasons, can pile on unnecessary pressure given the higher stakes of not winning an offer from your chosen university. This can be a difficult decision to make, particularly given the relatively short timescale you have to make it in. To help you out, here are the top five questions are consultants recommend asking yourself before reapplying to university post A-Levels:


Do I exceed the standard entry requirements?

Whilst it’s true that any student who is likely to, or has already, achieved the minimum entry requirements for a course will be considered, the vast majority of Oxbridge applicants will be on track to achieve higher grades than the standard offer at A-level or equivalent. That’s not to say that your application won’t be considered if you’ve got the minimum; it just means that your chances of shortlisting may be lower, or that, if shortlisted, you’re going to be relying more on an excellent performance in your admissions test or interview to bolster your application. For this reason it’s important to look at the grades you’ve achieved and consider whether they are realistically going to be competitive.


Am I at Peace with the Risk?

Whilst it’s true that reapplicants have a higher success rate for all Oxbridge courses than first time applicants on average - for example, in the 2020 UCAS cycle Oxford Classics reapplicants had an acceptance rate of 75% compared to 46% or first-time applicants, whilst reapplicants to Cambridge for Natural Sciences had a 36% success rate compared to 25% for first-time applicants - it can still be possible that even very strong reapplicants miss out on their dream place for the second time. Even if you’ve achieved 3 A*s in your A-levels, an Oxbridge offer is far from assured.

For this reason, it’s crucial that you have a spread of university choices on your application that you would be happy to accept should your application to Oxbridge not go as expected, lessening the risk and insuring you’re likely to end up with somewhere to study regardless of your Oxbridge success!


Am I Excited by the Idea of a Gap Year?

For students reapplying having already achieved their grades, the healthiest attitude to take is to consider the gap year as an opportunity rather than a burden, and to plan it such that you are being productive or developing yourself as a student or person in some way. Focusing only on achieving an offer from your dream university for an entire year can pile on unhelpful pressure and can actually end up being detrimental to your chances!

Explore gap year options as soon as you can and consider what opportunities - be it building life skills, going on an adventure, volunteering, saving for university, gaining work experience, or something else - excite you, regardless of how it may or may not help your university application. Remember that, fundamentally, this is a year of your life you’ll be spending, so make sure you’re doing something that will keep you fulfilled or help you in some way for the future.


Do your Gap Year Plans Include Something Academically Relevant?

Whilst Universities don’t insist that you spend your entire year out studying, they will seek reassurance that you are keeping in touch with your subject in some way. This is particularly important for subjects involving mathematics - consider tutoring A-Level maths in your spare time, taking a further maths qualification, participating in a maths competition, or working in a structured way through a more advanced textbook.


Are you Making the Most Strategic Choices Possible?

There are a lot of factors to consider, made all the more difficult given that they’re all very personal to the individual making the decision. Even once you have made the choice to reapply, there’s a whole host of decisions to make such as university choice, gap year activities, and application plan that, if made strategically, can be the difference between success and failure in your reapplication. This is where talking to a mentor or education counsellor can make an enormous difference.

At Oxbridge Application, our expert Oxbridge-graduate consultants work with students like yourself every single day, including reapplicants, guiding them through the best possible plan going forward.

For more information on reapplying, including our honest breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of going through the reapplication process, check out our dedicated reapplication blog post.


What to Do If You've Missed Your Offer

If you haven't met the conditions of your offer, don't panic. There are still several paths you can explore:


Contact the University:

Get in touch with the university to discuss your situation. They might offer alternative courses or foundation programs, particularly if you missed the offer by a small margin, although do be aware that this is likely impossible for highly competitive courses, such as all those at Oxford and Cambridge.


Seek a Remark:

If you’ve missed just one or two grades by a small margin, your best course of action might be to seek a remark in case your grades are increased as a result. Be sure to contact the university immediately to let them know you are doing this, and talk to your school or college as soon as possible to get the remarking process underway. We recommend only doing this if you’ve missed a grade boundary by a few marks, since there is always the possibility that your remarks come back lower rather than higher!


UCAS Clearing:

Explore courses available through UCAS Clearing. This process allows you to find universities and courses that still have vacancies and are looking for applicants. If you’re considering going down this road, we recommend thinking critically first about which universities or courses you’re interested in; keeping an open mind is key when going through Clearing, but equally it’s important to ensure that you’re not settling for a course that you don’t actually want to do because you’ve panicked!


A-Level Retakes and Reapplication:

This could be a good option, especially if you feel like you missed your grades due to a slip up on the day of the exam or a lack of discipline in your revision in the lead up. Taking a year out to revise harder, retake your exams, and reapply to university can be a hefty workload, made harder by the added pressure of it being your second time round, but with the right attitude and a strategic approach to university choice, it can be a fantastic option for students who are confident in their ability to make the grades they need with a second chance. We also recommend checking out the policy of the university or course you’d like to apply to concerning retakes, since some are clear that they consider retakes only in certain circumstances or will consider applicants with retakes only if they are exceptional in other areas of the application. Read our blog post on 'Everything You Need to Know About A-Level Retakes' for a comprehensive overview of what to consider.

Gap Year and Reapplication:

Taking a gap year to reapply can be a strategic choice for applicants who have missed their initial university grades. This process can either be combined with retaking A-Levels (as above) or sticking with the grades you’ve got and applying for universities with slightly lower grade requirements than those which you applied for the first time round. With this option, we again caution that it’s important to really think about how happy you are with the university options available to you with your current grades; there’s no right answer here as the choice is highly personal, and nobody else can make this choice for you. If you’re keen to go ahead and take a year out with your current grades, check out our guidance on reapplying with your A-Level grades above!

For a comprehensive overview of what to do if you’ve missed your A-Level grades, read our dedicated blog post on 'Navigating A-Level Setbacks'.


Your A-Level results are an important milestone, but they don't define your entire academic journey. Remember that there are various paths to success, and the choices you make now can shape your future in remarkable ways. Whether you're heading off to university, upgrading your course, or taking a gap year to reapply or reconsider, embrace the opportunities that lie ahead. Your journey is unique, and it's full of potential waiting to be explored.


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