STUDENTS all over the UK ripped open A-level results envelopes last week.

Some celebrated, while others were disappointed. But no matter what the grades, there is now one big question – what next? University, college, work or a gap year?

Embarking on the next step of the rest of your life can be a daunting prospect. If you’re unsure, we’ve put together an easy guide to help you through…

PROBLEM: Didn’t get the grades you needed?

WHAT TO DO? First of all, don’t panic. Even greats like Churchill and Einstein did not get good exam grades! Never forget, you have options.

Take time out. Yes, you will need to act quickly if you want to salvage your university place. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set aside a few minutes to consider your future. Is that coveted uni place still what you want? Try not to think of getting disappointing grades as a failure, but a chance to re-evaluate what you want and the things you need to work on.

Appeal. If you think you have been unfairly marked, you can appeal against your results. You have to do this via your school or college and there is a fee. They can fast-track the appeals for students with university places at stake – but this needs to be requested before August 28 so act fast.

Contact your university. If you don’t make the grade for your chosen course, your first choice university may be able to offer you a place on another course. But think carefully and don’t just grab anything you are offered.

Clearing. This process is there to help students without a university place, who want to change course or have a late application. There are criteria to meet. You can search through places available at all universities – not just those you listed as your choices or in your subject area. The process can be confusing and you need to act fast. Find out all the facts at

Retakes. If you really have done disastrously and your grades cannot be salvaged, don’t forget you can always start again. It’s not a pleasant prospect, re-doing all that hard work. But on the plus side, you will know where you went wrong. If you need certain grades for your chosen career path, it may be worth biting the bullet and putting in the study time all over again.

PROBLEM: I don’t want to go to university.

WHAT TO DO? First, consider why. Are you just worried about leaving home or facing the unknown? If so, talking to someone might help. But maybe you just don’t feel it’s for you. Nowadays, nearly everyone has a degree. But you don’t have to be among the majority.

It’s true that competing in the job market can be harder if you don’t have a degree. But there are professions – especially vocational ones – where your personal qualities and skills may be more important. You might have to attend training courses or work on the job, usually not for huge wages. But if you prefer practical work to academia, this could be for you. Don’t forget, most graduates do not walk straight into high-paid jobs in their chosen field as soon as they leave university. So you may not be at a disadvantage after all.

PROBLEM: I’m having doubts and worrying about regretting my choice later.

WHAT TO DO? First discuss your worries with your family, teachers or careers worker – perhaps even people who have been through what you are about to embark on. This will help you get some real facts and different perspectives. Remember, what you decide now does not have to be set in stone.

If you end up unhappy with your university or college course, their students services advisers can help you switch to a subject you prefer, or advise you on other options.

*If you have chosen to go straight into work but wish you had opted for study, it’s not too late. Many universities cater for late applications – but even if they don’t, use the time before the next application date to get some experience or skills that will give you an edge over the other candidates.

PROBLEM: I don’t know where to go for advice.

WHAT TO DO? There is a huge amount of advice out there – sometimes too much. As an easy starting point, you can contact the Government’s special exam results helpline on 0808 100 8000. Advisers will give you information on all the different options and can access an online database with up to the minute course availability.

You can also try…

UCAS: The university application body has everything you need to know about applying to a university and clearing process. Their website allows users to register and apply online.

Directgov University and Higher Education: Their website explains your options for further study and tells you how you may be able to get funding.

Connexions Direct: They will give loads of practical advice and support on what to do via their website, which is at

Gap year advice: If you're getting ready for a gap year experience once your exams are over, take a look at this guide to being prepared for the trip of a lifetime. It can be found on the internet at