Published 7 August 2023
As A-level results day draws near, university applicants are naturally feeling nervous about their autumn plans.
For some, these are plans that will change. Last year, Clearing was a path into university used by more 65,000 students – approximately 12% of all acceptances. It will certainly be a busy route once again this year.
So how well prepared do applicants feel for any decisions they may need to make on results day? That’s a question we asked at the start of the summer break in early July.
Of those university applicants we spoke to, more than one third (34%) felt they didn’t have enough information to help them make decisions on results day.
But it’s information they may well need. As we’ll see further on, many applicants lack confidence in the grades they expect to receive on 17 August.
And, even if they do achieve their desired results, they still feel under-informed on what to expect when they arrive at university in September.¹
Are applicants feeling confident about their grades?
When we spoke to applicants shortly after the end of the A-level exam season, they were confident about their grades although they felt anxious and nervous about results day.
Two-thirds (66%) of the applicants we spoke to were confident they would get the results they need for their firm choice university – but not many felt very confident (18%). Only 13% were not at all or not very confident they would get the required grades.
“I think I’m on the boundary edge for the requirements of the uni.” – Z_GAMER posting on The Student Room
At the end of July, we ran a poll on The Student Room asking year 13s how they were feeling about getting their grades for uni. By this time, as results day comes into sharper focus, the sentiment had shifted somewhat.
Of the 289 votes, just over half (51%) thought they would meet or exceed the grades they needed, while 42% felt like they’d miss the grades for their university offer.
So what will applicants do if they don’t get their grades?
“I need BBC, and I think I’ll get CCD – not ashamed to admit that I really messed up. I always thought uni was the one path for me but A-levels have been a real wake up call, so who knows.” – mel_19 posting on The Student Room
Only 19% of the applicants we surveyed felt they knew a lot about Clearing. While the majority of respondents (79%) think Clearing is a good choice for people who want to change their options, almost one-in-five thought it was only for people who don’t get their grades (18%).
For year 13s missing out on their place, the course itself is more important than the university – 62% of respondents would look for the same course at a different university. Just 27% would look at taking an alternative course at their preferred uni and only 11% would consider both a different course and university.
Having a gap year was also a popular response – this approach would give applicants more time to assess their options and find the right course for them; almost half (46%) would be open to waiting and applying again in 2024.
Since the course is so important to applicants – and the specific university less so, it’s a great time for universities to reach applicants with their Clearing course opportunities.
“I’m taking a gap year so I don’t even have a requirement of grades to meet but I’m still terrified lol. I wish we didn’t have to wait so long for results day, I just want it to be over with!!” – Terriblestudent posting on The Student Room
What support do students want at university?
We see it every year on The Student Room – this is a nerve-wracking time for university applicants. Not only are they waiting for their grades, they’re also preparing for a step into the great unknown that is the move to university. This sentiment is borne out in our July TSR Asks research, with 97% of respondents wanting support to feel confident about starting university in September.
So, how can you help them?
According to our research, respondents want guidance with budgeting and planning their finances (67%), getting connected with other students (62%) and planning their time and managing their workload (61%).
They also want support getting a part-time job (52%), developing independent skills (47%) and staying motivated (42%).
Universities can provide students with helpful information around these areas. This is something that can build trust with applicants who, as we have seen, may soon be looking to change their plans.
- 34% of respondents felt like they didn’t have enough information to help them make a decision on results day – there’s still time to show them what you can offer.
- Only 19% of students we spoke to felt like they knew a lot about Clearing, but 79% think it’s a good choice for people who want to change their options.
- Applicants who miss out on a place aren’t fully committed to their original university. 62% would look for the same course somewhere else, so make sure they know what courses you have available.
- Prospective students would like their universities to help them with budgeting, connecting with other students and managing their workload – giving this support will help them feel more confident when they start in September.
The full summary of the survey can be found here.
¹ The research in this article is from 176 responses from 2023 entry UGs to TSR Asks, July 2023 and 289 responses to ‘Year 13s: how are you feeling about getting the grades you need for uni?’ on The Student Room, July 2023.