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A-Levels disaster? Worry not…

D-Day 2015 has arrived.  The results are in and students across the country are being greeting with little pieces of paper with their future path printed on it in black and white. For the average eighteen year old who has applied to university, A level results day can be the difference between following the path you’ve been hoping for, and getting lost in a confusing mess of choices which you have never had the opportunity, or the inkling, to consider as of yet.  And that can be a very stressful experience.

If you didn’t get what you were expecting, or even realistically just hoping and for, it is not the end of the world. No doubt we not the only ones telling you that right now – you only have to glance at the hundreds of well known faces on Twitter declaring ‘I didn’t get any A-levels and look at me!’ to see that there are a lot of us out there with the same advice, but we are all telling you this because it’s true. In the wise words of my editor, ‘It’s not your results that define you, it’s what you do next’.  There are so many options out there! You’ve been told all your life that university is the way to go, but now is time to wake up to the reality that you are finally in control of your future. Scary, but also exciting. What follows are just a few of the many doors now open to you:


The last thing you feel like doing right now is crawling out of bed and trying to find a job, but believe me, now is the time to do it. Not only will those who did get their university places be leaving town, and thus you’ll have a far better chance of stealing their jobs, but despite the increasing popularity of doing a degree, we all seem to be ignoring the fact that employers are crying out for those who have EXPERIENCE. Graduates left, right, and centre are being told that their first class degree won’t get them anywhere because they have no EXPERIENCE. Experience is the workplace equivalent of an Olympic Gold Medal. Go and get some!

And no matter how world weary your parents look when they get in from work, it can actually be a great thing. Long story short, my A level results meant that I took a gap year for which I worked the ENTIRE year (no ‘gap yah’ trip to Ecuador for me), and I kid you not, it was one of the best years of my life! I had money, sooooooo much money! Yes, I had to be in a shop 9-5.30, five days a week, but after that time I was free to do as I wished, whether that was binge watching Breaking Bad on Netflix all night, or trying to behave like a character from Skins and crawling into work next day failing to hide my hangover. Either way, I was free, for the first time ever, from mind-numbing essays which left me hungry, tired, headachey, and all that with only 100 words on the page. The new challenges that my job presented me with were not only often ten times easier, but also, well, new. Nothing refreshes the weary mind like change.


If the job market is looking a bit crap in your area, do not panic.  Be proactive and volunteer! It’s not necessarily got the cool factor, and you definitely won’t be booking that five star trip to The Bahamas off your earnings, but find something that you are interested in, and you’ll not only meet a whole new bunch of people, but you’ll also gain skills that you’re able to put on your CV to land you the job you actually want. Most charities will pay expenses for travel and lunch, so it won’t cost you anything. And that fuzzy feeling that charity work supposedly gives you? Yes, I used to be a cynic too, and I’ll admit I’d done next to no charity work until earlier this year, but alas, it does exist. No excuses.


As much as I had a great time just working and partying on my gap year, for some of you to feel truly fulfilled, you’ll need to take a year off. This generally involved working, borrowing, begging or stealing to find the funds, but from all the accounts (apart from perhaps your bank account) I’ve heard it’s well worth it.

‘Taking a year out before going on to university will not weaken future job applications, providing that you are able to demonstrate what you have gained during the year’, according to Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, so just make sure that you are going to get something out of travelling. And no that does not mean a couple of amazing landscape shots amongst blurred photos of that crazy night out in Bangkok. You can have those things too, but make sure you bring back a couple of souvenirs for the CV.

And if you can’t pull quite enough money together, take yourself off on a tour of the UK’s university towns , where hopefully you will have free accommodation, thanks to your friends studying there and surviving on Supanoodles and rollies, even if you do have to listen to them whining about 4,000 word essays, a scary lack of money, and graduate jobs deficiency. You, meanwhile, can boast about joining the ranks of Channel Four news reader Jon Snow and TV Presenter/Atlantic Ocean rowing fan Ben Fogle, who all didn’t get the A levels they were hoping for but still managed to rise through the ranks in their chosen fields to achieve success regardless.

What I’m getting at is that although not getting the A level grades you hoped for seems to signify a door closed, it actually means that a number of other doors have opened. You just need to work out which ones you need to knock on.  You are now in control of what you do next. It’s up to you to choose, and your parents, teachers and grades will no longer dictate it. It’s not your results that define you, it’s what you do next.

If you’re feeling worried about your A level results and want to talk to someone, call the CALM helpline. It is anonymous, free and confidential. If you are in London, call 0808 802 58 58. Outside of London, please call 0800 58 58 58. Open 5pm-midnight, every day of the year.

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