No Plan B for would be students?

So imagine the scenario: you’re a prospective university student, aiming to get AAB in your A-levels to get your first choice university place and course that you really want to do. After 2 years of hard work and graft it all comes down to the final exams. You’ve revised time and time again and taken all the exams. But there’s a problem. It’s results day and your grades come back BBC … not what you need. What’s the plan?

Well, it has been reported today that more than half (around 54%) of students in England and Wales do not have a backup plan should this scenario arise, according to Which? University. Researchers questioned 1012 students across England and Wales in the anticipation of their A level results due to be released next week.

This isn’t the only alarming statistic they found. Here are some more;

Of the 1,012 students questioned, 939 of them held conditional offers for their university place, dependent of course on their A level results. However less than half of these (48%) were confident of getting the grades required for their first choice.

More than four fifths (82%) said they had an insurance choice as a backup, but 40% of these said they didn’t really want to go there. Just under a quarter (23%) said their insurance choice had the same or higher entry requirements as their first choice university.

Almost three quarters (70%) of those questions had not researched the clearing process for unfilled degree places. Last year 12% of applicants got their places through clearing, but the survey reveals some misunderstanding among this year’s students of how the system works. Some 54% wrongly think that if they do not get the grades for their first choice, but do get their insurance choice, he or she can still apply for another course through clearing. A further 22% said they did not know whether this was true or not. Actually if the student wants to take their chances on clearing, they would have to give up their second choice university place.

Which? University’s Sonia Sodha said a plan B was a good idea “just in case”. Ms Sodha said: “As A-level results day approaches, it’s an understandably stressful and nerve-wracking time for prospective students, especially those who aren’t confident they’ll get into their first choice university. Hopefully they won’t need a back-up plan, but we advise they research all their options just in case.”

Nick Davy, higher education policy manager at the Association of Colleges advised applicants to explore credible alternatives to a three-year full-time academic degree before results day. “These can include full or part-time higher education offered by colleges, which is often cheaper, and a range of professional certificates and diplomas such as marketing and accountancy. There’s also the option of an apprenticeship or higher apprenticeship in a range of occupations. Students need to weigh up what their employment prospects will be after degree study against the debt they will accrue and seriously consider what an alternative educational and training route may bring in terms of expense, career progression and financial rewards.”

Jason Geall, of The Student Room website, also urged planning ahead in case of surprises, either good or bad. Students who exceed their grade predictions can face having to make snap decisions about “whether they want to change university altogether”, said Mr Geall. “With a week to go until A-level results day, we would advise all students to sit down and understand exactly how clearing works, and start sketching out some scenarios. The worst thing would be making a snap decision under pressure that could affect a future career and finding yourself on a course you don’t like. There’s still time, now, to get it right.”

For me this just highlights how unclear the system is when it comes to university and higher education. The government insist on trying to get people into univerisities, yet the career’s advice often doesn’t talk about the clearing process. I’ve more or less gone through university now and I still don’t know exactly how it works, I was fortunate enough to not require that as I got into my first choice and had 3 other offers as a backup. I can see where the confusion is in that respect. The other problem is students in a way are almost taught the mentality of aim for your first choice without a mind to think of backups, as certainly my experience at school I was told ‘you need this for your first choice’ or words to similar effect. It’s a mentality we all need to change so we can maximise the potential of as many would be students as possible.

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