The results are in
August is always an anxious time for students as they wait for GCSE and A level results – the outcome of their work and a measure of their learning. It can be a particularly stressful time when a hoped-for university place depends on those results. Contemporary wisdom perceives a university education as both the gold standard and the key to a successful financial future. The stakes are high on results day, with the media abounding with images of students jumping for joy as they wave their results paper in the air.
The annual scrabble for places through clearing enables most students to go to university, even if it’s not on the course or in the university of their choice. But what of those for whom A level results have led to broken dreams? Whose grades weren’t even good enough to get a place through clearing! What then? And, as a parent, what can you do to help?
The first thing to remember is that reactions to disappointment are varied – but are all valid. They can range from anger, tears and intransigence, to prolonged duvet days and loss of interest in life. Remember that it’s not only physical sprains and breaks that hurt and take time to heal – the same is true of emotional ones, too. So give your child some space to come to terms with what has happened. Be supportive and cut them slack if they act out of character for a while. It will be particularly hard when they see their friends going off to university in a few weeks’ time. Find ways of reassuring them that life isn’t over and they aren’t useless failures, even if they feel that way at the moment.
Sooner or later though, the question ‘What next?’ will demand an answer. A good place to start is with your child’s college or school. Were these grades a realistic reflection of ability, or could retakes improve the results? If so, is a university degree worth a year of repeated academic study to your child? Can they apply again this autumn with the current grades in hand? Schools and colleges are experts at answering these questions, so listen to their advice before making a decision.
A significant point to consider is whether university is actually the best step. It’s easy, in a society which values academic prowess and with a government determined to widen university access, to get carried along with the zeitgeist without stopping to question whether there are other, more suitable routes, to a career. Increasing numbers of young people are considering alternatives, particularly given the significant level of debt that even the most financially savvy university student will carry into working life.
Maybe a sponsored degree is an option. Some companies will pay for suitable applicants to study for a degree whilst providing work experience and a job at the end of the process. Apprenticeships are growing in popularity – it’s possible these days to become an engineer, an accountant or even a paralegal executive without first going to university. Make use of the internet to research the options – http://www.allaboutschoolleavers.co.uk/ and https://www.allaboutcareers.com/ are good starting points. Try and find people to talk to who have had similar experiences – it helps to reinforce the point that there is a productive and successful life ahead.
There are some important dos and don’ts for you as a parent during this tricky time. Be quick to reassure that just because one door has closed, it doesn’t mean that others won’t open. Be supportive and listen as your child tries to find the right door, but don’t interfere. Remember they are on the threshold of adult life and, vital as your care and support are, they need to find their own way through this. Trust your child: you’ve parented them for 18 years, so have confidence in the relationship that you’ve built, even if it sometimes seems stormy at the moment. One day you will both look back and see this time as a point when life took an unexpected turn, but one which worked out to your child’s advantage. And above all, believe in your child and let them know it.
– Gill Robins, Christians in Education