Did your child not get into uni? Know their options

26 September 2016 | Advice for Parents | Guest Author

When your child’s applied for a university course, you might find them constantly checking their UCAS account for news of offers. Not getting the result they wanted can be hugely disheartening. But just because they didn’t get into their universities of their choice, hardly means that it’s the end of the world. In fact, there are plenty of options for your child, including going through the clearing process, studying for an apprenticeship, or starting work.

Why did your child not get into university?

The most common reason for your child not getting into university is their grades. While your child may receive a conditional offer providing that they achieve a certain grade in particular subjects (often the subject they want to study, or sciences if they’re pursuing a medical job), it can be disappointing if this doesn’t happen. Fortunately, there are a number of alternate routes your child can take.

Take a year out

Not getting into university could be exactly what your child needs. Gap years were traditionally taken in between years of study. But increasingly, students have been opting to take gap years before they even begin their university course. A gap year will give your child the opportunity to think and consider what they want to do. They might find it a much more beneficial experience using the time to either retake their A-Levels, gain some work experience or travel, rather than jump onto a clearing course they might not enjoy as much as their original chosen subject. Taking a year out could also be beneficial if they choose to reapply the following year, as it can make them stand out from the crowd — providing they can show that they used the time in a way that’s valuable. In fact, out of the 50% of 18-year olds who don’t get into university first time around, 85% of them successfully get a place the following year.

What if my child’s set on further study?

If your child is determined to go to university, there’s no reason why they still can’t get a place. Every year when children up and down the country get their A-Level results, dedicated staff man the clearing lines to help children find a suitable course if they didn’t get the grades they needed. Clearing can also give your child the opportunity to consider a different course, as they don’t have to stick with their original choice. UCAS offers the full list of vacant courses on their website, but if the university or course you’re looking for is full or not listed, check back later as the list is regularly updated. With a wide variety of clearing subjects available, from psychology and nursing to law, if your child is still set on a medical job, for example, they will still be able to pursue their career goals.

Other further education courses

If your child still wants to study, there are plenty of alternatives to a degree. While an undergraduate degree is academic-focused, many courses, such as apprenticeships or diplomas, mix work placements with learning, allowing your child to earn real, hands-on experience as well as an education.

Higher National Diplomas and Higher National Certificates

A Higher National Diploma (HND) or Higher National Certificate (HNC) are vocational courses designed to teach practical skills for specific areas of work. A HNC is a one-year full-time course, while a HND is studied over two years. However, it is possible to complete a HND in one year with a relevant Certificate. A HND will be valuable for health and social care jobs and even business and management. Studying for a certificate or diploma also doesn’t mean that your child won’t be able to go to university in the future — a HND is equivalent to two years of degree study, so it’s likely they’ll be able to enter onto the final year of a relevant course at that point.

That being said, many students with a HND find that employers appreciate the specific skills and knowledge of their chosen industry, and so your child might choose to immediately start work.

Studying for an apprenticeship

An apprenticeship scheme offers the best of both worlds, and are a brilliant way of earning valuable qualifications while also earning a paid salary. Upon completion of an apprenticeship, you can choose to pursue a degree with your new skills. If you’d prefer to stay in a secure job while studying, which an apprenticeship offers, you can even work your way up to a Level 4 qualification, also known as a Higher Apprenticeship, which can involve a professional diploma or certificate (such as a HND/C), a foundation degree (which counts towards a full degree but is largely work-based), or a full honours degree. The traditional split is spending at least one day at college (or university) a week and the rest of your time at your workplace.

Starting work

Sometimes, not getting into university can be a blessing in disguise. While there’s no doubt that a degree teaches skills valued by employers, and not to mention completing one is an achievement in itself, a degree does have its disadvantages.

A degree is not only expensive, costing an average of £6,000 in fees each year, but there’s also no guarantee of a graduate job at the end of it. Over the three years your child would have spent at university, they could have been earning valuable work experience and amassing a salary. Finding a job is difficult regardless of whether or not a person possesses a degree, and graduates will all be scrambling for the same limited amount of jobs. In fact many graduates find they need to take an entry-level job simply to pay the bills. With that in mind, your child could have already been in work for several years and have lined up several promotion opportunities.

Leaving school is a large part of your child’s life, and many children will want to experience university. However, not getting onto their chosen course doesn’t mean they can’t still study for a degree. If this happens, it’s well worth explaining the different options available to them, options that still allow for a fulfilling career.


Author Bio: Ron Stewart has worked in the recruitment industry for 30 years, having owned companies in the IT, Construction and Medical sectors. His current project is Jobs4Medical, helping staff and recruiters find medical jobs in both the UK and abroad.

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