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If you don't get the grades

Don't despair, it doesn't mean you won't end up where you're supposed to be!

The wonderful Carys was the Head of Programmes at Arts Emergency. In this blog she shares the ups and downs of her results day experience and what to do if you don't get the grades you wanted.

I remember results day well as I spent most of the morning having a cry in my teacher's office at school.

I didn't get the grades I wanted to get into my first choice university. I needed a B in history and I missed it by two marks. I checked UCAS track at 8am, and rather than being accepted at Leeds to do the course I wanted, they were offering me a place on their Philosophy course through clearing. This felt like a particularly salty burn as I was so rubbish at Philosophy, I'd already dropped it by my second year of a-levels. I wasn't interested in Schrödingers cat, I wanted to study English and Theatre, to make plays and hang out in the posh Leeds library!

So by the time I got to school, I was already trying not to have a cry as I knew my results were not what I'd hoped for, I just didn't know what they were. In the end I actually did okay, just not well enough to get into my first choice. My teacher Mrs Keene made me call them anyway, just to check they definitely couldn't accept me. They wouldn't, but it felt good to stand up for what I wanted and make sure. I would definitely recommend you finding your own Mrs Keene, someone who has your best interests at heart who will help you work out what you want to do. Your Mrs Keene could be your teacher, your mentor, your parent, a sibling or our team at Arts Emergency who will be in the office all day if you want a chat. If you are nervous about your grades, have a think beforehand about who that might be so you know who to call on.

I'd put Lancaster as my second insurance choice, partly because I liked the university and partly because I'd heard that they quite often still accept students even if you don't make the grades. Disclaimer: I have no idea if this is still true, or if it was ever true, please don't sue me Lancaster University. Turns out, I did have the grades to go to Lancaster and after giving their team a call they advised me that if I rejected Leeds' philosophy offer, they could offer me the booky-drama-y degree I'd been hoping for. It was a strange feeling having imagined the next three years of my life being in Leeds and now thinking about living in Lancaster on the other side of the Pennines. But I found I got used to it quite quickly and the university sent me a lot of information to help me see myself as a Lancaster student.

My advice is to surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart; to know who you'll call if you need help; to read up on how best to access clearing beforehand; and to keep the faith.

Being from London, Lancaster was much smaller than what I was used to and smaller than Leeds, but actually that felt really nice - I got to experience a different part of the UK, the university was surrounded by fields of sheep and the course was brilliant. Unlike Leeds, it had a college system, which made me feel like I was Harry Potter. I made lots of nice friends and learnt a lot about literature, theatre and how to make cakes in the microwave.

After I finished the three year course, I actually worked for the university's volunteer department helping university students who wanted to be teachers gain experience with school children. It was then that I realised I wanted to do something that would support young people and - as you've probably guessed - this eventually led me here to where I am: sitting in the lovely Arts Emergency office. If I hadn't have gone to Lancaster, I might have ended up on a completely different path and I might not be here now. I'd be another Carys somewhere else doing something else - a weird thought.

None of this is to say that, if you don't get the grades you were hoping for, you won't feel disappointed. It's hard not to compare yourself to friends or wish you'd done things differently. My advice is to surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart; to know who you'll call if you need help; to read up on how best to access clearing beforehand; and to keep the faith. These results don't define who you are, you are all the brilliant things you do and believe, you're not just letters on a page. Try your best and have your Mrs Keen nearby to cheer you on. You'll end up where you're supposed to be.