A-level results: Meet the ex sixth formers thriving on very different paths

Weeks of nervous waiting for hundreds of thousands of students and their families have come to an end with the release of A-level results in England and Wales.

For those hoping to go to university, the results will determine whether or not they go to their first choice.

While some students may be disappointed with their grades, they will have many options for university and beyond, from Clearing to apprenticeships or perhaps the chance to take a year to work abroad.

What’s more, results day is set to be a buyers-market for university places, with several of the UK’s top universities saying they still have unfilled spots on even their most popular courses.

Proving you don’t always have to stick to the post-results plan, Sky News meets with former sixth formers whose A-level grades took them on different paths.

Sarah Jardine, 21, London

Sarah Jardine is from York and initially planned to go to a university close to home.

But on A-level results day, she didn’t get the grades she needed and her first choice university told her she no longer had a place.

She said: “I cried, and then I thought… ‘Is that it?’, and that maybe I wasn’t going to go to university at all and all of this was just two weeks before I was meant to be moving!”.

Ms Jardine said she’d never even thought about Clearing – the system through which students who don’t have places can find available spots at other universities.

“I ended up speaking with City University, in London, and it’s where I ended up going.”

Ms Jardine said it was difficult to organise accommodation with just two weeks’ notice, but her transition to a new city was made easier by the university’s Clearing team.

“They were really helpful, they know all about Clearing and how to deal with it, so they were a great place to get information.”

After the initial shock of results day, Ms Jardine, who has now graduated, said the move to London was a blessing in disguise.

“I actually feel lucky to have gone through Clearing,” she said, “because of what happened I just had to throw myself into it, especially as I was going somewhere where I didn’t know anyone.

“It’s the best thing that could have happened to me.”

Her advice for those getting their A-level results? Make sure you have the numbers for university Clearing departments on your phone, just in case.

Rose Dyson, 19, South Yorkshire

Rose Dyson was always academic, getting tops grades in her GCSEs at school and excelling in extra-curricular activities.

She was set to become the first person in her family to go to university after A-levels, until she saw a poster at school, advertising a Young Enterprise business challenge.

Using £25 pocket money, Ms Dyson, then 15, started to make vegan, cruelty and plastic-free lip balms and scrubs with a price point targeted at a younger market.

“I sold what I made,” she told Sky News, “put that money back into the business, made more, sold more and soon I had made £1000.”

Ms Dyson kept the business going alongside her studying but, in her second year of sixth form she decided she wanted to concentrate on the business full-time after A-levels.

“I thought if I’ve done this well doing it as a side-business, what could I do if I concentrated on it full-time?” she said.

With more of her time focused on growing her business, Ms Dyson didn’t get the A-level results she was expecting and said she was initially disappointed.

“I would have been the first person in my family to go to university, my dad was like, ‘You are so academic, you could be a doctor or anything!’, but I was sure the business was what I wanted.”

Ms Dyson now employs a team of staff and sells her lip balms and scrubs across the UK and worldwide online.

“I never saw myself as a entrepreneur until I saw that poster at school. It’s all about saying yes to opportunities because you never know where they are going take you.”

Her advice? If you have a business idea, now is the time to go for it when you have fewer financial commitments. You can always go to university later.

Jack Edwards, 20, Sussex

Like Ms Dyson, no-one in Jack Edwards’ family had ever been to university.

But he was was determined to get into his first-choice, Durham University, to study English Literature.

“On A-level results day, I was terrified,” he told Sky News. “My parents had to drag me out of bed to look at my results.”

Thankfully, he got the results he needed – three straight A*.

He video blogged his reaction to his results on his YouTube channel, where you can see him close to tears.

“I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t smug about it because I’d worked really, really hard.

“I filmed it to show people that it’s okay to feel nervous about your results, it’s normally to feel a bit frightened.”

Mr Edwards has now finished he second year at university, and loves it.

“University is such a good fit for me. I love meeting new people from all over the world and opening my mind to new ideas.

“Ideally, I’d like to prolong it, and hopefully get accepted onto a masters programme.”

His advice? It’s normal to feel nervous, just make sure you’re properly prepared on results day, so that A-level results day is just A-level results morning!

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