You didn’t get a place at your first-choice uni. Now what?

18th August 2022
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After years of hard work, hours of revision and some pretty tricky exams, we know just how gutting it can be if you don’t get a place at your first-choice uni. But the most important thing to remember is: your university career doesn’t end here. In fact, it hasn’t even begun!

When faced with ‘now what?’, the future can seem daunting. But we’re here to help relieve some of those worries and help you figure out a solid plan B. From clearing to reapplying altogether, you get to choose how the next few years of your education play out.

We cover everything you need to know about deciding on and enacting your next steps in this blog post. Read on for our best advice about what to do if you didn’t get a place at your first-choice uni.

Validating your emotions

First and foremost, take some time to digest everything. There’s no need to decide what’s next straight away. Chat it through with friends, family or a teacher, and just take a day to really let your feelings settle.

When you’re ready to get moving, try making a list of pros and cons about other possible courses and unis. And remember – you aren’t the first student who won’t attend their first-choice uni, and you certainly won’t be the last.

Contacting the university

If your heart’s set on completing a specific course at a specific uni, before looking at alternatives, give them a call! If you can demonstrate your enthusiasm for the uni and the course, it’s worth getting in touch and seeing if they’ll still accept you. There’s no guarantee, but it’s certainly worth a try.

Do some research into your subject, teachers, future career paths, course modules and the university itself. This is the time to sell yourself and show that you’re truly passionate about studying with them.

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Accepting another university offer

If your results don’t secure you your firm choice, you may still be able to accept your insurance choice. While it may not be the specific course or uni you originally wanted, it could still offer you valuable experiences.

Before making any decisions, make sure to re-read prospectuses and student reviews, and visit an open day if you can. This isn’t a choice you want to make impulsively, so take the time to think about it – and do your research!

Applying for clearing

Clearing opens ahead of Results Day, so you can start the application process fairly quickly. Not all courses are open for clearing – you can find out which ones are using the UCAS search tool, checking on a uni’s website or by calling them up.

If your original first-choice course is open for clearing, you can apply for it again. Or, you can find a new course that may be similar to what you’re looking for. To apply, add your clearing choice to your original UCAS application – but only after you have permission from the uni.

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Looking at other further education routes

An alternative to university is completing a degree apprenticeship. You apply for a degree apprenticeship as you do for a normal job, and vacancies are advertised throughout the year – not just around results day.

Sometimes you may need specific grades, but often your enthusiasm and other life skills are more important to employers. With this option, your degree is fully paid for and you get paid a salary, but this does mean you need to balance studying and working at the same time.

Reapplying for another year

If your heart is set on completing a specific course at a specific uni, you still have the chance to do so by reapplying for the next academic year. It may delay your education for a year, but this could offer an exciting chance to take a year out and work or travel.

A gap year can be an enlightening and educational time in itself and offers a really great alternative to university. Just make sure that if you do go for this option, you keep in mind important deadlines to make your application for next year.

An open suitcase with a selection of items around it

It’s very easy to see rejection as the end, but why not try to reframe this rejection as redirection? You might now have to begin your journey on a new path, but hey! It’ll probably work out better than you ever could’ve expected.

For further advice, get in touch with the uni you’d like to attend and see what options they offer. Speak to your teachers and career advisers at your college or sixth form, and remember, UCAS is always on hand to help too. Give them a call, send them an email or get in touch on social media.

Alternatively, and if you’re an external applicant, you might find the Exams Results Helpline 0800 100 900 helpful.

It’s not always easy facing rejection, especially about important life decisions. It can take a toll on your mental health, so it’s important to remember that there’s help out there. Sanctuary Students works with Health Assured to offer you a free helpline. Give them a call on 0800 030 5182 if you’d like to chat to someone confidentially.