Students need plan B just in case they don’t make grade

As competition is intense, having a well-planned strategy for the Ucas (undergraduate courses at university and college) process could make all the difference.

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DUBAI // Students waiting on their A-Level results this week are urged to plan carefully to give themselves the best chance of getting into the university of their choice.

As competition is intense, having a well-planned strategy for the Ucas (undergraduate courses at university and college) process could make all the difference.

The application process for universities in Britain involves an online application to Ucas, in which applicants select up to five courses in no preferential order.

Universities give either an unconditional offer or a conditional one in which the applicant must attain the required grades.

“We always encourage a plan B and plan C to be in place and support students through this,” said Brendon Fulton, the principal of Dubai British School.

Alun Yorath, the headmaster of Brighton College Abu Dhabi, agreed that it was essential to have a back-up plan.

“What they’ve got to do is make sure that they’ve got a reserve choice, that they have a second-choice university which is going to fit with slightly lower grades if they were to drop a grade or two,” he said.

“It’s not what do we do after they get their results and how do we help them, it’s much more to do with how we prepare them to ensure that they’ve applied to the right type of universities for their ability.”

Mr Yorath said grades were just part of how universities screened applicants. He advised students to get involved in sports, music, community service and extracurricular activities that would set them apart.

“Every single one of those activities, you can’t quantify them, you can’t say how valuable they are, but every single one of those builds a picture of a high-achieving, aspirational child, which is what universities are after,” he said.

At Dubai British School, staff offered one-on-one mentoring and group sessions to students on the best ways of completing the Ucas process and “how best to present themselves”, said Mr Fulton.

Jake Hall, director and co-founder of education consultancy Holland Park, said a well-constructed application would exponentially increase the odds of success.

In the event that students are rejected by universities that are among their top picks, they should contact the universities directly to discuss their options and seek advice from school counsellors, according to Peter Davos, managing director of Hale Education Group, a student counselling consultancy.

“The student should contact the university immediately to look at whether they would still accept him or offer a place at an alternative course,” he said.

“If not, the student would either look to reapply for the following year, or proceed to shop around for available courses that match his exam results.”

This process, known as clearing, starts from July to September, and students can use it to find an appropriate course.

Peter Carpenter, director of education at Aldar Academies, said it was important that students disappointed by their grades not give up hope. “Sometimes a minor shortfall will be accepted by university course leaders, when the overall application of the student and their course work is considered.”