At the time, A level results day feels a lot like doomsday, with three grades somehow deciding what your next step will be. This last hurdle of sixth form annoyingly sits slap bang in the middle of enjoying the longest summer holiday of your life – and don’t you know it. But the contrast between Twitter’s oversaturation with panic memes and your celebrations already planned begs the question, what happens when everything doesn’t quite go to plan and you end up at your insurance choice university?

If you haven’t already worked it out from the title of this article, for me, results day went a bit skew-whiff, a bit off track, but in probably the least panic-inducing way. I will soon graduate from the university I originally put as my insurance, and I thank my lucky stars for it every day. So, if you are going to your insurance uni, or are a bit sceptical that you might not quite make those firm grades – well, the latter was me three years ago, and it turned out even better than I imagined.

Let’s rewind to my last A level exam, the point where I got suspicious that my plans might decide to freestyle a little. In short, it didn’t go well. Was I momentarily over-dramatic about it? Of course I was. Chemistry wasn’t my favourite subject, my other exams had been fine, and it felt like I had fallen at the very last hurdle, except I wouldn’t know for two whole months. There’s always one terrible exam to spice things up.

Dramatic response over, those around me gave a much-needed dose of reality. I’d done all I could and there was absolutely no way of changing my results, so I left sixth form and flew to Greece for a week with three of my best friends. With a summer of sun, fun and only a brief part-time job constituting any kind of work, it’s no surprise that I forgot all about results day until August crept closer.

Now, I am about as far from being a morning person as is humanly possible. So, the night before results day 18-year-old me had her fingers and toes crossed for the luxury of waking up at 8am, logging onto UCAS, seeing that I had managed to get into university, rolling over, and going back to sleep. How else was I going to survive the big Manchester night out my friends had planned?

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Photo by Ross Findon on
  • Second choice? Ah I was so close to my first offer! *Momentary disappointment*
  • Get innnnnnn, I’m going to uni!!! Adios hometown, freedom awaits.
  • I DIDN’T FAIL CHEMISTRY!!!!! Nice grades, me, congrats, you smashed it!
  • My firm choice might reconsider? Do I get a remark? Do I contact school or the uni?
  • Going back to sleep would be amazing right now.
  • *Throws list of clearing unis away* Only 12 hours til pres. Lets get drunkkkkkk.
  • I should probably get up and tell my friends and family that I passed.
  • How will I decorate my new room? Ikea o’clock!! Time for a freshers version of 60-minute makeover except with actual taste. I should probably get a place to live. Wait – when do I move in?????
  • Thank god I didn’t start the reading for that other English course. Procrastination queen.
  • Urgh people are going to ask why I’m not going to my firm aren’t they. Nosey parkers.
  • And the odd person did ask, but my family and friends were all super proud of me, and they would’ve been even if I had failed catastrophically. Results day comes with a lot of anticipation, especially surrounding what other people will say or think. Really, your loved ones will be proud of you no matter what, because they will have seen the effort that went into revision, and they don’t love you just because of a grade. Even if it doesn’t go to plan, there are so many options from gap years, jobs, and apprenticeships, to clearing and adjustment. Getting through the hell that is A levels is cause for celebration alone.

    One thing I would recommend doing, is visiting your top two choice universities on an open day. This way you can make sure you really see yourself studying there. I could see myself studying at both and, when freshers week rolled around, I said my see you laters, blinked, and the whirlwind that is uni is now coming to an end.

    My experience is by no means universal, but I honestly can’t fathom what life would be like at my firm choice, nor do I want to. It was not meant to be. On reflection, my current university seems a much better fit. Particularly as a student during the covid pandemic, I would have been bored stiff without the fabulous friends and opportunities I’ve had.

    Once you are outside the sixth form vacuum of UCAS notifications, it doesn’t matter what grades you got. No matter where you end up, to some extent Hannah Montana was right: life’s what you make it. Best believe my pals at uni make it great.

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