How To Handle Disappointing Exam Results Positively

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Today we don’t have to wait for the envelope gently landing on the doormat with more of a flutter than a heavy thud, but the contents have the potential to help your child’s dreams come true… or shatter them into a million tiny pieces …… for now.

Today my daughter looked up her results on the UCAS website.

But it’s about mindset, getting back up, and looking for the positive ways forward if things haven’t gone according to plan.

But whatever the results it’s always a day of very mixed emotions for many young people.

Some achieve above their expectations and others feel shocked, stunned and disappointed.

I can still remember the day I didn’t get the grades I was expecting for my “A” levels the first time and the worst thing was not only opening the paper and seeing the results, but being run up by all my friends who expected me to do well and wanted to share all their great exciting news with me.

So what can you do when your kids don’t do as well as they expected?

Well, the first thing is not to look disappointed and look to blame someone – it’s a natural reaction but it’s not helpful because it will not move you all as a family into a more resourceful place.

Stay grounded, centred and positive for your teen – even if you feel upset or disappointed for them and don’t allow your partner’s reaction to cloud or influence yours ! Often in life we look back and say – gosh I’m really glad that happened as …. this wouldn’t have happened …. and I wouldn’t have …. travelled, met my wife , or spent time in Bristol instead.

Try to focus on what will be coming, what you learnt from the situation and how you can move forward either with retakes or where to go instead.

Start to immediately focus on what has gone well, and what you can do next and by keeping relaxed and open you can start to ponder more options – the secret is to remain calm, open minded and flexible and to go and talk to the right people who can help you plan the next small steps.

But while it may feel like the end of the world for a teenager whose dreams of university have just gone up in smoke, it might not be quite as bad as it seems. For help is at hand like never before to ensure that initial disappointment can be turned around.

Scores of experts, myself included, are poised at the other end of the phone, waiting to administer advice, support and a listening ear to teenagers and parents struggling to come to terms with what the postman or school notice board has just delivered.

I really agree with John Young, area principal psychologist at Edinburgh City Council, who says parents have a part to play too in ensuring exam disappointment isn’t blown out of proportion.

“The main point is to be supportive and encouraging – listen to your child,” he advises. “You are dealing with a young adult who has a right to space and privacy. Take the lead from your child’s reaction. Common mistakes include making comparisons with siblings – it’s very important to treat each child and each situation individually”.

He suggests that you shouldn’t put your own feelings of disappointment onto your child’s shoulders.

“We all hope that our child is going to be wildly successful but ultimately it’s their world not ours. Even if you’re disappointed as a parent, it’s obviously the wrong move to pin your own hopes and fears on them.”

He suggests perhaps parents would be best stepping back and letting the professionals take over.

I certainly find coaching is an excellent way to gain clarity, direction and a new focus quickly and easily and I have put aside 4 hours over the rest of this week and next to help you and your family for free so please give me a call on 01 342 833355 to talk through with me the solutions for your family.

Here are some ideas to help:

For many disappointed teenagers, acting QUICKLY is important.

The university clearing system – which matches degree course vacancies with potential students – will be up and running from Thursday. But the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) stress that however disappointing the results, students should still contact the institution where they had hoped to study – they may still be accepted.

While some students may now be thinking of simply taking a year out before considering their further education options – whether in the form of working or travelling – others may prefer to head straight to college to pick up those essential extra qualifications.

That doesn’t have to mean two extra years of study, says Jim Haluch of Edinburgh’s Telford College.

“College is a route to university,” he says. “Students could come to further education college for two years, work to HND level and then enter university in the third year.

In many cases we have arrangements with a local university which can mean an automatic place.

“But first and foremost we suggest students take time to think about what is happening. Many opportunities will present themselves – but they shouldn’t feel they must rush into things”.

Jim advises students to attend college open days to chat with staff before deciding on their future.

“What they have to remember is that while there may be disappointments, there is no such thing as failure,” he adds.

John Young agrees. “Exams are important but they are by no means the only key to a successful future.”

The thing then is not to panic – take stock and take a look at the UCAS guide on where to go from here…

Try an appeal

You have the option to think about lodging an appeal.

Schools and colleges have already sent the relevant Qualifications Authority an estimate of how your child has performed based on their preliminary mock exams, classwork, coursework and assessments. And if your teenager hasn’t reached their estimated grade, there may be a valid appeal case.

The very first thing is to go and make an immediate appointment with your school or college because candidates can’t make an appeal themselves or through their parents. The school or college will ask for an appeal if there is sufficient evidence to support your case.

Teams of experienced examiners who are specialist subject teachers and lecturers consider each appeal in detail so be guided by your school or college tutors and take their advice – as they are the real experts in how your child has performed and know them really well over the last couple of years.

The Clearing system

If your child’s results didn’t go quite the way you thought it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t go to university.

If your teen has a conditional university or college place, check whether they will still accept you with your results. If not, you may need to become familiar with Clearing.

The Universities and Colleges Admission Services (UCAS) helps people without a university or college place to find suitable vacancies on higher education courses. It helps find places for more than 40,000 people every year.

Clearing begins tomorrow and while most of the activity is in the first few days, opportunities can arise throughout the Clearing period. UCAS will process application forms received early and after this date you must contact the universities/colleges direct.

Your child can apply through Clearing if they: applied for university or college through UCAS but do not hold any offers; have not previously applied through UCAS; you do not meet the grades set by your Conditional Firm or Conditional Insurance offers when your exam results are published.

Check out university websites and keep an eye on newspapers for details of courses being offered. Some – such as Edinburgh’s Faculty of Science and Engineering – hold information open days.

You will need a Clearing Entry form. You will have one if you applied to universities through UCAS but were unsuccessful in gaining an offer or if your exam results were lower than expected and you have lost your conditional place. If your grades were better than expected and you now do want to go to university then the universities who make you an offer in Clearing will guide you through the correct process.

Don’t worry if you haven’t got the necessary paperwork to enter Clearing, get in touch with universities as soon as possible – the paperwork can follow.

Make sure you’re available from the start of Clearing to contact institutions, and to be contacted. Don’t go away on holiday as you will need to contact the institutions yourself. Do not ask a friend or relative to do this, as you will need to give detailed information.

For further information, contact UCAS Inquiries: 01242 227788, email http://[email protected]%20quoting your application number.

Get a job

For many young people, Skillseekers or Modern Apprenticeships will be the route to work. If you are aged between 16 and 18, don’t want to go to college or continue in school education but are keen to get into work, then a Skillseeker or Modern Apprenticeship position may be just what you need.

Colleges can also help track down employers willing to provide free vocational training and qualifications for young people, giving them the chance to work in real jobs, for a real wage. Most Skillseekers spend very little or no time in college – all of the work for qualifications is carried out and assessed at work. Meanwhile, Modern Apprenticeships are available for those under-25 and offer the chance to pick up qualifications while at work.

Some Modern Apprenticeships allow students to study at College free on Higher National Certificate (HNC) programmes.

Other career information is available at

See the world

Poor results aren’t the end of the world.

Indeed, they could be the launch pad to seeing the world. Rather than simply accepting a lesser degree course or heading to college to pick up the necessary qualifications, why not take a year out?

Many students do take a gap year at this stage as it gives them a chance to think about their options, get some experience of either work or travel and then think about university.

For many students, it’s a well-earned break before they get their head down for another four or five years’ study. Plus, if they choose to work for that year, it can help them get some money together before they become students.”

So what’s out there?

Raleigh International is a youth development charity which inspires people aged 17 to 25 to discover their full potential by working together on challenging environmental and community projects around the world. Raleigh International runs 11 expeditions a year to Belize, Chile, Costa Rica & Nicaragua, Ghana, Namibia and Sabah-Borneo. Call 020 7371 8585 or

The Prince’s Trust offers a variety of programmes for young people including a business start-up package of low interest loans, grants, mentors and support.

There are also programmes offering the chance to work on community projects abroad and courses where young people can discover new skills or develop existing ones. Check out the website at:

Feel free to call me to arrange a complimentary 20 minute coaching session to get you all back on track, looking forward and feeling back in control of your lives on 01342 833355 and feel free to pass this on to your friends or any families you know, who could also benefit from the half an hour clarity coaching session, I’m only at the end of the phone !

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