July 2021. Summer holidays, results day, preparing for Clearing, planning your Personal Statement

Thursday July 15th, 2021

Welcome to your July blog. UK government just confirmed that from the 19th of July the country is going back to normal after the Covid restriction rules being lifted. UK citizens that received two vaccines now don’t need to quarantine if they have been in touch with Covid-19 infected people or on return from Green or Amber list countries. Face masks are no longer legally required in public places and wearing of them becomes a free choice.

In this issue we’ll devote a bit of time to summer holiday activities that could set you up for the next stage in your academic career. For many students, early August is an important time with results being announced and university courses open for Clearing. We’ll take a look at this too, so that you can be prepared no matter what the outcome. Nothing is quite back to ‘normal’ in the world of exams and university entry so we’ll go through the current timelines to give you an idea of what you might need to do and when.

Exam results and next steps

Exam regulator Ofqual’s public consultation about how best to manage this year’s exam cancellations had over 100,000 responses, more than half of which were from students themselves.

The controversial algorithm of 2020 has been abolished. Teachers can choose the method(s) of assessment but must provide evidence. This year, exam boards will approve schools’ internal moderation processes and also undertake random ‘spot’ checks on results.

With no official exams for a second year running, most UK independent schools opted to hold their own. This gives teachers a more informed foundation on which to base their assessments when they’re awarding grades.

A Level results day in England and Scotland is earlier than usual, and a fortnight before the original planned date, on Tuesday 10th August. Bringing the date forward by two weeks is intended to allow more time for students to appeal their grades if they don’t get the results they expect. GCSE results will follow hot on A Levels’ heels later that same week, on Thursday 12th August.

Despite the second year of upheaval, the process of receiving results will be largely the same as a typical year. Results should be available via schools from 8am on the relevant day.

A Level results: what next?

Your school will most likely publish information online so that students can log in and check their own results from 8am. Your school should release specific details nearer the time if they haven’t already. You can also see your results in the ‘Track’ section of the UCAS website. I always recommend having a look at this page in advance of results day. If things don’t go quite as predicted, then it’s good to be prepared and ready to take action.

If you know the exam board(s) for your subjects, check here that the board will send your results automatically to your university of choice. If your exam board isn’t listed, you’ll need to send on the results yourself.

What to do if your grades are lower than expected

If your teacher-assessed grades are lower then you’d hoped or you need, don’t panic. Don’t forget that a great deal depends on other people’s results and choices too, and you could still be offered a place at either your first or insurance choice of university. Or your chosen university/ies might offer you an alternative option (known as a ‘changed course offer’). If so, you’ll need to accept or decline.


Of course there’s also the ‘Clearing’ process. This is where, once universities know all applicants’ results and choices, they can release all the remaining places available on any courses. This means you could still find your perfect course and location. A new feature, added last year, makes it easier to strike gold! Clearing Plus suggests up to 50 matches that might be of interest to you, based on what UCAS knows about your studies and course choices. Read more here.

Preparing for Clearing

There are a few things you can do to be prepared for Clearing, should you need to use it. And it’s not that I advocate a negative mindset, but it can be quite therapeutic to have a plan B. Students often say they feel calmer in the run up to results day if they have a back-up plan ready to go should they need it. Here are some of the things you’ll need should you have to use the UCAS Clearing route:

You’ll also need your unique UCAS Clearing number. You can’t make a note of this in advance, because you’ll only get one if you miss out on your first and insurance choices. You’ll find it in the Track section if you are eligible for Clearing.

As part of your plan B prep, it’s worth revisiting your personal statement and maybe even doing a couple of interview sessions with friends or family over the summer. Get them to ask you questions about your personal statement. Is there anything you can add that shows how you’ve developed since you wrote that statement? Can you think of alternative routes to achieving your overall goal?

Essentially, there’s no one-size-fits-all for a Clearing call. It could be a very quick and simple process – or it could turn into a bit of an impromptu interview! There’s no harm in having some questions of your own too. You could ask about graduate options for the course in question (you can also research this in advance for each university and course you’re looking at). You might want to ask a bit more about teaching hours, lecturing styles, or wider opportunities for learning, including teaching weekends or postgraduate courses. Ask questions you genuinely want to know the answer to – but also think about how you come across. You want the person at the other end of the phone to sense you are keen and committed. Someone who is calm under pressure, who can adapt to difficult news and take it in their stride, seeking alternative solutions with clarity and insight.

Have a look at The Uni Guide for a short video about what to expect during a Clearing call here.  You will see some ideas of questions you could ask.

And don’t forget that we can help too. We can talk you through the options to find new courses or universities, and help you prepare for a Clearing call. The main thing is not to panic. There are so many options out there – and life has a way of working out for the best for people who are willing to seek and take opportunities. Drop us a line if you’re worried and would like a quick chat about how we can help should you need it.

If your grades are better than you expected  

Clearing isn’t simply an administrative, logistical process. The person you’re talking to wants to hear your passion for the subject, your wider interests, and your reasons for choosing their institution. If the courses you’re looking at through Clearing are very different to those you put as your first and insurance choices, be prepared for questions about this too.

If you achieve higher grades than anticipated, you can stick with your choices or consider alternatives. UCAS has an Adjustment service, which opens from 10th to 18th August this year and allows you to search for other course options. You can register to do this through the UCAS Track page, and while you’re looking, your original offer remains firm (it’s only if you accept a new offer that the original one will close). Find out more by clicking here.

What to do this summer

 Whether you’re waiting for results or not, it’s worth having a plan for the long summer break. Obviously allow lots of time for relaxing and doing the things you’ve missed most as restrictions relax at different rates across the world. But do think ahead too. Whether you’re university-bound, about to start A Levels or at any other point in your education – the summer is a great time to reflect on your learning, read, watch and listen more widely than term time allows, and get ready to hit the next stage running!


The summer holidays can be the ideal time to intersperse some subject-specific tutoring with more relaxing activities. After a second year with prolonged periods of disrupted learning, it could be worth considering tuition. Get in touch for a no-obligation chat to see if we can help. We offer tutors who can teach online or in person to all ages and academic qualifications.

Wider reading / watching / listening

We explored some ideas in our July 2019 blog, many of which are still relevant. For some up-to-date inspiration, have a look at Good Housekeeping’s guide to forthcoming family films and this month’s guide to family films on Netflix.

For children aged 9 to 12, The Literacy Trust has some good recommendations for feeding young imaginations and encouraging creativity this summer. The Guardian lists its top 50 new reads here. And this time last year the Independent collated its top teen reads, see here.

Here are two great collections of young people’s podcasts, one from the Independent aimed at younger listeners.  And one for teenagers courtesy of Good Housekeeping.

University next year?

If you’re heading off to uni next year, you really need to start preparing your personal statement this summer! The earliest you can apply for undergraduate courses beginning in 2022 is 7th September 2021, but it’s worth spending some time thinking about what you can do to make your personal statement stand out. Consider your studies and your wider interests such as sports, film, music or other hobbies. Think about how you can link these to your chosen courses and to your longer-term career aspirations.

We highlighted a few ideas in our July 2019 blog about gaining new skills and experience. Covid has made that much more complicated, although not impossible. One sure-fire Covid-safe way to showcase and develop your views and ideas is by starting your own blog. There are plenty of platforms that allow you to do this at no cost. It’s a good way to get across your personality whilst developing your ideas and drawing on others’ inspiration. It will also give you an element of structure and discipline that can be really useful during a prolonged break from studies, as well as a way to marshal your thoughts at busier times.

Wishing you and you family a happy, healthy summer. We’ll be back with your next update in August.