3 things not to say after disappointing A-level results

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For a teenager, disappointing A-level results can feel like the end of the world. But it doesn’t have to be the case. However, it is still a traumatic experience and you need to know that, whilst there are some things they need to hear, there are also things they do not want to hear as well.

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As a parent or carer, it can be difficult to know what to do or say to support your young person through this challenging time. Particularly if you haven’t been through the results process before. But you don’t want to accidentally say something that might make them feel worse.

What you SHOULD say

First and foremost, it’s important to try and keep a sense of perspective over the situation. Yes, their disappointing A-level results may not get them where they want to be right now. However, there are plenty of options available.

The UCAS clearing system should be your first port of call if you didn’t meet your university’s grade requirements. Many institutions will still have places available and will do for a few weeks. It is better to do this sooner rather than later, though.

If your child is thinking of taking a break from traditional education, it doesn’t mean they have to stop learning. They can still resit A-Levels or even start studying for new ones whilst working. They might be lucky enough to be able to go travelling before coming back and seeing how they feel about their future then.

What you SHOULDN’T say after disappointing A-level results

1. “Why didn’t you revise harder?”

Disappointing A-level results
Your child may have studied really hard and exams just didn’t go their way (Alamy/PA)

It’s too late to change the amount of revision that was or wasn’t done now, and saying this really won’t be helpful. What matters is the support you offer them, and their willingness to learn from the experience.

Avoid being overly critical of your children if they are dissatisfied with their results. They are hurting more than you.  Asking them where they went wrong or why they didn’t revise harder will only make matters worse. Take an hour to think things through, stay calm, and then make a plan for who you’ll seek advice from.

2. “Well, what are you going to do now?”

Results day will bring a whole host of emotions to the surface (Alamy/PA)

Remember what it’s like being a teenager? Emotions can be very intense and overwhelming, so try to avoid adding to the pressure and fear they’re probably processing. Yes, they are technically an adult, but they also need support.

Don’t overwhelm them by making them believe they must plan their next steps on their own. Their school or college or a careers adviser can offer expert, impartial advice, and it can help to separate emotions from the situation.

There are lots more options other than university these days. Whether it’s an apprenticeship, a work-based learning programme, or starting a business, talk to your child about the importance of being open-minded and exploring all of the options available. And they may find their true calling where they weren’t expecting to.

3. “Everything happens for a reason”

Boy crying
Advice will be more useful than adages right now (Alamy/PA)

Don’t just use a generic throwaway line that could apply to anything. Instead of using clichés like, ‘Everything happens for a reason’, or, ‘Some things just aren’t meant to be’, offer practical advice that applies to their situation.”

Whether it’s offering your support through clearing, or helping them look into apprenticeship options, degree apprenticeships, or finding work through a support programme available to young people..

Reassure and inspire them that there are numerous opportunities available to them and disappointing A-level results are not the end of the line for their aspirations.

One last thing

We’re not sure how helpful this is, but every year Jeremy Clarkson tweets something about how well he’s doing after disappointing A-level results. It might help, maybe? 


Do you have any other unhelpful lines to avoid? Leave them in the Comments below

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