A-level students advised to take gap year

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Clearing: the anticipated demand means A-level students failing to get their required grades have been advised to take gap years.

Teachers and students have urged A-level pupils to “be selfish” if they miss their grades for university, warning they will need to think strategically to maximise their chances for next year’s entrance round amid unprecedented competition for places.

Record numbers are expected to be disappointed when A-level results are published next week, because the recession has made competition even fiercer for places, the numbers of which have been cut this year.

A Guardian id="IL_AD12">investigation this week found that many universities already have no places left to offer through clearing, while a number, including Warwick, the London School of Economics and Nottingham, had turned away even students predicted to get the new top A* grade. Some 170,000 could find themselves without a place.

Headteachers, such as Mike Griffiths of Northampton School for Boys, said it might be better for students to take a year off and reapply, if their grades were “reasonably good”.

“In the meantime, try to be selfish and think about what would help your career most in the next five years,” he said. John Guy, principal of Farnborough sixth form college, saidstudents who were committed to studying medicine or law might well secure a university course the second time around.

The National Union of Students urged teenagers not to panic. “There are still a lot of training, volunteering, and work opportunities out there,” Aaron Porter, NUS president said. “Talking to a service like Connexions will help you decide what option is right for you.”

Margaret Morrissey, of the campaigning group Parents Outloud, said unsuccessful university applicants should take a gap year, make the most of it and think strategically about where to apply for next year.

“There aren’t even the jobs for unlucky teenagers because they are being grabbed by older people,” she said. “If you don’t get a place, it will be totally disappointing, but there are other options. Do something positive like volunteering. But keep your finger on the button and don’t forget about applying to university.”