We all know that waiting for exam results can be a stressful time for students (and their parents!) Throughout my career, I’ve noticed that parents can sometimes find it hard to support their children through what’s always a stressful time, and that they can really benefit from knowing what options they have once their child receives their results.

Based on my experience in education, and as Chief Education Officer here at Oxford International College, here’s some tried and tested advice so you and your child can prepare, no matter the outcome.

Before results day

Depending on your school, exam results will either be sent to you or will be ready to collect on the day. International students may want to make sure they’ve got all the information from their school and remember time differences when accessing results online. IB results will be out this week from the May examinations season, while A levels and IGCSE results will be available in August.

If your child is preparing for A Level Results, like we do at OIC, my advice is to help them research different options, and to prepare for every possible scenario. Once they get their results — whether they’ve got an unconditional offer or need to aim for a backup — it’s best that you’ve both considered every option.

It’s also important that you spend the summer holidays talking to your child. It may sound obvious, but communication is key. You should be fully up to speed with them on their plans for their future at university or otherwise. Try asking questions such as, ‘If this doesn't happen, what do we do next?’

If you’re prepared for the day as a parent, you’ll find that dealing with your child’s emotions when they receive their results is so much easier. Try to be positive, calm, and above all else, be prepared with what options are available.

Option one: Your child got the results they wanted

Congratulations! Your child got amazing results, they got a place in their top-choice university, and this is something to be immensely proud of!

Once the euphoria has died down a bit, the next steps are to contact the university to discuss further steps and enrolment.

One point to mention here is that some students may well get even better results than they were predicted. This can open lots of pathways including an ‘adjustment process’, which means you can choose a better university that required high grades, or even re-applying to your university of choice the following year with your incredible results. You both might be of the mindset that some universities are worth the wait.

Option two: Your child didn’t quite get the results they wanted

What if your child maybe didn't get the grades that you were both hoping for? The first bit of advice is don’t worry!

The most important thing to remember is to help them manage their emotions and be there to listen. And of course, their school and teachers will be at hand to help as well.

For some parents, they may dwell on the if’s, how’s and why’s of lower expected results, so they may want to do a “post-mortem” straight away, but it’s actually best to think about your child’s next action steps.

Ideally, you and your child will have prepared for this moment. If they’re looking at going to university after A-Levels, there are lots of choices, for example, you may wish to look at alternative universities with similar courses or with lower grade expectations. Other options are to take a gap year, study abroad, or consider a vocational route.

As well as talking to them about their results, you should have plans in place to talk to your school’s education experts. The good thing about results day is there are pastoral teams ready to help with any questions or concerns you may have. No one size fits all, so it’s important you encourage your child to work with the school’s experts, based on your own unique plans.

I believe that every child should have their own aspirations, so I always encourage parents to have their children talk to their school leaders. I know I speak for all Nord Anglia schools when I say that we're happy to go through the next steps with you. I also know that sometimes it's the parents who may need the support more than their child!

Final thoughts

Another thing to keep in mind is that the day before results day, you and your child are probably going to be nervous. So, if possible, avoid thinking about their results day. You can try to take their mind off it, whether it’s a day out, a night in or just keeping them busy. Read our other blog about helping your child feel less anxious here.

However, the main takeaway is that there are always options and solutions. Results day isn’t the end. No matter what the situation, even if your child didn't get the grades, there are still routes to get into their preferred courses.

Plan ahead and involve your school. We’re here to help.

Yasmin Sarwar is the Chief Education Officer at Oxford International College. In 2019, the last year when grades were awarded based on standardised external examinations, the college was named the UK's top performing Sixth Form College. A brand-new boarding college will be opening in Brighton, implementing Yasmin’s winning curriculum in September 2023 called OIC Brighton, which will enrol British and international students from Year 9 to Year 13, offering Pre-GCSE, GCSE, and A-Level courses.

How to talk to your child about their exam results-How to talk to your child about their exam results