What To Do If You Get Rejected from University

20 Mar, 2023 | Blog Articles, Get the Edge

A young student getting a rejection letter from the universities and colleges she applied to

Rejection is tough. We rarely want to face it, but it’s important to remember that it’s never the end of the world. Today, we’re looking at the different paths open to you if you don’t receive the university offer you were hoping for.

Whether it’s early in the application process, or a disappointing results day followed by an upsetting UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) notification, getting a rejection from the university you have set your heart on is incredibly disappointing.

In reality, though, it doesn’t spell the end of your academic aspirations. Many students have been rejected from their initial choice of university and have gone on to enjoy success in ways they could never have imagined before.

Why would a university reject you?

Rejection can stem from a variety of factors – your application year might have had an unusually high number of applicants, perhaps your application didn’t fulfil the course requirements, or your nerves got the best of you in the exam hall or interview office. None of these things mean you should give up – what one university rejects, another path will favour. 


What if i don’t get accepted to university?

We’ve outlined some of the options you might want to consider following a college or university rejection – all of which can lead to successful careers, at degree level and beyond.


1. Accept another college or university offer


If you’ve fallen in love with a particular university, choosing somewhere else might feel unthinkable, but picking a different university can open up a wealth of new opportunities that you may never have considered before.

Take time to explore the universities that have offered you a place, whether that’s on an arranged open day, via an online event or just stopping by to see the uni buildings on your own. Whichever university you select as your firm choice, make sure to visit a second time if you can, to properly investigate the accommodation, location, and facilities available for your course.

Speak with current students and listen to their experiences – it might not have been their initial choice either, and they’re sure to have some insider info for you. Check student satisfaction scores for your course and not just employability prospects – your second choice may offer a happier, more well-rounded academic experience. 

Your alternative option may suit you better in the long run, with a course structure and cohort better suited to your interests. What’s more, accepting an offer from another university you applied to means you won’t have to go through the application process again or delay heading to university.


A young student writing a new university application

2. Go through UCAS Clearing


If you don’t get an offer from any of the universities you’re keen to attend, it might be worth looking at Clearing, an official UCAS process that kicks off mid-July and offers an abundance of alternative places when A-level results are published in August. 

Results day can mean a frantic whirl of new decisions, concerns, and questions but, if managed well, Clearing can help you find a course and university that you’re really happy with. According to UCAS, nearly half of people using Clearing are placed by the Monday after A-level results day, so you won’t feel astray for long.

What’s more, 77% of placed applicants were placed at their favoured university when they went through Clearing in 2019. By changing their course, they succeeded in attending their first-choice location.

Clearing can be stressful if places on courses are snapped up quickly, and there’s no guarantee you can find a place at your desired university, but there’s still a good chance you’ll be headed to higher education that year, whether that’s on a different course at your desired university, your chosen course at a different uni, or a completely fresh start with a brand new university and course. 

It’s important is not to choose anything out of sheer panic during Clearing. Take the time you need to evaluate your choices – you can always take a year out to gain experience and reapply the next year.


3. Take a gap year and reapply


If you don’t manage to find the right place for you this application cycle, or you think you could bulk your resume with experience or boost your grades for a stronger application, it might be worth reapplying for next year’s entry. Here are some ideas to make the most of your time out:

Work experience

Getting a job during your year out is a great way to develop certain practical skills that make your application stand out, as well as raise funds for your eventual entry into university life. 


Want to boost your resume and develop your interest in your desired subject? Strengthen your profile through participation in internships specific to your prospective course. The upcoming internships offered by Oxford Scholastica offer an in-depth insight into fields like economics and medicine. 

Online courses

Ready your entry into further education and build on your subject knowledge with subject-specific courses, like those Oxford Scholastica offer, covering a range of subjects from Law Summer School to Engineering Summer School. There are many benefits of summer school to consider. Attending online courses that go beyond the curriculum demonstrates to universities that you’re passionate about your subject and willing to dedicate time to better your skills.

International aid work

Not only does voluntary aid look impressive on a resume, but it also develops many ‘real world’ life skills that streamline your entry into adult life. Organisations like International Citizen Service offer overseas voluntary placements for 18-25 year olds, working in teams for the betterment of certain communities. Bear in mind, this does not mean a holiday abroad – use this opportunity to learn from the communities you are placed with, building on your organisational and teamwork skills.

4. Consider apprenticeships


Though it may sometimes feel like it, attending university isn’t the only option after leaving school – a higher or degree apprenticeship could give you the best of both worlds by combining work and study. You’ll also be paid for the work you do (£4.30 for first-year entry at time of writing) and graduate with a debt-free degree.

Apprenticeships are gaining popularity throughout the UK, with 22,800 degree apprenticeship placements taken up in 2020/21. 

Bear in mind, you won’t get the same university experience as your school friends; you’ll be expected to achieve academically and at work, working full-time hours with fewer holidays than university-going friends. On the plus-side, however, you’ll have both academic credentials and practical experience to boast once you’re finished. 

Big companies that offer higher and degree apprenticeships include ASOS, the BBC, British Airways, and Google. Make sure you don’t ignore opportunities at smaller companies, though, as these could expose you to even more new skills and experiences.


Dealing with university rejection


If you don’t get an offer from your first choice university, the main thing to remember is do not panic. A hitch in your original plan allows you to explore a huge range of other opportunities.

Your second choice university might offer a better experience than your initial favourite. Make sure you consider what each university can give you both in terms of academic and personal satisfaction.

Clearing might allow you to attend your favoured university on a different course, or a different university for your favoured course. Do not panic and accept a Clearing place for the sake of it though – you’re signing up for at least three years in this place.

A gap year could aid your personal growth, boost your CV and give you a chance to experience the field you’re interested in first hand. Make the most of it!

Attending a university is not the only option for further education. Take a look to see if there are apprenticeships or entry-level jobs that interest you. These could help you advance in your preferred career quicker than a standard bachelor’s degree.


Additional resources for students considering alternatives to university


We would love to hear from you

The team at Oxford Scholastica are here to answer any questions you may have about our summer courses or your child’s wellbeing while staying here in Oxford, or any other concerns you might have. Get in touch today!