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Message to A-level students: don’t panic if you miss out on university

Students celebrate place at medical school after missing out last year

By Lindsay Fergus

A year ago aspiring doctors Catriona Moles and Olivia Sloan should have been celebrating the start of their university journey - instead the A grade students were rejected by eight universities and then failed to win a place through clearing.

But today, as thousands of would-be-students find themselves in a similar predicament due to an unprecedented demand for places, the former Regent House pupils finally have cause for celebration.

For both Catriona, a former head girl, and Olivia will be starting their medicine degrees in September at their first choice university.

Catriona, who secured 10 A*s at GCSE, two A*s and two As in her A-levels, explained: "I did not get a place in clearing on results day so I decided to take a year out and work in various medical related jobs, which allowed me to save money for going to university.

"I was really devastated last year but I am delighted that I have secured a place to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh, which was my first choice last year. I think I am more excited having taken a year out and I feel a lot less nervous."

Olivia Sloan, who got three As and a B in her A-levels, is going to St Andrews, one of the UK's most prestigious institutions and the university attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

"As soon as the results came out last year I went to the careers library and phoned universities but they were all engaged so I started emailing and quickly discovered there were no medical places in clearing.

"I had been offered a place at Queen's to study biomedical sciences so I thought I would start that and then re-apply for medicine. But I realised I would be taking up a place that someone else could have so I decided to take a gap year.

"At the time I was devastated but I'm so glad I took a year out."

Olivia worked in a nursing home, which she says was an invaluable experience, and re-applied for her original first choice.

"It allowed me to see a totally different side of medicine and showed me what it would be like to work 12-hour shifts. When it came to re-applying I already had the grades St Andrews wanted."

And both girls advise anyone who finds themselves in the same situation to re-apply next year or, if offered a place through clearing, not to make a knee-jerk reaction.

Catriona said: "Look at it positively. I really enjoyed working, gaining the experience and earning some money. I would say a year out can be a good thing, even when it's reluctantly taken."

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