How to speak to your parents when your exams don’t go to plan

The thing about exams is, they’re designed to test you. Intellectually, emotionally, grammatically… Sometimes it feels like they’re only there to test your memory and patience. If things don’t turn out like expected on Results Day, here’s all the handy info we could gather about how to break the news to your parents:


Parents can have super high expectations. Sometimes it’s difficult to meet them, so it can be easy to think you’ve done ‘badly’ when you haven’t


If you have to break some news to your family on Results Day that you didn’t anticipate, try and stay calm if you can, then your parents will be more likely to do the same.

Remember, with all due respect, it’s your life. The only person your results actually affect is you. And while an unexpected grade can seem like the end of the world on Results Day, the likelihood is that at the same time the following year (even the same time the following month) it won’t.

James had to let his parents know he didn’t get into his first choice uni on Results Day, so here’s his expert advice:

Having discovered I hadn’t received the grades I needed for my firm choice I was concerned my parents would be unhappy sending me to another university, one that we hadn’t previously discussed. How would I find a suitable place now AND get my parents blessing for the new course/university?

Your parents aren’t likely to know what clearing is, so give them ‘THE TALK’


First off explain the meaning of the term ‘Clearing’ to your parents, as to many of the uninitiated (BANE VOICE) it sounds like you’ve been thrown into a bargain bucket of students who are now fighting for survival… this is not the case. Many parents haven’t been to university themselves and so their general understanding of how applications work is very ropey. Help tie up any loose ends they may be experiencing and you may find they’re more understanding of your situation.

Start positive, Stay positive


Don’t approach the situation as if you’ve failed anything: selecting a firm choice isn’t as drastic as it sounds and it’s not a binding contract between yourself and the university you’ve chosen, but something that acts as a target to aim for. We all miss targets now and again, but it’s how we recoup after that sets us on course for our next achievement.

It’s a chance to find the perfect fit

fitJust because you haven’t received the grades you need to secure your firm choice does not mean you won’t actually end up at a ‘good’ university. Many students find a better suited university/course that fits their needs/learning style/ location far better… sometimes the best horizons are just out of sight.

Remind them that you can do anything


Try and explain to your parents that ‘Clearing’ actually sheds a spotlight on some of the more under-appreciated courses on offer, and ones that are trying to educate people for emerging markets/industries i.e. Ethical Hacking etc…No one understood the value of a diamond before they plucked it from the rubble… Clearing courses can be very similar in that sense.

For more help with anything at all to do with Clearing this year, head to our dedicated Clearing website, where you’ll find helpful advice from people who’ve been through it themselves.