Psychologist Reveals How To Make Decisions Despite Disappointing A-level Results

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Student Roost have partnered with a psychologist to help students navigate clearing. The guide includes practical steps on what to do if you don't get the result you want, but more importantly, it highlights how best to perform these steps while feeling disappointed or stressed.

 With the government announcing grades will return to pre-pandemic levels, limited places on courses, and some universities announcing they're at full capacity even before results day, many students might need to alter their plans. 

However, making decisions when you are stressed or disappointed might not yield the best results. According to the Law Society Journal Online, long-lasting stress could make you more prone to taking risky choices, which could keep that stress going. On the flip side, if you're super anxious, you might lean towards avoiding risks or struggle to make any decisions at all. Just remember, a clear head leads to better choices!

To help you reduce your worries and anxiety, we spoke to a psychologist about how stress can affect young people, and how you can navigate this tough time:

Kasia Richter is a London-based psychologist and wellbeing expert.

Here is what she had to say about teenage stress:

"Research indicates that teenagers face unique challenges, with the burden of academic expectations, social pressures such as bullying and cyberbullying, and personal development."

"In today's fast-paced and demanding society, stress has become an inevitable part of our lives. Research indicates that teenagers face unique challenges, with the burden of academic expectations, social pressures such as bullying and cyberbullying, and personal development. This constant exposure to stress has far-reaching consequences, profoundly influencing their decision-making abilities. Negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear, experienced by teenagers alongside stress cause headaches, dizziness, backaches and stomachaches. Source: European Journal Of Health Psychology"

Here is what she had to say about clearing specifically:

"In that situation, students are experiencing disappointment and a sense of failure which causes them to lose confidence in their ability to make decisions. As they are experiencing a lack of self-assurance in their decision-making, it can result in indecisiveness and hesitancy."

"Moreover, students can display fear of taking risks and avoiding taking a decision. The process of clearing causes significant emotional overload for students, who have not developed full resilience and ability to cope with negative emotions. Emotions such as sadness, frustration, or anger might cloud their judgment, leading to impulsive choices that are not well-considered."
She also highlighted some mental traps that students can fall into:
  • Social Comparison and Peer Pressure. This social comparison can lead students to make decisions based on what their peers are doing rather than their true interests and values. 
  • The trap that should be avoided at all costs is Overgeneralisation. After being rejected by the universities of their choice, students may start thinking that now they will be rejected everywhere. This mental trap negatively impacts students' confidence and limits their willingness to take action.
  • Another one is the Urgency Trap. Students may feel an urgent need to secure accommodation quickly, due to the constraints of clearing. This urgency can lead them to make hasty decisions without thoroughly considering all available options or assessing the suitability of the accommodation for their needs.
  • Confirmation Bias is a big trap as well. Students might focus only on information that confirms their preconceived ideas or preferences about accommodation. This bias can prevent them from considering other viable options that might better suit their requirements.

Richter had this to say about making decisions under stress:

"When we make decisions while experiencing strong negative emotions, we tend to selectively process information. In such situations, we rely on simplified decision-making strategies."

"This phenomenon is linked to the activity of norepinephrine in the brain. Norepinephrine serves as both a neurotransmitter and a hormone, influencing our body's responses. It leads us to analyse less data and instead make quick judgments automatically and without conscious awareness."

Here is what Richter recommends to help with making decisions under stress:

"First of all, look after the emotions. Taking decisions while being in an emotional state often leads to mistakes and regret. Calm the emotions, and get back to your neutral self and take decisions only then. As we experience emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, resentment, regret, and jealousy our brain operates within a hugely diminished capacity. Basically, we operate from our reptile brain, which is wired for survival, therefore we do not have access to the prefrontal cortex, which is a part of the brain responsible for logical thinking, creativity and finding solutions. "

"My main tip would be to control emotions healthily through taking a bit of a distance from a situation, it could be taking a break, a walk, or having a chat with a trusted mentor or a person who has an experience in the field we seek advice in. Breathing techniques are very useful and always accessible."

Here are a few practical tips on how to achieve this:

  • Try not to compare yourself to others and limit your time on social media in the coming weeks.
  • Talk to friends, family, teachers, and support staff.
  • Get enough sleep as sleep plays a crucial role in problem-solving as it allows the brain to consolidate and process information gathered during waking hours.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs, including lots of caffeine ( we're looking at you, energy drinks).
  • Try mindfulness and breathing exercises.
  • Hang out with pets.

For the full piece, you can find it here:
For clearing accommodation you can find all the information you need here: