The schools minister has urged students who did not get the A-level grades they wanted not to panic, as he told how he was left disappointed by his own exam results.
Will Quince said he did not get into his first choice university but ended up having a “fantastic time” at another institution where he got a degree, made friends and met his wife.
He appealed to students not to be disheartened if their results were not what they had aimed for, telling them “the world genuinely is your oyster” if they work hard and have a plan B.
Ucas said 20,360 students found out on Thursday that they do not have a place at university.
In total, 425,830 students have been accepted into university or college this year – the second highest number on record.
Mr Quince, speaking at Ucas on Thursday, said there are multiple options for students, including apprenticeships and employment.
He said: “I didn’t get the grades that I wanted and hoped for and expected to go off to university. It has always been a competitive process. It always will be. That’s the nature of examinations or the system based on examinations.
“But my message is ‘don’t panic’. It really is not the end of the world. You may still get into your first choice university, you may not. You may choose to go through clearing and go to a different university.
“You may go on to further education, go on to an apprenticeship, or you may go straight into the world of work or come back to further education or higher education at a later point.
“Your grades are important, but they don’t define you. What defines you is your hard work and your motivation. So I would say don’t panic, speak to people at Ucas.”
Of his own experience, he recalled: “I knew my exams hadn’t gone particularly well, so it was of course disappointing but you know, I knew it wasn’t the end of the world. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan B.
“As I say your grades don’t define you. I didn’t get the grades I wanted. I didn’t go to my first choice university. I ended up going to my reserve choice university.
“I had a fantastic time. I got a degree, I met my wife, I’ve got some fantastic friends that I’m still friends with now and I went on to become a solicitor, a Member of Parliament and now education minister.
“So it’s really important to stress – don’t panic if you don’t get the grades you need and want. It really is not the end of the world. There are people here to help. There are so many options open to you. The world genuinely is your oyster – just work hard and have a plan.”