What to do if your HKDSE results aren't what you're expecting - a guide for applying to university and planning your next steps

What to do if your HKDSE results aren't what you're expecting - a guide for applying to university and planning your next steps

No matter what surprises this year’s HKDSE results day brings, you will have many options open to you


Even if your results aren't ideal, there are still things you can do to help yourself.
Photo: Nora Tam/SCMP

Are you one of those anxiously awaiting your HKDSE results next Wednesday? We know you don’t want to think about the worst-case scenario – failing, or not doing well – but preparing for the worst can help you in the long run. Young Post spoke to Hok Yau Club Student Guidance Centre director Ng Po-shing for some practical advice on what to your next steps are if your grades aren’t what you expected.

If your DSE score is good, but lower than you had anticipated

If you receive a score of around 23 or 24, you should focus on modifying your programme choices based on your interests. You can make changes on your Joint University Programmes Admissions System (Jupas) account from July 12 at 10am until 14 July at 6pm.

“Students should use last year’s Jupas admission scores of the nine participating institutions as a reference, and calculate their admission scores based on their selected programme’s specific formula,” Ng said.

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He added that students should pay attention to the number of subjects included in the formula, as well as the weight of each subject, and whether it is a core or elective.

“If your score is lower than, but close to, the median score of your favourite programme, you could make that your first [A1] or, at most, second choice [A2],” Ng said. He admitted that your chances of being accepted aren’t high, but added that it’s worth giving it a try because the number of DSE candidates this year is lower than last year, and the popularity of each programme might change.

Your third choice [A3] programme, he adds, is your last resort, or backup choice. This is why you need to make sure your DSE score is higher than, or equal to, the median score of that particular programme.

You’ve got your HKDSE results … now what?

If your total score is lower than 20, or you receive Chinese/English Language result lower than Level 3

According to last year’s statistics, students who score less than 20 in five subjects have a lower chance of getting a place on a bachelor programme at any of Hong Kong’s eight government-funded universities.

“These students might have to consider putting undergraduate programmes under the Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions/Sectors (SSSDP), as well as the self-financing programmes offered by Open University, as higher choices.”

Other Jupas choices include the government-funded associate degree and higher diploma programmes offered by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and City University of Hong Kong.

To play it safe, you should also consider applying for non-Jupas programmes, like degrees, higher diplomas, or certificates at higher institutions like Hang Seng Management College and the Institute of Vocational Education (IVE).

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Students who do not meet the minimum entry requirements for studying a bachelor’s degree at any of the eight government-funded universities, and whose grade in English and/or Chinese is also lower than Level 3, should be “realistic and practical” with their programme choices.

“This group of students should prioritise government-funded associate degrees or higher diploma programmes in their programme choices, and register for non-government-funded courses provided by institutions such as the University of Hong Kong School of Professional and Continuing Education and Hong Kong College of Technology.”

Here’s what to do if your HKDSE results aren’t what you’re expecting

Which alternative programme is best?

If you’re stuck between choosing an associate degree, high diploma, and self-financing undergraduate programme, Ng suggests basing your decision on your preferred learning style and career goals.

“Higher diploma programmes are suitable for students who enjoy experiential learning, are mentally prepared to enter the workforce after graduation, and have a clear sense of direction of what they want to pursue in the future,” he explained. They offer more career-oriented courses, specialised training, and internship opportunities to prepare students for working in fields such as engineering, hotel, nursing, and social work, he added.

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If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can sign up for a self-financed undergraduate programme or associate degree, where the syllabus will be more “generic and theory-based”.

Whether you choose an associate degree or self-financed bachelor’s programme depends on your admission scores, confidence in your academic ability, and your hopes of working your way up to a University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded degree, said Ng.

“Students who are … optimistic about getting good academic results can apply for associate degrees for a later transferral to a UGC-funded bachelor’s programme. But if they have doubts, getting a self-financed degree is safer,” he added.

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What if you don’t like the course you’ve been offered?

You might be worried about being offered a UGC-funded bachelor’s degree programme in which you have no interest. Ng’s advice is, even if your offer is from a top university, to not take it because “your interest in the subject should be your primary concern”.

“Given that the difficulty level of courses in university is much higher than in secondary schools, students will find it very hard to overcome study obstacles … when their degree does not align with their interests,” he explained.

Ng equally does not recommend students accept any degree offers in the hope of a possible internal transfer “which is not guaranteed”.

“Successful internal transfer usually depends on academic excellence … which is not easy to achieve when your interest lies in a different subject.”

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
DSE results: what’s next?


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