If you’re reading this and your A-Level results are sat on the table next to you, first of all, congratulations! Regardless of all this bollocks that gets released every year about how A-level exams are getting easier, they are still hard for any student completing them as it requires a lot of effort and discipline to study and achieve good results. So well done you! But what now? Maybe you’re already set on your next move and you either have a job, an apprenticeship or a University place waiting, or maybe you have your around-the-world plane ticket in hand and are off travelling for a bit, but what if you don’t? What if everything has actually suddenly become a bit overwhelming and you’re not sure what to do? That’s okay, you’re not alone. Breathe!
I am desperately hoping that the attitude of sixth form colleges and teachers has changed since completing my own A-Level exams back in 2005, because back then I had zero intention to go to University and as soon as I had made that clear, I was plonked in a little reject group that fundamentally got left out of everything. I mean, we’re going to be doing sod all for the school’s league table of students that went off to University so best to just pretend we didn’t exist, right? Pathetic.
As it happened I did go to University four years later but that decision was 100% my own and it was the correct path for me at the time. If I had gone to University when I was 18, I would 100% have not been ready, nor been totally sure on what I wanted to do there and I don’t think I would have graduated in the same way as I did later in life. Going when I was 22 gave me a far more wholesome experience, I knew what I wanted to get out of the experience and it will go down as one of the best decisions I ever made for myself. Period. Rather than repeat my story all over again however, a couple of years ago I wrote all about my University experience, more specifically about life after graduation, which you can read for yourself, here.
But please let me make it clear that University is not the only route into a successful career if that is something important to you. Now the University fees have risen significantly (I graduated the [academic] year before the higher fees came in) which quite honestly I think are ridiculous, it’s okay to not want to go. In fact, it’s always been okay to not want to go to University but unfortunately some employers have been and still are blinded by the criticality for applicants to have a degree. A degree in its simplest terms, demonstrates you can apply yourself to something for a period of time and (hopefully) get a good result out of it. All exams essentially prove this, but with the right employer, you can achieve this straight out of school as well. (I have also written previously about if there is such a thing as the perfect degree, here).
Fundamentally my message to all young people, or anyone really, is that success and being sure of yourself takes time, and that really is what your twenties are for, for exploring yourself and the world around you. I think another thing to remember, which might not be what you want to hear now but is something I believe very strongly in, is that everything happens for a reason. If something hasn’t gone to plan (particularly applicable to anyone currently sat in pieces about their A-level grades), it might seem disastrous, but when you look back on it in a few months or even years’ time, having taken a different route as a result, you might be in a far better place because you had to go down route B, C or even D, and be so much happier than you would be if route A had gone to plan.
I liken this to when I spent a couple of years training with my school to complete the Ten Tors (a walking challenge based on Dartmoor). On the final training expedition that determined the teams for the May event, I had a total mental breakdown which caused me to quit. For the next few days I literally didn’t know what to do with myself as I think the whole coming to the end of school and the pressures surrounding my GCSEs amongst other things just broke me. As a result, I didn’t make the teams but I was still taken to the event as first reserve. The day before the challenge was to begin, another competing school who my trainers knew, approached them and asked if they had a spare walker. Once my trainers were confident I wasn’t needed, I was put forward and thus was not only able, but I completed the challenge with a totally new team of people which for me, made the whole experience ten times better. Of course I was a bit anxious walking and camping with people I didn’t know, but I was so grateful for the opportunity that it overrode everything else. I appreciate that not everyone gets a second chance at doing something, but it just goes to show that what you think you want, isn’t always going to give you the best experience. If you’re driven to succeed, you’ll get there.
What are your results day experiences?
Until next time x