Today is a red letter day for many 17 and 18 year olds in England. It is A Level results day.
This article is about my story – when things didn’t go quite as I had planned on A Levels results day.
I remember the fear, the anxiety, the doubt, the everything-hence-forth-is-determined-by-one-result-day. I vividly recall walking into the room at school, to see a mixture of happy and not so happy friends. Some had done well, some better than expected. Some had done badly – tears running down cheeks.
I walked over to the person dishing out the results envelopes, my heart beating in my head with a thud-thud-thud. I gingerly asked for my results. I hesitated with the envelope in my hand. Gulp. This is it…
And then it happened.
A devastating, crushing blow. I looked at my results and I had failed to get good enough A Level results. I got nowhere near what I needed to get into University.
Geography – D d
Biology – E e
Spanish – E e
I was stumped and puzzled. How did that happen? And why oh why have they printed the results it in uppercase AND lowercase?
I rechecked the slip. Yes it had my name on it. Yes, that is my date of birth. The thumping heartbeat in my head had turned into an icy chill – like someone had just dunked my head in a bucket of cold water and held me there for a few seconds. The cold. The silence.
Stop the world. I want to get off.
The fear of realising that I hadn’t made the grade then quickly turned into the fear of, “oh crap, what am I going to tell my parents?”. I had failed. I had failed them, failed myself…I even felt like I had failed the school – a remarkable feeling given the fact that the only post-A Level options mentioned to us students were:
Regardless of the course. Regardless if it was right for you.
And the strangest thing happened.
The next day, after the humiliation of telling my parents my results, I got a big brown envelope with a post mark from Northumbria University. To my utter astonishment it was an offer letter, congratulating me on being accepted onto a course. I called their admissions hotline and yes, it was true. They hadn’t made a mistake. They had offered me a genuine place. Granted it wasn’t quite the course that I had hoped to study, but it was a place!
I went to university that year. I lasted about one month. It was not for me. At least, not at that time. My heart was not in it. I was not putting in 100% percent. What I really needed was to discover and unlock the reasons why I had failed my A Levels in the first place. I needed to do something completely different.
And discover myself I did. I worked for 3 years. I moved to a different country for a while. It was a difficult but hugely eye-openning journey, and at the end of it I learned a lot about myself. After 3 years of doing different things I discovered my passion, my purpose and my motivation.
NOW it was time to go to University.
At that point I was 21 years old. I picked up the phone to Northumbria University admissions and asked them what my options were. 1 year later, a foundation certificate in quantitative methods studied part-time completed, I was back at University. Crucially this time I was studying a course I was passionate about: International Business Studies, with Spanish.
Did I fail?
No, quite the opposite: I did well. I graduated with a good degree at the age of 26 and then went on to work for some great companies.
The moral of my story? Today, if you (or someone you know) has not got the A Level results they wanted but has been offered one of the spare places at University, think hard before jumping into a degree. Because University is not the only option after A Levels. It is never too late to study, or think about doing an apprenticeship, or just taking a break from it all and go to work for a while.
Results do not define you. Sometimes you need to listen to your heart and go with your gut feeling and do something completely different to what you (and others) were expecting.