A-Level results day reflections

by | Aug 23, 2023

“Results day can be an exciting day of celebrations, but also a day of disappointment and confusion about your future plans, even if you did end up pursuing the path you wanted.”

Young people across the country have been receiving Further Education results, and choosing which path is right for them. In this insightful piece, Catherine, one of our Future Voices Ambassadors, reflects on how taking a gap year helped her find her way onto a degree apprenticeship.

Results day can be an exciting day of celebrations, but also a day of disappointment and confusion about your future plans, even if you did end up pursuing the path you wanted. For me, I felt numb after A Level Results day. I’d worked extremely hard for my A Levels to the detriment of my mental health, that opening the letter engulfed me with fear. What would happen next, even if I did receive the grades I wanted?

I had decided to take a gap year post-A Levels, which was a scary decision considering nearly all of my school friends had decided to go to university. I deferred my place to Surrey University to study Psychology, as my mental health was in a bad place after A Levels, I needed time to work on getting myself in a better place before leaving home for university. The following few months were hard – all of my friends had moved to go to university, I lacked the structure of the school routine and felt lost with what I was doing in life, despite having achieved grades that I was happy with. I wasn’t well enough to go travelling or explore the world like others doing a “typical gap year”, so I started working in various jobs and volunteering my time for charities, such as Barnardo’s, and soon I found my life circle getting bigger again. And then on one random day at work, a colleague told me about degree apprenticeships within my workplace, and I started looking into this alternative path. In all honesty, I felt so much pressure to go to university, when I didn’t want to move away from home at a time when I was unwell and liked living at home. An opportunity to do a degree apprenticeship came up with Queen Mary University of London and Mind, the mental health charity, which appealed to my passions and interest in wanting to make a difference within the mental health field. The idea that I could still live at home but do university, rotate around an organisation for 4 years to gain a broad experience of the charity whilst gaining a chartered management qualification and degree (for free) seemed like a no-brainer and I had to apply. I applied, completed the interview assessment day, and surprisingly got onto the competitive course…and it completely changed my life.

Looking back, now having achieved a first in my degree in BSc Business Management (Social Change), I wish I could tell my younger self opening that results day letter to not be so hard on herself. All those endless nights, repetitive revision and OCD school-related rituals meant that I didn’t treat myself with self-care during the process, and resulted in me missing out on teenage experiences and got me very unwell.

The advice I would give to other young people going through the process is to be kinder to yourself – knowing you can only do so much and that your best is enough, and your ‘best’ will fluctuate on a daily basis. I’d also like to inspire others that if they don’t get the grades they wanted to go to their “dream university”, and that they’re forced to take a gap year or go through clearing, to trust the process that this is what was meant for you. If I hadn’t taken my gap year and gone straight to university, I wouldn’t have been well enough to enjoy the experience and probably would have relapsed let alone know that degree apprenticeships exist.

Letters on a piece of paper will never define your worth, and to some extent how much effort you put into your studies because exams rely on performance on the day, and its entirely normal to have days where you won’t perform as well. Be kind to yourself on these days. Talk to others about your support options, and never feel rushed to pursue a path that you’re not interested in. Try to avoid comparing your grades to your friends, as you never know what circumstances they’re facing. After finishing school, your life is yours to own and direct, so whatever happens on A-level results day, it should be an exciting one – knowing that there’s a world of opportunities awaiting for you is something to celebrate.

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