Today is the day that will make or break thousands of young students across the country: A-Level results day. Will they have done well enough to get in to their first choice Uni, or will they have missed out by a grade or two? Sitting here stalking my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I am reminded of how I felt exactly one year ago and the thoughts that plagued my mind leading up to results day.
For me, A-Levels were an emotional rollercoaster that, contrary to popular belief, I would not choose to relive, despite all the feelings of youth and freedom. Previously, I had done very well up to GCSEs and considered myself to be a strong academic student that excelled in English Literature (my passion). During Sixth Form, however, I found myself under-achieving. On AS Results day I found myself with a list of D’s, E’s and 2 U’s. I was incredibly shocked, confused and distressed. I had put so much effort in to my work, but never before had I achieved a grade so low. I spent the day in solitude, not knowing what to do next or who to talk to. With a D in English Literature, I could never have got in to the University of my choice! But then I remembered I had a copy of this book, which I had thrown aside when given to me by an acquaintance a few weeks before:
People around me were trying to console me, and reassure me that there were ‘other options’. In other words, despite wanting the best for me, they wanted me to change my goals, set my sights lower. I bluntly dismissed them all, and read this book, taking heaps of motivational lines from it and sticking it on my wall. I stuck my atrocious AS results sheet to my wall so I could be reminded of my failure every day, and I annotated it with the results I would be seeing the following August. I was told I was being a bit too extreme, but I was set in my ways (and I’m glad that I was). I worked my arse off for the January 2012 re-sits and I went in to that exam a lot more confident than the last time. However, it was not a ride in the park like I imagined. I was stumped by a major question, I panicked, and I left the hall knowing that I had failed myself again. Back to square one!
I spent the next few days, again, moping around and telling myself I wasn’t good enough for University [looking back, it was a ridiculous thought]. I was surfing the Aberystwyth University website and YouTube channel, as it was the place I desperately wanted to be, and I remember tearing up, which I am not afraid to admit. I was willing to do anything to get in to that University! So when I stumbled across the Entrance Scholarship exam applications, I knew it was my last chance to turn my path around. Although the word ‘scholarship’ scared me because of my little confidence, I spoke to my closest friend who was also sitting the exam [and coincidentally is studying here at Aberystwyth with me] and he gave me the encouragement I needed. I went in for one last push. I sat the exams in privacy, not telling my parents, and then tried blocking it out of my mind for over a month, which I did successfully. My results came through for my re-sit and, as I expected, I was still on a D, which didn’t help my mindset or motivation. I remember a crushing moment where my teacher at the time spoke some painfully wise words, and suggested I set my sights on a University with lower entrance requirements or even a different course entirely. Inside I was screaming, it was torturous to hear someone who, up to that point, had been such an encouraging figure for me, pushing me to try again and pick myself up. But it seemed like he had accepted that I was losing the fight, and there was nothing I could do. So I said ‘okay’ and began telling people I was changing my first choice to a different University and different course.
Sometime in late March, one of the best moments in my life occurred. I was on the way home when I had a text from my friend, telling me that the scholarship results had been delivered that day! True enough, I came through the door and my Ma said: ‘There’s a letter from Aberystwyth for you.’
I took it and sat down, too scared to open it to reveal the content. At this point, my Ma noticed I was hiding something and began interrogating me. Ignoring her, I opened the letter. I had barely unfolded the letter when my friend called me and had a tone of excitement in his voice. He wanted to know what I had got. Still, I thought I wouldn’t have got it, as my friend was much more skilled and equipped in his subject area. Then I saw the magical words that I had needed for so long: Merit Award and an unconditional offer. As fictitious as this may seem, I won the fight! I revelled in my excitement and pride and happily took the lecture from my parents about not telling them I was sitting the exams, but appreciated the praise they gave me after. The best part was going in to college the next day and being praised by everyone, even meeting with the principal and having our photo taken for the local newspaper. It was not the full scholarship, and there were more academically brighter students out there than me, but at that moment, I was the best in the world.
So Results Day came around again, and I was still a little apprehensive about what my results had in store for me. I took them and read fairly pleasing grades: Distinction in Media, C in History, D in English, D in General Studies. Knowing these results, I want to use them to make a point for the conclusion of this point…
Up to A-Levels, I had excelled in English Literature and always received top grades for it. As soon as A-Levels came around, I switched to become almost the bottom of the class. A lot of people point out that if it weren’t for the entrance scholarship exams, I would never have made it to Aberystwyth, and they are correct. Aberystwyth was my ultimate goal and despite all of the negativity and crushing results, I still set my goals higher and pushed myself out of my comfort zone to take those exams and guess what: Here I am! Studying what I love at a place I can only describe as my haven. That is the ultimate achievement for me! No A*s at A-Level, not even the grades I needed for the entrance requirements, but rather a personal test of persistence and desire that led to a feeling of supreme happiness. In the words of Frank Sinatra [although without the feeling of looming death], ‘I faced it all, and I stood tall, and did it my way’. Nowadays I think there is way too much pressure on students to hit certain grades and it becomes their only judge and measure of their success. I feel they should be reminded that success is measured by personal worth and happiness. I am successful because I am doing what I LOVE, and it is through my personal development, rather than those cursed A-Levels. I’d like to wrap up this post with three important quotations for everyone who have received their results today, whether they have got in to Cambridge or Glyndwr:
‘I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs, but how high he bounces when he hits the bottom’ George S. Patton
‘The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavour’ Vince Lombardi.
‘Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.’ Eric Thomas
For those who have got in to Aberystwyth and are reading this, then let me give you a top tip: Make the most of your first year. Try EVERYTHING! I went in with that attitude and did… Well… Not a lot! Join societies, go on socials, go on piss-ups, give everything a try! Work hard, yes, but your first year allows the most time for fun and should be cherished because you’ll end up in two positions. Looking back in the summer of 2014 thinking: ‘My first year was awesome! Met some great people and I’ve gained some great memories’ or
‘First year is over! Yeah it was pretty good but I wish I’d have maybe been more sociable and done that project with the film society…’
That’s all for now! First blog post in a while, but I have nothing much to say!
Keep the peace, mo-fos!