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What I've Learnt Since GCSE Results Day

Exam results do not define you. Irum tells us what she learnt from dropping out of A-levels...

What I've learnt since GCSE results day

Results day is one of the most dreaded days of the year for many students. Like I did, you might be having recurring nightmares about it, you might feel dizzy from all the ‘what ifs’ going around and around in your mind, you might feel like your heart is beating so hard it might actually break your ribcage and jump out of your chest. (Note: it won’t.)

It can be terrifying. But honestly, it does not need to be. You might have lots of negative thoughts like this, but what if we questioned how true they really are?

My story

I want to share with you some of the key lessons I have learnt. To give you some background, I have struggled with various mental health conditions since the age of 12. I am now 18. I got decent GCSE results, but it was very challenging. When I started my A-Levels I became so unwell that after just 2 weeks it was decided I should take some time out of education, so I deferred the year. I was admitted to hospital for 6 months.

The next September, I started a BTEC course instead, hoping that the different structure might suit my needs better. I was intending to do the whole 2 years in order to go to university, but I ended up missing two big chunks of the year, (once in hospital again, and once when I was too unwell to go into college). Thankfully I scraped through the first year with lots of help and adjustments from my college, but going into the second year is not recommended for my health. Now I am now working, and I am unsure if I will return to formal education.

Lesson #1

No matter how well you think you know the mark schemes, you cannot predict what you are going to get. From what I’ve seen, most people actually get better results than they thought they would when they walked out of the exam hall. So if you’ve made some predictions, try not to get too emotionally wound up over them, as they are essentially completely made up by you.

Lesson #2

Research! There are so many alternatives to the traditional route (GCSEs à A-Levels à University) that many young people are not made aware of; BTECs, NVQs, Access to Higher Education Diplomas, short courses, apprenticeships, traineeships, the Open University, foundation degrees, finding a university place through clearing, even more than I don’t yet know of, and choosing them does NOT make you inferior or less intelligent or less ambitious than people who go down the traditional route.

It is important that both schools and parents understand and encourage this. For a handful of careers, yes, taking an alternative/uncommon route may mean it takes you a bit longer or it is a bit harder to achieve your final goal, but there will also be advantages. You’ll probably have a more interesting and varied experience, learn more, and keep yourself in better health, both mentally and physically.

Lesson #3

Nothing is worth your health. Life can often feel like a race 24/7, but it doesn’t need to be that way. You have all the time in the world left to achieve your goals, and if you are determined, you will get there. But take care of yourself whilst you’re at it. Life never goes as planned - it is unpredictable. Even people who follow that traditional route don’t stay on a straightforward path forever. Many come out of university not knowing what they want to do, experimenting in different jobs until they find one they like. Some work for a few years in the job they are qualified in and then find they hate it, go back into education (because remember, there is no age limit in education), qualify in something else, and start working in that field instead. Others work in jobs that are completely unrelated to their educational qualifications – they may not have even needed all their qualifications.

The message here is that it’s okay if you look like the odd one out when you make a different choice to your friends aged 18 – you’ll all be odd ones out when you’re 40.

Stay calm! You are good enough

So if your results are not what you hoped for, stay calm, research your options, and don’t beat yourself up. Try to comfort yourself in the same way you would comfort your best friend. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. You are good enough. Those letters/numbers are not the most important thing in the world. If it’s not far far too cheesy and cliché, remind yourself that everything happens for a reason, and that everything will turn out okay. Don’t give up on your dreams or yourself.

I like this quote by author Napolean Hill: ‘Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.’

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