Ok so I know there’s the whole ‘you’re over 30, nobody under 25 gives two hoots about your opinion because you’re old’ thing, BUT – the good thing about being over 30 is that I don’t really give two hoots about that myself and I felt like writing my thoughts down on a vaguely timely topic so here goes. A ramble about my A Level results story and stuff it taught me…
Today is A Level Results Day. I write that with capitals because it’s a pretty big deal if you’re one of the ones waiting to get those all important grades that will shape what direction your future takes. Despite it being a whopping 15 years ago (HOLY COW HOW DID THAT HAPPEN) I wanted to take you on a little memory lane trip to the day I got my A Level results. It’s a cliche, I know – but I remember it like it was yesterday. Back then (in the good old days) we didn’t have online results or anything like that, it was all about arriving at school with your year and getting a piece of paper with your results on it. Then, if heading to uni was your chosen path you would either know (based on the grades you needed) you made it, or would have to make a pretty scary phone call to your first choice uni to find out if you were heading there or if you needed to go for plan B… or plan C…
My results were not as good as I hoped. I did A Levels in Philosophy, Drama and Biology (random mix mutch?) and an AS Level in Chemistry. I think it was D, B, C & C or it might have been D, B, B and C… but basically that big fat D (not that sort…🍆 cheeky) let me down and on making the call to my prospective university of Nottingham. I got the No.
To say I was devastated was an understatement. You know when you think your life is going one way and you don’t ever really consider it might not happen that way? That was pretty much the first time I had to deal with that.
My parents were both so brilliant on the day. Whilst I was being a sobbing drama queen they both dropped everything to be there and support me and help me decide what next. Obviously as a self-involved teenager I had no appreciation of what it might have meant for them to leave work to come home suddenly but they did it and 15 years on I am so very grateful to the support (not just on this day, obviously).
In the time between accepting places and getting my results I had already made a call I didn’t want to opt for my second choice University, which was Lancaster. I’m sure it’s a great university but I had decided that it just wasn’t the one for me. So that meant my next option was a year out, or clearing. Because I was in the frame of mind of going to University in September I was determined that was what I would do. So clearing it was. Which back in 2002 meant getting a copy of The Guardian and scouring the pages for the places available on the courses you were interested in and picking up the phone to have a chat with them.
I had my heart set on American studies. This was the course I had planned to study at Nottingham and the variety of fields it covered (history, literature, film studies, politics) plus the opportunity for a year abroad was what I wanted. So that’s where I started – I don’t remember all of the options that were available but the main two that jumped out at me were Kings College London and Leicester University.
Being a bit of a clueless teen, Leicester seemed like a good option – largely based on the fact it was close to Nottingham on the map. No joke, this was actually part of my rationale for choosing it on gut feeling. I didn’t just sign up then and there of course – we arrange to visit a few days later and meet some of the faculty in the department I would be a part of. Safe to say the visit went well and my gut feeling was a big old yes. University in September would be happening for me and Leicester University would be the destination.
But so what, who cares about my trip down memory lane? Well, I few things that I take away from the whole experience of A Levels not going so well.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned – and that’s ok
Sometimes things don’t work out, sometimes you fall short of expectations and sometimes your course changes and you have to take a detour. But it can all work out just fine. A change is not a dead end, there’s always options and as long as you approach it all with a bit of positivity then it will be fine in the long run. Even if at first it doesn’t seem like it.
Being flexible is a good trait to have
I don’t mean I can do a back bend or tie myself in yoga-knots, but being adaptable and open to change is a life skill I really want to hold on to. Ok, so as I do get older this gets a little harder sometimes. But being able to be laid back and go with the flow really makes a difference because – let’s face it – there’s actually not a huge amount of things in life you can control in life so being able to be flexible means adapting to change will feel more natural and less of a shock when it inevitably happens.
In 15 years, no-one will care about your A Levels
I’m sure this might not apply to *all* fields. But having just looked at my latest CV and I don’t even list the grades or subjects for my A and AS levels. I simply list the number I got. Not to say they don’t matter as of course they do – they’re just not be be-all and end-all. They’re a stepping stone to the next stage in life and once you’re there – that will be the thing that matters. Honestly, I don’t think people even care what I studied, my overall result or even what University I went to CV-wise at this point. It’s more about experience and what I’ve done in the years working since then. It’s always that stepping stone to the next thing – so once you’ve made that leap then you’re all good. Just keep moving forward.
You don’t have to follow a traditional course
I don’t necessarily mean academic or career wise. Whatever and wherever your life takes you can be fantastic and it doesn’t have to follow a pre-cut mould. University might not be right for everyone, heading into work straight away might not be, working for a big company might not suit you, being part of a start up might not work either. The thing about both education and career is that sometimes when you’re trying to make a choice from the outside you don’t always know all the options and it can seem a bit black and white. Within both education and career there are many many options and variations and sometimes you might choose one that isn’t right for you or on a path that maybe doesn’t really suit. It’s never too late to change – you can learn just as much from something that isn’t right as you can from things that are a perfect fit. This could be a whole blog post in itself…!
I feel like I could ramble on for hours on this topic. But I’ll leave it there. I guess the big message is WELL DONE, whatever results you got I’m sure you worked your butt off for them. Whatever the outcome – you will be ok. Be flexible, it’s never the end and you can always keep moving forward.
p.s. If you’re heading to Leicester University in September, have an AMAZING time. It was a great Uni and I have so many amazing memories there!
p.p.s. Excuse the random selection of photos – best part of being old is I don’t have any digital photos of my 18 year old self to share so chose a random selection. I have some from Uni but goodness knows they’re not seeing the light of the internet any time soon if I have my say.