On the day that thousands of students across the country receive their A level results I thought I would write about my own poor experience of A levels and Sixth Form College, and how it has NOT negatively impacted my life since then.
Before I get to my A levels I should confess that I loved school. I loved learning, I found it easy, most things came to me pretty easily and worst of all I didn't need to revise or put in any extra work to pass exams. I know, I was really, really annoying. I wasn't perfect. My art teacher and I had very different opinions about what makes good art (with hindsight I was right, she was wrong and close-minded...), and I wasn't keen on Design & Technology or PE. I just accepted that no matter what I did in Art I wasn't going to get an A* and luckily I didn't take DT or PE for GCSE. But overall I did well without much effort. To reiterate, I know that is very annoying!
My school didn't have a Sixth Form and so there were a few options to choose from when it came to moving into further education. My friends were pretty evenly split between the two main Sixth Form Colleges and I opted for the one that my Dad worked at, my brother had been to and, at the time, was the top state Sixth Form in the country.
I chose to study maths with statistics, chemistry, human biology and German because, of course, after A levels I would be going off to Oxbridge to study to be a doctor or a vet..., and I had a natural ability for languages having done well in both German and French at secondary school.
I soon discovered that A levels were horrific.
There was such a huge jump from GCSE to A level. I could no longer wing it and get results. I was failing. I didn't even make it through one semester of studying maths. So I dropped out of that subject. Organic chemistry was fine as it was genuinely interesting (and I had a very good teacher - hi Mrs X!) but the rest of it went straight over my head. Human biology was fine when we actually studied HUMAN biology. But there was so much plant biology that I just wasn't interested in, and the subject could not hold my attention. Counting the types of plants found at the seaside in a grid just didn't do it for me. And now I get to German... I was shocked to learn that a large amount of the German I had learnt for GCSE was in fact grammatically erroneous. What? How? Why would exam boards give out As and A*s if what what was being written wouldn't actually make sense to a German speaker? My mind was blown. I really struggled with learning German grammar and saying words in a completely different order to how I had been taught for the previous 5 years. I was in a class that was made up of others that knew the correct grammar, they understood what the teacher was talking about when she spoke about 'direct and indirect objects'. I hadn't the foggiest.
I had already dropped one A level. I couldn't drop another.
So my answer to this struggle was to go to as few German lessons as possible and to hang out with my friends and boyfriend (insert eye roll here) instead. I still turned up to the exams but I was completely unprepared. I remember answering a question about a German book on a chapter I hadn't even read. I think I did go to most of my human biology and chemistry lessons (there was no way Mrs X would have put up with me not attending), but unless the particular subject was something I was very interested in, I made minimum effort in the classroom.
On this day many years ago I turned up to Sixth Form College to get what I knew would not be good results. I open the results and saw my results: CDD. I promptly burst into tears. It was no less than I deserved but I was so used to seeing As and A*s this was completely new to me. Most people at that Sixth Form received As (A*s didn't exist for A levels back then...) and the overall results were published in a national newspaper. I was mortified and felt like an abject failure. I had no plans to go to University (once I dropped maths I knew medicine was no longer an option) so it really wasn't the end of the world, but it felt so alien to me to be disappointed in myself. I had given up and not tried because it was a bit hard.
But I picked myself up and month later I was at University, studying for a Bachelor's degree Forensic Science. I didn't mope. I didn't even think about resitting. I just thought about what would be interesting to me, found a course, rang the University clearing line, told them my grades and I was quickly accepted.
I graduated with honours 3 years later and felt proud as I collected my degree at my graduation ceremony. I had balanced an active social life with putting the work in and completing my degree.
Since graduating I have had careers in law enforcement (as a police officer) and in HR. I am now working as a Life Coach.
Failing to get good grades at A level was disappointing. But it didn't cause the rest of my life to be disappointing. I have had such a wide range of experiences, good and bad, that have shaped me into the person I am today. My A levels are a small part of my story. They have not defined me. I look back and realise I could have asked for help with my A levels, but I had never had to ask for help before and I didn't want to. I could have been kinder to myself. But I did what I did and I can't go back and change it now. I learnt from my mistake and have no regrets about the way things worked out. My A levels were a temporary problem that have zero impact on my life today. I don't even list them on my CV anymore!
If you, or someone you know haven't got the results you expected (or did expect but are still upset), be that from exams, a job interview or a, driving test, try and look at the bigger picture and how this will impact the next 5, 10, 50 years of your life. Experiences are a small part of a big story and they teach you things that you can only learn by living through them. Learning from your experiences makes you you.
Be you. Be true. Be happy.
P.S. Although I had to pick myself up and dust myself off and get on with life, it would have been a lot harder without the support of my family, so if a friend or family member is struggling with their results, please show them some support!
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