This post was written by a member of the Debut Publisher Network. Jem is here to tell you that even if things haven’t gone quite to plan and your A level results aren’t what you hoped for, you’ll get through it and move on to bigger and better things.
I won’t lie to you, failure really sucks at first. When I initially messed up my A-Levels it was expected. I’d known science wasn’t for me for a while and lab coats definitely weren’t my jam. Still, that didn’t mean it was easy. The second time it happened though, I was totally devastated.
Unexpected or not, missing the cut on your A-Levels feels like a disaster, especially as you watch friends and mutual acquaintances happily swimming in gin to celebrate their journey to the land of university and success.
Ever since primary school we’re sorted by our ability to score marks in tests, each one the gateway to the next level. We’re taught that the only way to get on in life is to smash those exams. Coupled with the fact university is often our first chance to escape home, missing out hurts even more. However, I’m here to tell you it’s all a load of baloney.
There is a life after A-Levels
Now, don’t misquote me here, exams and A-Levels are certainly important. But missing a few marks or grades one Thursday in August will not define the rest of your adult life. As soon as I got to university I took the blighters off my CV, and to this day I’ve never been asked about my exam results in a job interview.
It’s difficult to write this without sounding arrogant and awful, but right now I’m pretty darn happy and I’ve found all kinds of success I’d never even thought about when I was at college. I graduated from a great journalism degree in 2014, and have since been lucky enough to work for several national TV stations and news websites. I live in London, own by own business and, somehow, I’ve even managed to get the job title of News Editor, which isn’t really something that’s sunk in yet.
To top it all off, I’ve got the blue tick on Twitter I spent several years hankering over, so to be honest I’ve kind of peaked. In fact, looking back, I don’t think I’d be half as successful as I am now if things had gone to plan.
Trust me, you’re not alone
Realising things haven’t worked out is the lowest part, but things do get easier here on in. There are also a lot more options than you might think. You can trust me on this, mainly because I pretty much went through them all.
Giving yourself some time for things to sink in is crucial. If you need time alone, a stiff gin, or someone to cry on make sure you let yourself have those things. There’s no point being unkind to yourself, and to be frank, there’s no point ringing up universities as a blubbering mess.
Log out of Facebook and speak to non-judgemental friends, family, lecturers or careers officers. Try not to focus on what hasn’t worked out, but where you’d like to be in a few years. There’s always more than one way to get there.
More than 33,000 people got a place through clearing last year, and many of the courses are better than you’d expect, so there’s nothing to say you’re still not on the first train outta here. Approach it the same way as your original application – do some research, ask questions, and take time to decide if the offers are right for you.
Don’t discount some of the more ‘left field’ options either. What about a third year of studies (it’s free after all) to resit or start afresh? If you mix up your year with study and extracurricular activities you could even find you stand out as an even stronger applicant than you did before. Or perhaps consider starting your own business (yes, really) or even getting ahead of the employment game with a professional job or apprenticeship.
All in all, I’m basically telling you this isn’t the end. Success is hard-earned, but that doesn’t necessarily mean through grades or arbitrary exam results. You got this.
Jem Collins is News and Social Media Editor for RightsInfo and a freelance journalist. Her work focuses on human rights, education and careers. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook, if that’s your thing.