A-level results day. I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was actually 5 years ago. The culmination of 2 years of hard work. I was particularly worried, as I only had one university I really wanted to go to and any other would feel like second-best. I think that is the feeling for a lot of people, but I don’t think that it is very helpful. It’s always good to remember that getting into university is in itself a massive achievement and one that you should be proud of! Nevertheless, for me, it was Royal Holloway or bust.
I hadn’t made it easy for myself. Due to my slacking off in AS, I had a long uphill battle to fight to achieve what I needed (the dreaded AAB, excluding general studies of course). But I gave final exams all I could and had to sit and wait, as the day I longed for and dreaded inched closer and closer. People say that the anticipation is worse than the actual thing and I have to say I agree. Those last few weeks, I didn’t eat or sleep properly and I kept running through worst case scenarios, trying to work out what I would do.
The worst part, as I’m sure you will know, is that, for the first time really, you have nothing to do. No new term looming on the horizon, no assignments or coursework to get finished. Just time to yourself. I did everything I could to stay occupied, even though nothing ever really did distract me. I did find that those of my friends with jobs fared a lot better in this time. Maybe you need something to do to really pull you out of your worry.
Because at the end of the day, no amount of worrying will help. I know a lot of people say that, but it is true. You can spend day and night thinking and fretting and wondering if you should have done the essay question on Nazi Germany rather that the Great Depression, but it’s all done now. Nothing to do but chill out and wait for the offers to come rolling in. Don’t forget, this is one of the last times that you will be free to do whatever you want. For me, summer holidays are but a halcyon dream, something that happens to lucky people. Don’t waste yours!
That last night though, that was the real doozy. I was a mess, I paced in my room. Nothing could hold my interest or distract me. I was invited out by some of my more relaxed friends. I couldn’t think about going out, having fun. My whole life was about to be decided. Again, I think this is a common feeling amongst those about to get their results, but what you need to understand is that, 3 months later, when you’re drowning in lectures and reading and coursework, you forget all about this trauma. It’s temporary. You just need to ride out the storm and you will come out the other side whole.
I wish I could go back and tell myself all this, because that was not a good night for me. I didn’t have any stress-induced-nightmares, which I know was common, but then again, you have to sleep to have the have nightmares. I went down the insomniac route. I just laid in bed watching TV, absolutely shattered, but unable to sleep. I managed to get a couple hours, but I woke up early and had several excruciating hours to wait before I could go to school to get my results. I had a pit in my stomach that just wouldn’t shift. I knew it was all going to go wrong, I just didn’t want to admit it to myself.
Maybe I’m just a negative person, but I think everyone will have this moment of doubt. A moment when they are sure they’ve messed up, where they will have to re do a year of college. That moment, is a normal reaction to what is, up until this point, the hardest thing you have had to do. When something is that tough, it is ok to have a few doubts. They don’t mean that you don’t have a chance or that you didn’t try hard enough. They only mean that you are human and the pressure has gotten to you. nothing wrong with that.
Still, I went in to get my results, doubts and all. As I walked up to get my envelope, I wanted to turn tail and run, forget about the whole thing. But fear of failure should never hold you back. It is always better to try and fail than to never try at all. So I got it and I opened it and man oh man was I happy! I had gotten exactly what I needed and would be going where I wanted to. It was a moment of pure joy. I cannot over state this, when you know that everything you have worked for has been worth it, it is an amazing feeling.
Now, I know that will not be everyone’s experience unfortunately, but there are always options if that is the case. I myself did not have to go through clearing, but I remember the teachers helping those who needed it as much as they could. Keep in mind, they want you to succeed as much as you do and can help you through the process, get the ball rolling on the day. There are always university spaces to fill, especially if you are unsure of what you want to go do. I have several friends who fell into their courses and ended up loving them, so don’t be afraid to go for something new if the opportunity arises.
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