On A-Level Results Day in 2015, I was one of the thousands of students who turned up trembling at the gates of their old sixth-form, nervously awaiting the brown paper envelope which concealed my fate. Unfortunately, I was also one of the thousands of students who were left bitterly disappointed.
Coming from a competitive all-girls grammar school where a B was only half-jokingly referred to as a ‘fail’, receiving anything less than a clutch of A*s and As made me feel like I’d let down not only myself, but also my entire family. Yet despite all the tears, tantrums and emotional turmoil in the weeks that followed from receiving my less-than-stellar results, I eventually managed to pick myself up, swallow my pride, and resit a couple of exams. Just over a year later I was starting my new course at my first-choice university.
Yet the very existence of UCAS Clearing proves that missed offers are not a dead-end signifying complete academic failure
Approximately 60,000 prospective university students go through UCAS Clearing every year; the vast majority applying through the system due to missing the necessary grades for their original offer. Yet the very existence of UCAS Clearing proves that missed offers are not a dead-end signifying complete academic failure. Instead, there are new paths to take, each offering their own unique and exciting opportunities at universities that you may have never originally considered, or maybe even studying a completely different course. Just because things did not turn out quite as planned, does not mean that what follows is somehow worse.
The best way to view exam results is not as a review of what has gone before, but a key to the next stage of your life. After all, every time you pass through one set of exams, suddenly the results of the ones before seem that little bit less relevant. By the time you reach the world of work, employers will take surprisingly little interest in what you achieved at school, and it is extremely unlikely that you will wake up in a cold sweat when you are 43, tormented by the C you got in a maths exam aged 17 or the low 2:2 you ended up with on a 15 CAT module back in second year.
In my own experience, being disappointed at A-Level gave me the motivational kick I needed to do well at university
Instead, it is far more healthy and productive to look at what went wrong in the past and work out what can be improved on in the future. Reading feedback on your work is essential, but the next step is learning to take criticism on the chin and actually do something about it. Maybe you were just unlucky, or maybe your writing style is too flowery and could do with toning down, or maybe you need to work on being more concise in your reports, or maybe you really do just need to work that bit harder. In my own experience, being disappointed at A-Level gave me the motivational kick I needed to do well at university, and I immediately saw a massive jump in my grades which was not shared by all those who had breezed through Key Stage 5.
But by far the most important thing to remember is that letters or numbers on a piece of paper do not define you, denote your worth, or even measure your intelligence. All a grade can really tell you is how well you did on a certain paper, on a certain topic, on a certain day.