exam room | a level results

Disappointing A level results? Don’t panic!

13th August 2015 is the day many 18-year-olds will have been both eagerly awaiting and dreading since finishing their exams in June.

A level results are out and, whilst there will be many jubilant teenagers celebrating their achievements, there will also be those that face disappointment as they’ve missed the grades they needed for their conditional University offers.

If you are one of the disappointed ones, please don’t panic.  Don’t fret too much.  It’s not the end of the world (easy for me to say, I know)!

Of course, whether you’ve missed the grades you needed by a long mile or by just one or two marks, you will be understandably upset.  The first thing you need to do is to acknowledge and accept that you’re upset and let yourself feel that emotion.  As I explained in this previous article, it is important to let yourself feel pain as part of your full range of emotions.  Disappointment, pain, upset, they are all valid and necessary emotions and, moreover, they enable us to appreciate the good in our lives even more.

Once you have allowed yourself to wallow a bit (not for too long – feeling negative emotions is healthy and necessary, allowing them to take over is not), you need to start thinking about your next step.  As my good friend Elizabeth Wright would say, achieving your goals is a journey.   That journey is not a straight line and you will find that you have lots of mini-milestones and you also do a lot of zig-zagging along the way.  Sometimes you even end up travelling backwards for a while, but as long as you keep your eye on where you’re going, you can always find your way again.

Don’t assume that because you haven’t met your offer grades, you won’t get a place.  Call your first choice University admissions department – TODAY – and find out.  Sometimes you may still be able to get in.  It’s worth a shot!

Then, ask yourself:  What goal are you trying to achieve with your chosen University course?

You may have chosen a course based on what you enjoy studying, rather than for a specific vocational career.  If that is the case, what other subjects do you enjoy?  Are there similar subjects that can give you the same satisfaction from learning during your time at University? If so, all is definitely not lost.  The UCAS Clearing system may have the solution for you.

If you were aiming for a specific vocational route where you need a specific degree, for example Medicine, Engineering or Law, there are still other ways to achieve your goal.  Again, try Clearing as there may be other Universities you hadn’t considered that can still offer you a place on your chosen course.  This may be harder with Medicine, which is notoriously difficult to get into, but even then, there are other routes.  If you are open to considering other healthcare professions (nursing, radiology, physiotherapy, for example), consider applying to these through Clearing.  If you are determined to get into Medicine, there may also be the opportunity of applying as a mature student later, so consider qualifying in another medical/healthcare field in the meantime to gain invaluable skills and experience.

For certain professions, there is also the option of doing a Modern Apprenticeship.  For example, did you know that you can get into a successful career in the Law by doing a legal apprenticeship (or even an admin apprenticeship)?  This case study shows you how.

And of course you can also do resits and/or  take a year out – not to sit on the sofa feeling sorry for yourself and watching re-runs of ‘Friends’ and ‘How I met your Mother’, but by travelling the world, doing great charity work, working abroad…the options are almost endless.  You could even start your own business!

The key message is: You DO have options.  All hope is not lost and you can and will still go on to have a fulfilled life.   As with everything, it all comes down to choice.  It’s up to YOU to decide to make the best of your situation.  Resilience is the ability to pick yourself back up, to bounce back, when you face difficult challenges and circumstances.  In later life, you will look back on today and realise that, not only it wasn’t the disaster you first thought it was, but that it did you a favour in helping you become more resilient.

When I graduated with a 2(ii), I thought my world would fall apart.  Everybody wanted graduates with at least a 2(i).  I took some time out, learnt Spanish (my sixth language, but that’s another story!) and applied to do a PGCE to become a teacher.  I then couldn’t get a teaching job anywhere near my fiancé’s new job, so I ended up doing lots of temp work so we could stay together (we were planning on getting married fairly soon thereafter).  I then worked in customer services for a while, until I had my first daughter.  Since then, I’ve been a freelance Italian teacher, I’ve taught French and German to GCSE level, I’ve co-owned a recruitment business, set up and run a micro food business, trained business owners in social media marketing (I still do) and worked as a Professional Speaker and Laughter Yoga Leader (my main job now).  Oh yes, and I wrote a book.  I’m still married to the fiancé I wouldn’t leave behind in search of a teaching job all those years ago and we have two amazing daughters (who have brought us a rollercoaster of emotions over the years, but that’s another story).  My life is very different to what I’d originally envisaged, but it is infinitely better for it.

My eldest daughter gets her A/S level results today.  At the time of writing, I don’t know how she’s done, but in any case, I’m not allowed to tell you.  She’s given me strict orders!

Disclosure: The Modern Apprenticeship case study referred to above is with Taylor Bracewell, a client firm of mine, where I work on a self-employed basis as their Marketing Consultant.

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