A Level Results Day & Overcoming Obstacles

It’s A Level results day today, and it has got me thinking – as it does every year – about my own experiences. I want to spend a little time discussing how far I’ve come since doing my own A Levels, how they affected me (and continue to do so), what I’ve learnt from them, how they hold me back and, finally, how they can no longer hold me back.

As you may have read in a blog post I published two years ago around this time, my A levels were not as joyous and triumphant as many of my acquaintances and classmates. I walked in to Sixth Form having got an A* in English, the subject I always excelled in, and finished my AS Levels with an E (and a U in the exam!) – I was shocked, confused, upset, angry and crushed. It wasn’t my fault, and I had the paper remarked. It got 2 more marks as a result, but it was still an E. I applied for a re-sit, revised my ass off and still ended up with the same result. It was a massive kick to my confidence and it dragged me down, mentally and physically. Eventually I ended up being awarded with a Merit Award and unconditional offer for Aberystwyth University, which saved the day. Now I can say I am a graduate with a 2:1 B.A in English Literature. So much for those A levels right?

Students would often point out to me – “You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those entrance exams” – which I felt was an attempt to demean my achievements. Admittedly, they were right. I did not do well enough in my A Levels to get in to my first choice university, but once I got there, I came out with a 2:1 and a couple of Firsts in my modules. As I sat in my graduation ceremony, pulling stupid faces at the camera as it recorded my row of students, I began to reminisce about how much my A levels destroyed my confidence and ambition. At the time of my results, I didn’t feel like I was capable of being a University student or being an achiever – ever. I was determined to get in to Aberystwyth any way I could, and I found my way in, which did display my determination and resilience. But I was haunted by the two dark years that were my A levels. Even now, I shudder at the hypothetical scenario of having to relive them. They still haunt me in a way which is quite crucial – job applications.

Like most other graduates, I’ve been applying for numerous graduate jobs and training programmes, and I’ve been rejected because I don’t have ‘AAB’ in my A Levels, or 320 UCAS points. I have great work experience and a 2:1 (despite most of those applications looking for a 2:2), but alas! I did not get those bloody A’s three years ago! Back to square one – I’m not going to get a good job because I mucked up, I’m not an achiever, why couldn’t I get good A levels like all of my friends? But after all of these emotions and frustrations, I have finally decided what to think about it:

It does not matter! Hakuna Matata! C’est la vie!

Why should I let those results hold me back or haunt me, when I have this degree to my name, and the work experience I have and currently am gaining. Those are all possible because of one trait – resilience. Not lying on my back and letting the world trample me. Not resigning myself to a situation that I feel I have no control over; taking control of my own situation and using it to my advantage. I push on and I remind myself where I want to go, what I want to achieve, and I don’t let my mind tell me that I cannot do it. I still face mental difficulties every day, of course, but that doesn’t knock me off course permanently. I am tailoring my applications and my story to reflect the strength, resilience and determination of my character and that, I think, is what will take me to where I need to be.

If you’re reading this and you have just got your results, take a moment to remind yourself of a few things: you’ve spent your entire life in education and you are now an adult, about to enter the world of work or higher education. There are people you may aspire to or look up to who are hugely successful, but they’ve most likely all faced obstacles that they thought would hold them back forever. Some more serious than others, some that others would consider trivial. But those people have flourished because they have learnt from their setbacks, and they have built themselves a path around their obstacles. If you have received amazing results – brilliant! Your hard work has paid off, but don’t think that what I am saying does not apply to you. Whether you’ve achieved those AAB results, or the CDD like me, you are going to face obstacles in life which are going to prevent you from doing the things you want – but you cannot let them obstruct your path forever! You have to take a good hard look at yourself, look at the path behind you, and BELIEVE that you can push on. Everyone is capable of greatness (I have to be careful with my opinions here) but not everyone has the mindset to believe it, or the effort to try.

Prepare for obstacles and setbacks, and prepare for failure. It will happen at some point – how do you think people improve upon themselves without some kind of flaw? I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but it’s just a truth of life. Where you can find optimism and hope is in the belief that you have the power and the capability to overcome these setbacks and achieve great things – I promise you.


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