A while back I wrote a blog offering a selection of tips for the large sector of this blog’s readership who were about to take exams. Today is/was A Level results day (I mean, it still is, but if you’ve not collected them by now, you really are playing it cool) and I’m well aware that some of you will either be on cloud nine now, or on about cloud four or even cloud zero. This means a generic blog about exam results is rather a tricky thing to judge.
Still, if you’ve got the grades you wanted, you probably won’t be reading this, you’ll be celebrating or preparing to celebrate. So, well done. And ignore all the stuff about how it’s easy to get A Levels these days. (a) it isn’t, and (b), as I said on Twitter, what are you meant to do: demand harsher marking? In my day (1998) people were already saying GCSEs and A Levels had been devalued, and in 2022 they’ll be saying that exams are easy compared with the ones you took. You’re living in the present, you can only take the exams you’re taking. So, yeah- well done.
If you didn’t get what you wanted, or if you did but you were still barred from the university you wanted by some quirk of fate, some things to consider:
This will sound very patronising, but it is true that you never really know what’s for the best. A friend of mine applied to Cambridge alongside me back in the day and fucked up one of her exams quite badly and didn’t get in. She was gutted. But she went to her reserve choice (Exeter), loved it, ended up staying on and doing a MPhil or something, and was certain she was better off than if she HAD got in. On the other hand I know someone who was desperate to go to Exeter. She DID get the grades and was really delighted. Then she got to Exeter and didn’t much like it and ended up trying to leave early.
I know everyone has a story like this and it’s not much consolation, but worth pondering. If you’re going to your second choice uni, I bet you £5 you’ll like it as much as you would’ve liked your first choice.
And if you’ve not got in at all? Well, another tale: my wife Emily applied to a load of places and was turned down by them all, mysteriously. Then her school discovered there was a misprint on her UCAS form and her predicted grades were wrong. So she’d basically been screwed by an admin error. It was too late to re-apply. She was forced to take a GAP year. It was the best six months of her life. Then she re-applied and went to Cambridge where she met me and we went out for dinner at Garfunkels, had a picnic, got married, had a baby etc. If not for that typing error we probably would never have met.
Again, this will sound very banal if you’ve been unlucky and everyone is consoling you and you wish they would all die, but genuinely, things turn out very differently from the way you expected. If I’ve learned one thing in life it’s that.
And on that note: take it from me, I’m 30, A Levels and GCSEs do NOT matter as much as they seem to. They just don’t. Even if you never go to uni, it won’t matter. Everything I’ve done in my career, I could have done without ever setting foot in a university. Further education is changing, people will be doing more and more alternative qualifications, and many employers will be looking for things other than degrees.
Whatever you feel like at the moment, everything will be fine. Chin up. Or congratulations. Or both. You know.