August is holiday time. A month to put your tools down and your feet up, to relax, to go for walks and enjoy carefree days with friends. For many, however, it also brings anxiety because August equals Results Day. And this could mean elation, relief, surprise, confusion, disappointment – a whole mixed bag of feelings, in fact.
Students in Scotland are already grappling with these emotions being the first in the UK to discover their grades. But many remain on tenterhooks, wondering if they’ve got their hoped-for grades and whether they’ll be enough for their chosen college, university, apprenticeship or place of work.
This year, of course, has already brought extra anxiety as the health crisis has resulted in lost months at school for many, cancelled exams and a whole new assessment system.
With this in mind, an undergraduate whose A-Level results didn’t turn out as she hoped, tells us what she learned from her experience and what might help to move beyond the initial disappointment and confusion…
1. Acknowledge your resilience. This year’s students have been going through a time of big changes and adversity, missing out on many lessons at school and the final exam season, which though it might not be enjoyable, can seem like a rite of passage. Hold your head high and remember you completed your school year in the middle of a pandemic. Congratulate yourself for getting through it. No other year has had to do this.
2. Take a big, deep breath. That’s what I did when my grades didn’t pan out as planned and I couldn’t go straight into studying Law at Durham as I’d hoped. It was hard because I was disappointed, worried and really confused about what would happen next, but that big breath did help.
3. Try to stay calm. It’s hard not to panic, but the important thing is to stop, take a moment and be true to yourself.
4. Don’t be disheartened. It’s easy to beat yourself up about lower-than-hoped-for grades, but try to see this as a time where the reset button has been hit and you’ve been given the opportunity to re-evaluate your options and do what you love.
5. Talk to your guardians. Underneath your own frustration, you might be worried that those who’ve supported you could also be disappointed. Try to explain your feelings to them. They – like you – might take a little time to understand what’s happened, but then they can help you to look ahead once more.
6. Sit down with your teachers and guardians and discuss all the options. It’s important to use this time to talk to people you trust and know well (and who know you) and think about what you want to do next. This might include:
- Asking for a qualification to be reviewed.
- Going through clearing and applying for a similar course at another academic institution or choosing to study a different course or degree.
- Speaking to your teachers about areas where you could strengthen your performance before opting to re-sit certain exams.
- Thinking about a meaningful gap year involving volunteering, part-time or short-term work experience, interrailing, learning a new skill or even enrolling on a short vocational course. All of these options can help with decisions later down the line.
7. Realise it’s OK to change your mind. People of all ages can and will have a change of heart (often more than one). I went through clearing but was unable to find a course I liked in a place that appealed to me. So, with my existing grades, I secured a place for the following September to study Politics and International Relations at Bath. Seven months into the course, however, I realised it wasn’t the right place for me.
8. Seek out fresh opportunities. During my gap year I’d taken a short course in fashion, which I loved. After I left Bath, I returned to the earlier college to study my BA (Hons) in Fashion Communication. It’s my passion, my sideline and now my degree. Yet if I hadn’t missed my required grades, I wouldn’t be studying it today.
9. Know that you are so much more than a set of grades. There’s no doubt Results Day is tough for everyone, including those who get their hoped-for grades and might face different challenges. What’s really important to remember is that academic performance is only one aspect of you and your life. You – and all your fellow students – are far, far more than a set of exam results.
10. Stay true to you. People of all ages face setbacks. You’ll likely get bored with adults trotting out the ‘It’s-not-the-end-of-the-world’ line over the next few weeks, but truly it isn’t. It’s a chance to sit and think, to stay true to you and do what you love. Hang in there.
Words: Alice Morey
Alice is about to graduate from Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design.
Illustration via Shutterstock
If you’re anxious about upcoming results or are disappointed with grades you’ve already received, try to talk through your feelings with a trusted adult, maybe a teacher, your parents, an older sibling, or an auntie or uncle. Alternatively, visit childline.org.uk. youngminds.co.uk or kooth.com, where you will find helpful advice and can also message or live chat with trained experts.
Teen Breathe is the original mindfulness magazine for teens, for a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life.