I keep hearing that GCSE & A-Level results days are just around the corner. Hearing about it all just takes me back to those days and it has reminded me of the steps I have taken to get where I am right now. I thought that my school experience and choices might help some of you in that position currently in deciding what you want to do with your next steps.
DISCLAIMER: Whatever the grade you get in your exams, you should be proud of yourself. It is a hard enough time to get through before results are even brought into the equation. If you don’t get the results you’d hoped for, then please know that it is not the be-all and end-all. Whatever you choose to do next, there are always alternative options to help you get to where you want to be.
Looking back at my GCSEs, I know that I was really stressed about them. I enjoyed some of my subjects and I didn’t like the subjects I struggled with. All I remember is how much I wanted to pass Maths. I have always struggled with Maths right the way back to Primary School. I attended several mornings and lunchtime Maths Tutoring Sessions just to make sure I went over everything so that I knew whatever result came back, I knew that I had tried my best.
When it came to GCSE Results day, all I was thinking about in the morning before going into school was “please, please just let me pass maths!”, I was just so desperate to pass it and put it behind me, I’d worked so hard on it I just felt that couldn’t face it again. Thankfully, I passed! I was so excited to see that C Grade that I didn’t actually check the rest of my grades for a while! I was so happy, and as for the rest of my grades, I got mainly Cs and Bs, and my one and only A in English Language.
As my year group was the first year who had to stay in education until we were 18, we either had to go to Sixth Form, College or do an Apprenticeship. As I still didn’t have a clue about ‘what I wanted to be’, I decided that Sixth Form would be the best option for me. I decided to choose subjects that I would enjoy, I didn’t put any additional pressure on myself to picture an exact career field that I wanted to go into. So, for my A-Levels, I decided to do English Language, Photography and Sociology.
For anyone who is just about to go into Sixth Form or thinking about it for the future, please note that A-Levels are a huge step up from GCSEs! Initially, I remember it took us all by surprise when we saw how much work we had to do. However, deciding to do subjects that I enjoy helped with this a little bit. Also, unlike school, you get double or triple lessons per subject, but you get lots of free periods during the day! Sometimes, I had days that were completely full, having double Sociology in the morning and then triple Photography for the rest of the day. I remember having one day a fortnight where we didn’t finish Photography until 4.00PM! (That would be an early finish for me now!)
Overall, I found that A-Levels are not a walk in the park, you do have to put the effort in to get the grades you want. The second year of Sixth Form was another big jump in difficulty and workload again, but by this point, I realised that I needed to put a lot more effort in, which I tried my best to do.
Of course, being in Year 13, you get all of the University talk thrown at you by the school. We might have even been told to sign up to UCAS for Uni in Year 12, I’m not 100% sure on that as I always knew that I didn’t want to go. I have never aspired to go to University unless I decided on a career path that required me to do so. I just didn’t put that pressure on myself. I decided that after Sixth Form, I would look for a job to get some work experience whilst gaining some time to think about what I wanted to do in the future. I thought to myself that if I should ever decide that I want to go to University, I can go at any age, so I’m not going to put the pressure on myself when I’m so young and inexperienced enough to not be sure on what I want to do with my life.
Unfortunately, the Sixth Form I went to was completely fixated on all students going to University. They made it compulsory for every student to attend the University Assemblies so that they could shove a load of their previous students pass statistics in our faces. I used to challenge the teachers on this as I knew I wasn’t going to Uni, so why should I have to spend my time stuck in an assembly about it? Also, amongst all of these highly informative University assemblies, there were no assemblies to discuss other options after education! None. At. All. When I questioned this at one assembly, exclaiming that I wasn’t interested in Uni, their only response was “Go speak to the Careers Advisor”.
Which, I did. However, if you are struggling to work out what it is that you want to do, the Careers Advisor can’t work that out for you on their own as they can’t read your mind! Our Careers Advisor was a lovely lady, we spent my session discussing how poor it was of the school to provide no information about other options! I knew nothing about possible opportunities with Apprenticeships or Internships at the time at all! I thought (and still think) that it was appalling that there was no support at all for anyone who didn’t want to get a degree. Not only that, but the school was patronising enough to walk around Sixth Form to find the students who weren’t on their UCAS system to find out what our plan was, and why aren’t we going to uni, and that it wasn’t too late to sign up now.
Personally, I found this approach completely patronising. They seemed to think that if you weren’t going to Uni, you were doing it wrong. They thought the very idea of me getting a job for a while was a poor choice.
I went ahead with my decision and once I’d finished Sixth Form and achieved some not amazing A-Level results, I got myself a full-time job. I worked at a bakery a 5-minute walk away from my house, and I started off working from 6AM-2PM 5 days a week. It was a lot of work but once I got into the flow of it, I enjoyed the working routine. It wasn’t the best job in the world, but I gained a lot of good experience working there.
I decided that after a while of working that I was interested in starting an Apprenticeship in Business Administration. I applied for a few different ones and thankfully, I got the first one that I’d interviewed for! I’ve now been working at my placement for my apprenticeship for almost 2 years. I started on a Level 2 and qualified and the end of last year. I’m now about halfway through my Level 3 course and I have progressed a lot. I manage all of the admin work within our office and I enjoy it. I have been offered a permanent position at my placement once I qualify for my Level 3. It can be a lot to work full time, do coursework and exams, but it’s worth it because you gain the experience you need to progress further.
Overall, the message I wanted to get across is that getting amazing results do not mean everything. You can do so many things with your life and what you want to do for a career without pressuring yourself to get all high grades. At the end of the day, there is always a way to get where you want to be and if you don’t know where you want to be, there are so many things you can do in the meantime to help you get there. Please don’t let others pressure you into something you know in your heart isn’t for you. You are amazing, regardless of what it says on that piece of paper on Results Day. It will always work itself out! Just do what your gut tells you, whatever it may be ❤