Thursday, 15 August 2013

University: It Isn't The End Of The World

In case you hadn't heard, today is A-Level results day.

Up and down the country, scared 18-year-olds will be rocking up at their school and opening an envelope which they believe will determine their future. 

It won't.

Well, it will in some ways- but what I wanted to say today is that if you are going to be opening one of these envelopes, and the results don't turn out to be what you'd want them to be? It really will be ok. I know it feels like the end of the world, and like everything you've ever planned for is crashing around your ears, but it really really isn't.

If you are in this situation, I have a few pieces of advice for you, and a little story. If you aren't in this situation, well, you might find it interesting anyway.
SO. If you have just opened your results letter, and you haven't got what you wanted, I would advise the following:

1. Phone your first choice immediately. They may have other courses they can offer you, or other alternatives. Think about these carefully.
2. Think very very carefully about accepting your insurance offer. I accepted mine and wish that I hadn't. I'd actually advise not putting an insurance unless you are absolutely certain you want to go there just as much as you want to go to your first choice.
3. Do not panic. You can go through clearing if you want. Or you can take a year out to get some experience and reapply. Seriously- you are 18. You have the rest of your life to go to university and work out what to do with your life. IT WILL BE OK.
4. This happens to FAR more people than you'd think. Seriously. Keep reading.

Not all universities look like this. From here
Five years ago (OH. MY. GOD) I was one of these people. I opened my results letter, and found that rather than the three As I needed to get into my first choice of university, I had gained an A, two Bs and a Merit in the Advanced Extension Award in History. I instantly phoned my first choice of institution, who were absolutely fantastic- they talked me through their decision not to accept me, but also offered me a place at their other campus, which I refused. So they released me to go to my insurance, where all hell broke loose, and I ended up dropping out six weeks into the term. 

When I got home, I found that about 10 people that I knew pretty well from my (admittedly large) year group from school had also either not got in to their first choice of institution, or had got to university and dropped out a few weeks in. It is incredibly common- you just tend not to hear about it. People only say when they're having an amazing time- you do not hear about the girl who cried every day for the first month of university, or the boy who had to go to his insurance because he missed a grade, or the person who actually ended up hating the course they've dreamt of doing their whole life.

A week after I returned from that insurance institution, I was applying to university all over again. This time with my results in hand, I knew where I was likely to get in, and only applied to those places. In the end, I accepted a place at Cardiff University, where I met some of the best people I've ever met, including someone who had ended up being one of my closest friends. This person had applied to the same institution that I had the previous year and had also missed his results by a grade or two. He'd also refused their offer to go to their other campus. And he'd also ended up at Cardiff a year later. (We still find this weird). 

And now, I know someone who is works in university admissions who missed both of their first and insurance choices. She went to somewhere completely different through clearing and maintains that it's the best thing that ever happened to her.

So yes. At the end of this rambly post I will wrap up with this. University is great, and if you've got your grades, or are happy with your choice of institution, huge congratulations. It is not, however, the be-all and end-all. You can apply next year. You can not go at all. You can go and drop out. 

But whatever happens, I promise that it's all going to be OK.


  1. Great post! You never really hear of any bad parts of university life either and sometimes (depending on what career you want) getting work experience or going through other routes is better. Everything always works out :) xx

  2. I was listening to the news lying in bed this morning and heard people opening their results and actually sat up in horror when I realised it was 10 years since I got mine....10 bloody years! Great post Alice - I wish I could have had this kind of chat with my 18 year old self and maybe reconsidered the course I actually ended up doing!
    Hannah x

  3. I love this insight. Being from the States I really have no idea how your system works there.
    However, after reading this, it's the same here... if you don't get into your first choice college, there are many other options. And I actually believe you end up where you were meant to go. :)

  4. Great post! My sister got her results today and luckily got the grades she was hoping for. Can't believe how fast it all goes though x

  5. I love this and I'm sure there are plenty of people who will benefit from reading your experiences! I got my results five years ago too (eek) and though I did reasonably well and got into my first choice, I most definitely wasn't ready to go to uni at 18. I chose to skip the halls experience and lived at home, but I have no regrets about it as I remember crying after the first night of Freshers because I hated it so much. After a few months I did begin to enjoy it and I am grateful for the experience, but I wish my other options had been explained to me before I went. I only went to uni because my sixth form tutors told me it would be a waste of my intelligence if I didn't and that's just so far from the truth. I feel like I'd have progressed much further with my career if I didn't go, and I wouldn't be £30k in debt *gulp*

    I hate to think of anyone believing the rest of their life depends on going to uni at 18 or even at all. Work hard at something you're passionate about and it really will all fall into place, uni or not.

    I just wish I'd read something like this five years ago.

  6. It's so true, you rarely hear about all the people who are not having the time of their lives... I definitely didn't, in fact, after the first day of freshers I had already decided (I didn't do it in the end) that I'd change uni after semester one! I hated that uni and the kind of lad-culture there was in Loughborough, I just didn't really feel like I fitted in. I'm also not entirely sure I did the right degree, I thought that to go into business, you needed a business degree, when now i know that they just want any degree (which I don't necessarily agree with).
    I don't think I'm making an awful lot of sense, but what I'm meaning to say is that you're absolutely right, this will not determine where people will end up in the future! In a way things will always work out ok, one way or another, and grades are so unimportant in the grand scheme of things, and if they are really important for what people want to do, they can retake them, it's just one more year :)


I absolutely love comments, and do my very best to reply to them all- if you have a specific question, try tweeting me @cupsaucerblog