Important News: Your Exam Results Do Not Define You
Imogen has some words of advice on handling results day and life after.
This is it, guys. The big week. Over ten years of school has built up to this. Cue tension building music. Cue sleepless nights as you solemnly gaze at your bedroom ceiling. Cue results day.
I left school over a year ago now, so I’ve had my fair share of results days: some joyous, some that made me actually want to gouge my eyes out. I know how it feels. There’s an enormous amount of pressure put on young people now to achieve very high grades, by both universities’ acceptance offers and by colleges and schools themselves in order to sit higher in the league tables. People deal with this pressure in different ways, and I dealt with it by locking myself in my bedroom and crying behind an endless pile of flashcards.
Yeah. I know how it feels.
The truth is, like many people, I experienced a large amount of stress and anxiety during my A-Levels, and yet a year on… it all seems a little irrelevant. No one’s taken much notice of my exam results, but I’m being offered jobs and opportunities that are likely to lead to my ideal career. All around me are people who are achieving fantastic things, people who I would call my role models, my mentors – many of whom didn’t do well at school, or even dropped out before taking their exams.
Simply, schools benefit certain types of people more than others.
It’s these observations that, in hindsight, have made me recognise the wide plethora of faults within the education system. I’ve seen so many people label themselves as unintelligent as a result of a grade. So many people limit themselves due to a single digit on a piece of paper, despite their hard work.
But there’s the problem. You can work equally as hard as the next person but, for some people, it is objectively more difficult to obtain high grades. The education system is presented as this meritocratic facility in which you work for what you get; your results will reflect your efforts. But this is false. Simply, schools benefit certain types of people more than others.
Fact: more students from Westminster College attend Oxford or Cambridge each year than the entire sum of those on free school meals. Fact: the most prestigious 100 schools secure 30% of all Oxbridge places; 84 of these are private schools. Fact: four private schools and one highly selective state sixth-form college send more children to Oxbridge than 2,000 other secondary schools.
Sometimes you work hard, and sometimes you don’t get the results from that that you want. But it doesn’t mean it was a waste of time.
The education system is catered towards the white middle classes, and this doesn’t only ring true in private schools. From the white middle class culture reproduced by teachers, text books, and exam papers, to the fees required to attend school trips, extracurricular activities, and individual tutoring sessions: schools are an environment that allow white middle class children to flourish more easily than others.
We are fed this myth of meritocracy, and then placed under ridiculous amounts of pressure to achieve highly despite an unfair education system. Of course, this does not mean you should not work hard and aim to do well; ultimately, that’s your choice. But it’s important to understand that if your results are not all you hoped for, it does not mean you are stupid or lazy or unable to achieve what you want to in life. Grades are not the be all and end all. Sometimes you work hard, and sometimes you don’t get the results from that that you want. But it doesn’t mean it was a waste of time. Working hard and aiming high are never bad principles to hold.
Your path leading to amazing things does not have to be conventional. Carve it yourself.
Look no further than Steve Jobs, Aretha Franklin, Richard Branson; individuals who all dropped out of school at a young age. There are always ways of accomplishing what you want to: through networking, work experience, branding – there are even ways of getting to university without A-Levels. You can read about ways of doing that here.
Your path leading to amazing things does not have to be conventional. Carve it yourself. Work hard. Stay focussed. Be positive. You are shaped like a human being, not a single letter. You are not A, B, C, or D. You cannot be reduced to a digit. You are a person, and you are capable of so much. Your exam results do not define you.
What is your experience of results day? Let us know at @rifemag
Check out the jobs and opportunities page on Rife Guide to carve your own path.