Sunday 21 July 2019

The Long Road to University

Beth writes about her journey to university, A-level results day, and the importance of prioritising personal wellbeing over ‘conventional’ expectations and standards.
- Beth Matthews

I didn’t have the conventional linear journey to university.

My mental health declined during the first year of my A-levels (2015) due to the stress of struggling with my studies. It was therefore decided that, in the circumstances, it would be best for both my mental health and learning to drop A Levels for the rest of that year and start again the following September (2016).

I restarted and ended up taking A Levels in Sociology, English Language and History, with grades predicted at AAB. I applied for university through UCAS; 3 drafts of personal statements and endless cups of tea later, I settled on Politics and put down my first choice and insurance choice. My first choice required ABB and my insurance wanted BBB.

Then along came results day 2018. My alarm woke me up at 7am. The way my college worked was we could go and collect our results at 9am if need be, but they would also be emailed to us at 6am. I didn’t look at my results until after I knew which university I was going to. Instead, my Mum looked. 7:30am rolled around and UCAS track had now updated. I glanced at the screen anxiously. “Congratulations! Your place at Brunel University London (my insurance choice) to study Politics is confirmed.”

My heart sank. I finally opened my email to see my results. I got BCD. At the time, I felt heartbroken. I felt in denial at what had happened. How did I get BCD after being predicted AAB? In my disappointment, it didn’t even register that it was amazing I had got into Brunel considering I technically didn’t meet their entry requirements. Instead I was so focused on my first choice that I immediately rang them up to try and see whether I could negotiate a place. When I couldn’t get through, it eventually sunk in that there was nothing I could do. I had to consider my options. I did even contemplate ringing other universities because I still felt that I couldn’t accept going to my insurance, as this would be too disappointing.

However, those feelings of disappointment soon faded away. I got into university, for heaven’s sake! That’s still an amazing achievement. I suddenly thought going to Brunel was going to be the right thing for me. But there was still one hurdle.

The combined stress of A Levels and results day meant I simply wasn’t ready for university, and so I contacted Brunel to ask them to defer my entry which they did with no hesitation. I took a gap year to mentally prepare myself for university and spend time with my family before the next chapter. In that time, I’ve changed my degree to Politics and Sociology and I now blog regularly. My journey to university has taught me that it can be helpful to take time out for your mental wellbeing and go at your own pace; try not to compare yourself to the ‘conventional standards’ or expectations and instead remember to do what is right for you and celebrate your own achievements.

From my experience then, here are three pieces of advice for those waiting for A-level results day.
1) Consider all options. Are you prepared if you don’t meet your first choice offer? Have you thought about other universities and courses?
2) Don’t be afraid to ask. Ring up universities to explore the options. Get help from your college or school. I didn’t need to, but they made me aware that they could provide support if I needed it.
3) Have your family around. My Mum made me see sense that day, and feel proud of my achievements.

It may have taken 4 years to get to university since I started my A Levels but that doesn’t matter; I’m here now. I made it.

You can find more advice on managing exam stress here, and information on starting university here.

I'm Beth and I'm just about to start my first year at Brunel University London studying Politics and Sociology. I am a lifestyle blogger and I also like to blog about Mental Health, my journey with my Bullet Journal and my travels. I am also a musical theatre enthusiast and I'm hoping to become involved with my university's societies and campaign for mental health whilst I'm there!

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