Today in Scotland, it’s exam results day. This time of year seems to be permanently burned into my mental calendar; I haven’t sat an SQA exam for four years, and yet I still feel a little bit of dread when I know the start of August is approaching. Very strange, but my excuse is that I have a younger brother who now waits for them the same as I did (admittedly, not as eagerly!).
The thing is, no matter how much I looked forward to (and then absolutely despised) results day arriving, my results were never much to shout about. I hated high school with a passion for numerous personal reasons, and even though I like to think I was a studious pupil, at the end of the day my experience really did impact on my motivation to bother in my exams. Of course, I always had the mad panic-study sessions the week before I was due to sit them – without them, I probably would never have achieved even the seemingly mediocre grades I eventually left with. My mind just wasn’t in it!
I’ve seen quite a few young people already dismayed at what those terrifying SQA letters, texts and emails brought them this morning; an all-too familiar feeling for myself. And, well, it prompted me to write this post. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be an all-singing, all-dancing “I was the same as you and now look at me!” post, because heck, I’m still trying to work out what I’m doing with myself. But I figured I’d give my two pennies on the subject anyway, because at the end of the day, my life didn’t quite crumble away piece by piece upon receiving a “No Award” in Higher Biology back in 2014.
So, as I said before, I hated high school. I could honestly say they were probably the worst years of my life, and by my 5th year I was ready to drop out and just get a random job somewhere. So ready, in fact, that I even sat in tears in my head teacher’s office with the leavers forms all prepared to be signed while she tried to convince me to rethink things. She somehow managed to convince me, and as much as I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I’m thankful for it now. I was desperate to move off the island and get away to the city, so I bit the bullet and pushed on.
That year saw me get 3 Cs in my Highers: English, History and Geography. At the time I was determined to follow my dream of becoming a journalist, so I was pretty dismayed at getting a C in English. Especially because my teacher wouldn’t let me sit Advanced Higher as a result; it caused me to question my capabilities in the one thing that I actually enjoyed at school. Not cool. But that year had also seen me take up Business Management at Intermediate 2, in which I got an A. So when it came to attending my university open day and feeling that I wasn’t cut out to hold the title of “journalism student”, I instead turned my attention to business. I applied to my university of choice, and received a conditional offer of ABB. Not the worst, but my CCC results just weren’t going to cut it. So, I increased my panic-study week to four panic-study weeks. I know, I know; I should have been giving 110% from the start… but as I’m sure has been highlighted in previous posts, I’m just not one to do that. I had four exams at Higher that year, and sitting out on a balcony in Turkey at 4am waiting for the SQA email to pop into my inbox, I learned that I had managed to get… ABCF. Oh.
Thankfully, the university took me in anyway. That September I became an International Business student, and off I went to Glasgow. And well, you kind of know all of that part.
While I was undertaking my four years of marketing, finance and nothing to do with journalism, I started feeling a bit lost. I enjoyed my course, but I’d grown up seeking to chase news stories and create content. Being unable to do what I genuinely wanted to do was terrifying me every time I considered careers upon completing my studies. And thus, this blog was born. Well, there was more red wine and panicky tears involved than I’ve made out there, but it all still resulted in me going “okay, I’ll make my own opportunity here”.
And here we are, nearly two years on. I’ve graduated in International Business, and I decided to try for a Masters course just in case I could maybe get a place. At no point in my interviews were my exam results mentioned; even my previous degree hardly got a look-in. Instead, they were more interested in the fact that I’d taken a situation and tried to come up with a solution. I tried my best to sell myself, and it somehow worked. I know that isn’t always the outcome, but my point is, this time five or six years ago I’d have been crying over my results. They weren’t what I wanted or needed, and my journalism dream was shattered. But I went off, I found a roundabout way, and here I am finally getting to go for it – albeit four years later. The exam results you receive are not the be all and end all when it comes to careers and further studies. There’s always a way around these things, whether it’s working your way up in a company, going to college for a couple of years before university, even going to a different university than first planned. I’m a firm believer in the phrase “what’s for you won’t go by you”, and I think that’s an important one to bear in mind on days like today.
Exam results do not define what you’re capable of!