For anyone who is a student, be it in the senior years of school/college/sixth form, or finishing a semester at university, if you’re anything like me, this time of year is probably what you’ve been dreading for a while.
It is the time of year when all your teachers are telling you that you must, must, MUST revise and do as many past papers as humanely possible (teachers don’t like exam season either, they’re just nagging you for your own good, honest!). It’s the time of year when people are panicking because these exams could mean the difference between getting a place at a college/university, or even getting a job. It’s the time of year which, if it didn’t exist, many of us would swear that our lives would be at least 10,000 times better. 😰
Pause for a moment…
Don’t panic! Keep your calm and take these exams in your stride. It’s certainly easier said than done, but it honestly does work! Make sure that, amongst all your revision, you still set aside time to do things you love, whether that’s going for a run, reading a book (for pleasure) or meeting with friends, even for just half a day. Remember, Good mental wellbeing = a higher likelihood of doing well in exams (I learnt that the hard way – more about this later).
If, in the unlikely event, you do fail these exams, or get a lower grade than you wanted, don’t panic either – on results day you can still choose to re-do the year or even just re-sit some of the exams (make sure you consult your teachers and people you trust though, before arriving at a decision). There are so many options out there for you so don’t let it get to you. If you really detest the subjects that you do so much that the idea of sitting another exam or even having another lesson in said subject makes you want to crawl into a small hole and never come out again, then you could even completely re-consider your options. Either apply for a course which is completely different (after thorough research, of course!), be it at university or an apprenticeship (no student debt this way, yaaaay!), or at some other higher-education institution, or re-do the year, doing different subjects (but keeping the ones which you like/have done well in)…
Here’s a little personal anecdote for you…
I want my blog to be a positive place on the internet that people can visit for optimism and encouragement. However, I wanted to share this with you just for a bit of insight and so that these same mistakes which I made are not repeated by others. Also, this does have a happy ending – read on!
…the latter is what I did – When I was in year 11, I was doing really well in the sciences and maths at GCSE, getting the top grades and really enjoying what I was studying. On Results Day, my results in these subjects weren’t quite as good as I expected them to be (but they were by no means bad), so as I still got high enough grades to study them at A level at my school, I carried on pursuing this decision to study Maths, Physics, Geography and German for AS level (in year 12). After the first few weeks of year 12, I found Maths and German particularly difficult (the gap between GCSE and AS level is HUUUUUGE!!!!), but I didn’t want to seem to others (or to myself) like a weak person, so I carried on studying them, completely disregarding all the anxiety that was boiling up inside me…
After another few weeks, my German had improved vastly and I was really enjoying the subject, however, this was not true for maths, and I was also losing the will to live with physics too! Undesirable things were happening in my personal life, regarding my best friend too (who lives in London, whilst I live in Nottingham), so it was very hard work trying to stay as a supportive, dedicated friend, whilst negotiating A levels, including two subjects which I absolutely detested at this point!!
In February, I thought, enough is enough. After much persuading of my teachers, I was allowed to drop Maths, as it was adversely affecting me, and my self-esteem and mental wellbeing was plummeting, not helped by everything that was going on around me, too. Fortunately, I was still enjoying German and Geography, although my stress from my personal life and Physics didn’t help the situation at all, ruining my enjoyment of the two remaining subjects which I fundamentally liked. Often I had no sleep for several nights in a row, even though I went to bed at the usual times. I just lay there thinking about the 10 billion+ things that were on my mind, and it was impossible to get to sleep! I carried on with Physics, but as time went on, the stuff got harder and harder, and I didn’t understand it at all, nor did I enjoy it (my grades from the regular assessments badly affecting this).
So, in the May/June of last year I sat my AS exams in German, Geography and Physics, in quite possibly the worst mental state I had ever been in, in my entire life. My mental unhappiness turned into physical illness, which severely weakened me, hindering me from concentrating for prolonged periods whilst revising. I was having constant moments of panic, as I realised how little useful content I knew (or at least, I had done a LOT, but had failed to take much of it in).
When results day came the following Summer, my awful suspicions of how I had done in my exams were confirmed – I had completely failed Physics, and even my Geography result wasn’t too good either, and this was a subject which I liked!! 😧 Mercifully, my German result was better than I had expected (this was the only exam which I thought at all had gone well for me). 🙌
After these awful results (to me) which I got, I decided to drop physics, as I absolutely couldn’t stand the thought of having anything else remotely to do with it again. This would mean, though, that I’d only have 2 A Levels, and most universities want at least 3! So, I decided to stay on for another year in Sixth Form at my school. All I needed to do now was to decide which subject(s) I’d put in place of physics…
I consulted with the Head and Deputy Head teachers at my school, along with my parents about my options. Two of these teachers had taught me History lower down the school, so knew my capabilities in the subject. Considering that I had previously done well in History, they suggested that I took it in place of Physics, and, after a lot of umm-ing and ahh-ing I decided that doing History (and A level Government & Politics in one year in my last year) would be the best way forward for me.
So, September came and it was time to tell everyone that I wouldn’t be leaving the school with the rest of them in Summer 2017, but in Summer 2018 with the year below instead (I was kind of relieved that I could delay writing my personal statement for UCAS for another year, if I’m honest!). I felt a little nervous at first, being in a class with the year below with students who I hardly knew, but they’ve been so welcoming and understanding and since then I’ve become really good friends with them. I now have no worries about my social situation next year, and I also LOVE what I am studying! 👏
So, what is there to take away from this story?
(I’d like to say to my younger readers, I’ve been through this, so you don’t have to!)
- Study what you love! ❤️ When choosing options for subjects to study in the following academic year, make sure you choose what you really want, and don’t give in to peer pressure if you don’t think it’s for you (there seems to be almost an obligation for girls to study STEM subjects these days, perhaps a negative aspect of feminism, in my opinion – don’t get me wrong, I think that feminism is essentially a brilliant concept, which we all need to embrace!).
- Having said don’t be influenced by others, be sure, though, to talk to the people who have your best interests at heart, whom you trust – teachers, family members and friends – and see what kind of areas they think your talents lie in. If I had done that in the first place, I may have ended up doing History all along!
- If, in this new academic year, you find that you’re not enjoying a subject, re-consider your options at the earliest signs of having problems (consult your teachers first, as if it’s something like a foreign language, it does get easier as you go along)!
- Get help at the earliest signs as possible of having a mental wellbeing crisis, so that it doesn’t get left to worsen – schools and universities, to my knowledge, have to have a counsellor in to talk to students who are struggling in this way, so there is always help out there for you.
- Don’t care what others think of you – if you want to drop a subject/start all over again, then do it! In the long-term you’ll be so happy that you made this decision, and not caring about what others think gives you a stronger, more resilient personality.
- You can even PRAY about it! 🙏 Speak to God and ask Him to lead you in the right direction. Also remember, everything happens for a reason, so God has put you through what you have been put through so that you can face the things which you’ll be faced with later in life.
- Work hard, but don’t overwork, otherwise it can be counter-productive (don’t even think about doing all-nighters, unless absolutely necessary – you need to sleep as much as you need to study)! 😴
- Finally, DON’T PANIC!!! Whilst your teachers want you to do well, their top priority should be to keep you safe from having mental breakdowns and to maintain your happiness through this, so don’t think you’re letting them down just because of you’re having a crisis!
You’ve now come to the end of this post! This was by no means a post to try and get your sympathy or anything like that – because I changed my options in time, I can honestly say that now I’m without a doubt the happiest I’ve ever been and I am studying the subjects I LOVE and have an absolute PASSION for. I hope you’ve found this helpful and that this post has reinforced the fact that you are not alone. Keep your happiness a top priority. 😃
Need a way of properly concentrating? I know the feeling, and I am the queen of procrastination!! 👸 For me, music is a really good way of getting “in the zone” as it were, and I often listen to either Spotify playlists (“Beats To Think To” is a really good one) or music on YouTube – I particularly recommend this video, as well as this one, as they both contain almost purely instrumental electronic music and this is one of my favourite genres, personally!
See you on Friday, hopefully!
Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on this topic (I’m merely an A Level student!), but I thought that sharing my personal experience could potentially help those who may find themselves in similar situations (like this) as myself.