Editor Suzie reflects on her rubbish GCSE grades and what she did after receiving them….
Let me start by saying that I have a LOT of qualifications, I almost collect them now like badges of honour. Degrees, diplomas, a PGCE, NVQs, A Levels – the list is endless. Shouldn’t I be self-congratulatory and smug? Well perhaps, but it’s important to appreciate that I was never, nor am I to this day, academically gifted. In my humble opinion anyway.
I bombed my GCSEs. My grades were dire. I think there was one B grade sniffing around in there, a C in English and the rest were Ds and Es. You’d have been more likely to see me have pineapple on my pizza – which I would NEVER do – than study or revise for exams.
I realise now that this was because I am truly appalling at exams. I have always suffered an intense anxiety around exam type situations and the mere thought of them sends me into a spin. So, at 16 there wasn’t a chance that I was going to successfully sit my GCSEs and swan out with amazing grades.
With that said, how on earth did I become a qualification hoarder, as I am today? The generally low set of results was something of a wake-up call. I disliked school intensely, other than hanging out with my mates, but I did oh so desperately dream of being a journalist one day, breaking news stories and exposing the truth. I spent endless summers, half terms and weekends doing work experience and then, one day, an editor said to me: “you do realise you’ll have to go to university if you want a real shot as being a journalist”.
Go WHERE? Literally no-one in my entire family had gone to university and I’d pretty much flunked my GCSEs. And now I had to go to university. Well, that’s just GREAT.
I went back into school with my usual brazen tenacity and explained that there was one university I HAD to get into. The absolute cream of journalism schools and I needed to do something about it. So began three years at sixth form (everyone else left after two), but I need to retake maths and considerably up my game before I was allowed to take the A Levels and GNVQ needed to get into university of dreams.
The next bit is equally long winded, so I won’t bore you with it. However, it was hard, I purposely chose not to go into the same class as my mates who were retaking, because I would muck around and not pass – again. I chose a mixture of ‘academic’ A Levels and a GNVQ in Business Studies, which was much more reliant on coursework. Anyway, I scrapped through, I got the grades, and I got in.
I almost failed my first year because I didn’t have a diddly clue how to write assignments, so I went to a special support class that teaches you the basics. How embarrassing eh? Nope, if I was going to succeed in my dream career I couldn’t be bothered that someone thought I was going to a class for stupid people. I didn’t look stupid after I nailed essay writing thanks to those classes and got some of the highest grades in the class.
I learnt a long while back that the only way for me to get a grip of what I didn’t understand was to ask for help. To explain that I didn’t know, admit I felt stupid and do it anyway. People want to help, they will help and you will pass. So below you’ll find my top tips for what to do if you’ve failed your GSCEs or A Levels and life feels a bit rubbish.
Don’t sweat it. Take them again if you need to. There isn’t a massive rush to get it right first time.
Ask for help. There are people out there who can and will help. Not asking for help is more stupid than admitting you need it. Suck up all the time and resources of those on hand.
Choose subjects you like. I found most subjects DULL. But I loved English and drama, so I figured if I did those well I could sort out the other stuff later.
Vocational qualifications. I’m a big fan of these. If traditional subjects like history, sciences etc aren’t your thing, do a vocational qualification instead.
Consider apprenticeships. Long gone are the stigma days of doing an apprenticeship. You can get apprenticeships in pretty much anything these days, and hey, you’re getting paid to learn!
Be as good as you can be. You don’t need to be the best, you just need to be good enough to achieve your goals. And if you can’t get there, find a way around that to do something similar that you really like.
North Bristol Post-16 Centre has some great advice on the various options available, click here to find out more.
Good luck with whatever qualifications or path you choose…