Making the grade

‘Your application has been unsuccessful’ were the words I read at 8AM on my UCAS letter, after being rejected from the University of Sheffield. I was heartbroken. Two years of A-Level struggle had been fruitless and I was rejected from my first choice university. I was confused. I had been predicted grades good enough to secure myself a place and I knew that I couldn’t have worked much harder than I did, yet I had still been unsuccessful. I felt humiliated. I felt like my happiness and my future were no longer in my hands.

I soon found out that I had missed out on my place at university by four marks on an English Literature paper. After having the paper remarked, my new grade, seven marks higher than my original meant that my application was now “successful”. These seven marks had the power to change the way that I saw myself. When I was seven marks worse off and “unsuccessful” in the eyes of UCAS, I accepted that my best efforts were not good enough. I had wanted to go to university since I was in primary school but now I no longer saw myself as suited to higher education. I doubted my own intelligence and began to question if I was capable of the future I had imagined for myself.

I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. I considered that maybe fate had steered me away from this path for a reason. Perhaps I wasn’t suited to the course; maybe I wouldn’t have liked the city or could I have simply been not up to the standard required? I still believe that (mostly) everything happens for a reason, however, I shouldn’t have been so passive to accept fate and my ‘unsuccessful’ identity.

After my seven mark upgrade, I was obviously incredibly happy and excited to move to university, yet the pain of results day still stuck with me. As a believer in ‘everything happens for a reason,’ I still wondered what the reason for my results day failure could have been. My confidence was still knocked when I got to university. I felt that my peers were more worthy of their place than I was, as I had only scraped entrance.

It is not until I enter my second year that I feel worthy of my place and confident in my capability to succeed on the course. Once more, how I value my abilities has been shaped by external influences. Getting a first in my essay at Christmas and passing my end of year exams has finally restored the confidence that I lost this time last year. 

How many other pupils have been told they are unsuccessful, and as a result lost their confidence and abandoned their ambitions? I am sure that this feeling will be strong among the class of 2020, the victims of Covid-19 and Gavin Williamson’s ‘mutant’ algorithm. This year has produced a wave of students who have missed out on university places and have lost any confidence and ambitions that they used to have. While private school pupils continue to thrive, working class and BAME pupils have once again been let down; firstly by the government and secondly by labelling within schools.

My advice to A-Level students who didn’t get the results day they had hoped for this year, is to continue to chase your ambitions and to remain confident in your abilities.

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