Thursday 18th August 2016, a day that held a lot of significance for teenagers like myself across the UK. It was a day that charted out the next three years of our lives but for many, including my myself, it did feel like the rest of our lives were revolved around this day and the letters on a piece of A4 paper. It was time to see if two years of hard graft, tears and countless flashcards were worth it.
The day before, I had decided to keep myself occupied by going to the RA Summer Exhibition with a friend. Generally, we were both quite cheerful and happy but on the train back home, anxiety began to creep in. We parted ways, hugged and wished each other good luck. The rest of the evening is hazy to me. I woke up very early on Results Day which was a shock to the system as the summer had been filled with lie ins, trips to the pub and watching copious amounts of TV. The idea of waking up to receive potentially bad news always struck me as cruel and harsh.
That morning I felt ill and sweaty whilst clutching a bowl of cornflakes that I was unable to eat. I logged into the school’s VLE to find out my grades only to be met with a screen of numerous letters. It was so confusing and my sleepy, panicky self wasn’t helping me to process the information. ‘Did I really do 12 A levels?’ was one of my more stupid thoughts. After calling a friend who told me which column to look at; I could finally make sense of it all. Still, I noted my grades down on paper and asked my family to check over just in case.
My disbelief stemmed from the fact that I had done a lot better than I expected getting 3 A*s and an A. I’d got into my first choice university (Bristol) to study History of Art so Results Day was a success for me. But Bristol didn’t quite feel like my top choice university; it felt like something I was left with after being rejected by my two top choice universities.
Since then, I had casually started considering a gap year. The rejections were crushing experiences to say the least and it made me too scared to make concrete plans in case my grades were not worth me reapplying to university. Now those letters on the screen indicated that a gap year was definitely a choice. I had spent the summer wanting my grades so I could make solid plans but now I had them, I was just as perplexed and facing even more questions and doubts.
Of course, these questions and doubts could wait for a couple of days as I was busy celebrating with nice meals, clubbing and talking to extended family who were so happy for me. Yet, sooner or later, a decision had to be made. Speaking to teachers definitely helped as they bought years of experience and wisdom. I like to think that I decided on a gap year slowly over a long process but I know deep down, I decided at 7:34 am on the 18th August 2016. With those grades, I knew that reapplying was worth it even if it did mean revisiting bad memories of UCAS.
This was definitely the main factor in my decision but there were some background issues which affected me. For a start, I didn’t feel excited about university. Seeing friends busy planning for their uni life by contemplating bedding/saucepans and filling out paper work so enthusiastically made me realise that my feelings were uncommon. University can be scary but ultimately you should go into it feeling excited not apathetic.I think one of the reasons why I felt apprehensive was because I had begun to doubt whether History of Art was right for me; I was now considering a degree in History as I had more experience in the topic.There was also a part of me that couldn’t face going back to the academic life after two years of intense, regimented work. I needed a break and my grades gave me the opportunity to have that. I’m grateful for them because they’ve allowed me the chance to do something a bit less ordinary, learn new things and hopefully let me have some adventures that I can chart on this blog to share with you.