The hardest exams you’ll ever take in your education career is what A Levels are often described as. Indeed when I worked for my awards in 2012 it was a mountain of hard work and dedication. But A Levels are more than just an pass to get you into university or a job. They offer you the time and space to understand yourself and what you aim to achieve.
Last week’s 2013 results show for some interesting reading. 26.3% of students were awarded the top A-A* grades, down slightly on the year before. Despite figures from earlier in the year suggesting applications to the university admissions body, UCAS, were down, Thursday saw record number of students accepted into UK universities within 24 hours. Whilst mainstream universities still attract a huge amount of students, receiving A Level results can open many other doors and challenges.
12 months ago and I was firmly pleased with my results. I had been accepted into university but never really had the drive, interest or motivation to move into full time, higher education. Having spent what felt like a lifetime studying, revising and making notes, like many of my classmates, I felt I needed a break from it all. At the time I was already in a full time job and so began understanding what my needs were and how I could achieve my goals.
An aspiring journalist, I had always had a strong friendship with writing and providing journalistic content for my school and college. A couple of work experience placements and I was hooked on making it to a newsroom. But as I went through my education, I learnt more about how you can reach certain industries and professions. For me, work experience is and always will be key. I had advise on starting a blog, it being one of the newest forms of social and online journalism. Creating content for people to see and using the extraordinary advances in social media has allowed me to connect with real-life journalists and reporters. Believe me, that is quite an encouraging feeling.
Not wanting to bring a halt to my interest of learning new things, I decided to begin an Open University degree course. It’s fascinating that never once was part time education or distance learning mentioned in my school or college. To study with the OU has allowed me to develop my educational interests, work toward an end goal and still work (albeit part time) and drive my motivation for a career in the journalism industry.
It’s not just me with a story of another door opening in the wake of A Levels. Apprenticeships, placements, career development and young people’s services all offer training and support for those who want it. Many students feel its time for some restbite from over a decade of education and so venture on a gap year or volunteering. For those who want to have letters next to their name, education is still available in forms other than university. The Open University is, from my experience, a brilliant example. Many colleges and specialist training establishments offer BTEC’s and work related qualifications.
Even if you don’t achieve the results you were quite hoping for, there is always opportunity to turn things around or even put what results you did get towards a different qualification. It is never the end of the road.
A Levels are more of a milestone than anything else. Once you get them, doors can open in all direction and paths can lead in any direction. If there’s drive, motivation and aspiration, then any route taken can lead to a successful outcome.