Coping with A Level Results Day

As A Level Results Day looms closer, it’s evidently clear how stressful the transition from college to university for students. Every University in the country is actively promoting their Clearing hotline. The hashtag on social media is overflowing with jokes and memes trying to suppress the active anxiety that is happening in reality and at this point, even wellbeing charities are uploading pieces advising how to handle the inevitable date. Even if it’s not stated word for word, collecting your A Level Results is immediately associated with stress and negative emotions.

A boy in a blue hoodie and grey pants sits on a sofa with his head in his hands looking stressed.
Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Treating a student with compassion and forgiveness is incredibly important on days like this, as this will help keep stress levels down and encourage them to make better decisions, preventing mental health struggles in the future. Today I thought I’d share what you can do as a parent, friend or as a student yourself, to cope with Results Day in a positive way.

As a parent…

Hannah Morrish covered this quite well on her article for the Telegraph: parents can, unintentionally, cause more stress on Results Day for their child, so it is important that you give your child space whilst also showing that you’re ready to help them. The first tip I would give is to talk to your child the night before and express that you will be proud of them no matter what happens. Ask them what their plans are for the day, if they want you there whilst picking up their results and being understanding if they say they want the space.

Be ready to cause a fuss and celebrate if they do get the grades they wanted, because they worked incredibly hard and it can feel dismissive as a young person if their hard work is brushed off. If they don’t get the grades they wanted and turn to you – take them for a coffee and cake, let them be emotional and discuss their next options (it is important to reiterate that through Clearing they still have a chance of going to university) when they seem ready for it. Do not pressure them or rush them as this will only increase stress.

As a friend…

Worst case scenario: You might get the grades you wanted – you’re ecstatic, buzzing and ready to celebrate. But then you turn around and see that one of your best friends hasn’t got the grades they wanted. How do you act as a comforting friend in this scenario? My best advice would be to give yourself a mental timer. You should be proud of yourself; you will be able to celebrate eventually but for 10-20 minutes now you are going to focus on your friend. If they begin to show signs of panic attacks, crying or stress, try to take them to a quieter area and sit down. Give them a hug if they want one but understand if they shut down for a bit.

Much like you’d want your parents or friends to be with you, let them be emotional. Remind them something can be done, and this isn’t the be all and end all. See if they want to go back home to their parents or a guardian. Once you have separated for the rest of the day, remember to check in on them whether it’s by giving them a phone call or quick message. Offer to help them if they are considering going through Clearing and show that you are proud of them no matter what.

Three girls in denim jackets face away from the camera but they are hugging each other.
Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

For yourself…

See the advice I just told you to use for your friend? The key is to apply this to yourself as well. If things go well and you get the grades you wanted, let yourself celebrate and be proud of yourself for how hard you worked. On the other hand, if your Results Day ends up being a bit more stressful than expected – make sure you assign the rest of the day to looking after yourself and showing yourself self-compassion. Let your friends know that you’re not happy with your grade as bottling up any sadness or disappointment may only lead to frustration and tension later.

Remember that your grades are in no way a full indicator of your intelligence, knowledge and abilities. At the end of the day, some grades might not even be relevant to your dream job down the line. Education builds us and lets us explore what we enjoy learning about as a person, but it’s not where we finish in life – we have a whole future ahead of us. Give yourself time to look into options such as Clearing, Apprenticeships or even a gap year. Talk to your parents, guardians or teachers only when you feel ready and do not feel ashamed to ask for help.

A white mug sits on a wood coffee table next to an open book and an orange pencil like someone is about to start writing.

My own story might also be useful to a college student who is worrying about the future and where they can go after Results Day: I didn’t go to university on the first opportunity I was given. I managed to get into one place with my BTEC grades, but I felt in myself this wasn’t the right time for me. I reminded myself that I can return in the future if it feels right and I decided to spend a year in an apprenticeship.

If I hadn’t made this choice and deviated from the normal routine of going straight into university from college, I wouldn’t have done many of the things that made me into who I am today. I wouldn’t have met my current partner, I wouldn’t have rediscovered my love for writing, I wouldn’t have had the experience of working in a vegan cafe, I wouldn’t have travelled to new places and I might have never eventually sat down and applied for the degree I just graduated from. Although the past few years weren’t completely free of negative experiences, toxic relationships and mental health struggles; I feel grateful for not going to university the first time. The gap year between educational institutions helped me learn a lot about myself – it let me make mistakes and gave me time to realise exactly what I wanted to study.

At the end of the day, what I want to say is do not feel like you have failed or that you are making the wrong choice if you decide to change your mind, change your plans or even take a gap year. Just because the student experience is advertised as going straight into university from college doesn’t mean it’s the right experience for everyone. If you don’t get the grades you wanted it doesn’t mean you are unintelligent, and if you decide to go through Clearing it doesn’t mean you’re cheating the system or you’re not on the same level as everybody else. In reality, a lot of students apply through Clearing. You don’t need to explain yourself to anybody, you just need to do what is best for you and your wellbeing.

Here are some more articles that might be useful on the lead-in to A Level Results Day:

A-level results day: what happens when things don’t go to plan – Ewan Somerville

A-level results day 2019: 10 truths and myths about Ucas Clearing – Emma Lee-Potter

Thank you for reading and a massive good luck to everyone getting their results! Everything will be ok in the end, I promise.

Signature: Helena
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