Your Grades Do Not Dictate Your Worth

Today I had an exam which means I am officially exam free for the first time in months, woohoo! I can finally get on with exciting new projects, volunteering things and all that jazz…

Anyway, moving on, what I really wanted to write about is tomorrow. For those of you who don’t know, tomorrow is A-Level results day, aka the worst/best day in many 18-year-olds lives.

I can clearly remember picking up my A-Level results. All of my friends were really bothered because their results determined whether they’d got into the uni they wanted. I wasn’t bothered about getting into the uni I’d applied to, because it was a deferred application and in all honesty, I didn’t really want to go anyway. I was bothered about my grades, though. I’d had a slightly rocky sixth form for one reason or another, but I’d worked incredibly hard for my exams and just wanted to know my grades.

I got my grades and they were good, really good by most people’s standards; but they were not good enough by my standards. I was disappointed, felt like a failure and basically just thought I was rubbish. I felt like I’d let my family and teachers down and that I was never going to get anywhere in life – you know the kind of thoughts ‘bad’ grades can lead to!

So, I started my gap year with no self-confidence, living in a tiny village, and feeling pretty hopeless.

Fast forward a year and I was happier, more confident and had some hope for the future. I was looking forward to starting uni, on a different course from the one I’d originally applied for. I had a vague idea of what I might like to do with my life and a whole load of volunteering experience under my belt; I actually had some self-belief.

My gap year taught me that I am not my grades, I am not a grade-producing factory and I am worth more than my grades. And you are too.

Whatever grades you get tomorrow, whether they’re what you want or not, whether they get you the uni place you want or not, they do not define you and they do not define your future. If you don’t get the uni spot you want, it is not the end of your career. If you don’t get the grades you want, it does not mean that you, as a person, are worth any less than you were before you picked those grades up.

I know it’s a stressful day and that some people will be elated and others will be gutted, but it doesn’t mean that your future is decided by those letters on a sheet of paper. There are ways and means of achieving your goal whatever your grades may be.

Additionally, some of you will have gone through some really difficult times during your sixth form years. I know a lot of people who went through some horrendous things during sixth form and of course it affected their grades. If you are one of those people, be proud of your achievements, because sticking with sixth form when facing adversity is pretty damn awesome. Yes, it might have affected your grades, but achieving anything when you’ve got stuff going on in the background is amazing, and you should be proud.

If you’re someone who is disappointed tomorrow and hasn’t got into uni, or hasn’t got into the uni they wanted, take a gap year (if you’re able to) and go and have fun. Volunteer, get work experience, get a job, go travelling. Do something that’s not books, exams and essays, because you will get to know yourself so much better and you might find a different course you’d like to apply to, or discover a different path altogether.

Tomorrow is not make or break. It does not define you and it does not define your future. It’s okay to be happy, it’s okay to be disappointed, but try to remember that your grades do not dictate your value as a person.

Letters don’t define your life.

As most people who have Twitter will know, yesterday was A-Level results day. The day when 18 years olds anxiously refresh UCAS and shake their way into school to collect brown envelopes containing their fate. Have they got the letters needed to get them to their choice of university? Or are they destined to a year of ‘gap-yah-ing’ it up and working out what to do with their lives?

Either way, those 3 (or more) letters do not define you as a ‘success’ or a ‘failure’ – something which is hard to trust or believe, especially at the age of 18 when you’re the only one of your friends to have dropped a grade.

I’m 20 now, it’s two years since I got my results, but I can still remember it clearly. I received grades which anybody would be pleased to open. They got me to the university that I wanted to attend and would not hold me back from anything I wanted to do. But I wasn’t happy. Why? They weren’t a perfect score. I went to a school where most people were aiming for an A or A* in most subjects. The stress of repeated testing and constant pressure had really taken it’s toll on me. I always thought of myself as ‘academic’ (however you define that) but on the receipt of those results I was lost.

In the last couple of years, I have taken steps to define myself by something other than my grades. Volunteering in general, but particularly Team v (a volunteering program training the next generation of social leaders) is something which has really helped me with this. It was the first time in my memory that I was learning by doing, not by textbook, and more importantly – learning because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to. If I made a mistake it was fine, that was simply part of the learning process. At interview they didn’t want to know my grades, they just wanted passion and potential. I couldn’t tell you the grades of a single one of my Team v friends but I could rattle off grades of my school friends at the drop of a hat.

I have made huge steps in learning that there is life outside grades and that the person you are, and more importantly your own personal happiness, are much more valuable then any letter defining your ability to recite reactions will ever be.

It’s a long road and it’s a hard thing to accept when we are brought up in a society where newspapers tell us that ‘exams are getting easier’ and ‘unemployment is rising’. Admittedly – last night I felt like that 18 year old “failure” again. But it’s so important to remember – your grades are not you. Do not let letters define your life.

Check out this video for more inspiration.