Butterflies In The Stomach


We’re told that young people in the UK are under increasing pressure to perform. Not only is social media an ever-present reminder that everyone else is enjoying a near perfect existence, but the competition to succeed academically and professionally is greater than ever – and mental health professionals have their own concerns about that.

Never better
Dare we say it, though, there may never have been a better time to be getting A level results.

A number of factors mean sixth formers might never have had it so good. Low birth rates in the early 2000s, Brexit and the fact that university finance isn’t for the faint-hearted may all work in favour of the students logging on to their UCAS accounts this summer.

Many universities, including Russell Group institutions such as Southampton and Liverpool are still advertising vacancies on prestigious courses including law, engineering, maths and modern languages, and students looking at Aberystwyth’s clearing places have the chance to apply for one of their £2,000 bursaries still on offer to some students.

Blood, sweat and tears
Of course, individuals may still be disappointed if they haven’t done as well as predicted. These results can represent the blood, sweat and tears shed throughout the challenge of sixth form. The pesky questions that don’t quite make sense, and the tricky language used by examiners can often be seen as unfair trip hazards. Not to mention the widespread discussion about how hard maths was this year…

Nevertheless, in 2019, teachers and parents alike should be able to reassure students that really, truly, honestly, it isn’t the end of the world if results haven’t quite gone according to plan.

With so many university places still available, students have the opportunity to review the choices they made 18 months ago – and we all know a lot can happen in that time. Whether or not they are still committed to the original plan, the best way approach results day and avoid meltdowns must be to be prepared and have a plan.

Contingency plan
Thinking about a range of possible outcomes will allow students to take a positive approach to an unforeseen fork in the road. Before logging on to UCAS or opening that fabled envelope it’s definitely worth checking out the universities with vacancies and putting together a contingency plan. For their part, teachers can play an invaluable role. Simply reminding students to take a deep breath is a start. They shouldn’t necessarily jump at the first idea – after all, three years and a substantial financial commitment are at stake.

Most important (but beware of eye-rolls here), these important life events are crucial. Phrases such as ‘character building’, ‘things happen for a reason’ and ‘…make us stronger’ might well make an appearance in the next week or so. And they may be clichés, but they’re true!