University 101: Why going to your insurance choice isn’t the end of the world


A-Levels are crap. You spend two years under a massive amount of pressure to perform well in a single set of exams, the results of which will determine where you end up going to university. This side of the half term for many people who are currently taking A-Levels will likely be when things start to get real. You may have already received all your offers, or be in the process of receiving them, and so you will know exactly which letters you will need to see on results day in order for you to end up where you plan to go.

This time last year I was probably in the library having a meltdown over revision, or something else melodramatic that seems perfectly reasonable in the context of A-Levels. Much of my motivation to revise came from the fact I needed an A in History, which was possible but required a lot of work. But my heart was set on going to this university, so I would do whatever it took to get in.

I’ve had a pretty unhealthy relationship with what I consider ‘failure’ my entire life. The disease that is perfectionism has plagued me for longer than I can remember, and although sometimes it has fuelled my work it mostly makes me miserable. Therefore, in my mind not going to my first choice university constituted a failure, which it really wasn’t.

Flash forward to 16th August 2018 and I had received B in History. I hadn’t got in.

Over the course of the next few hours I had to make a choice: resit and reapply next year, or attend my insurance choice. Not going to university for another year seemed implausible, so I chose the latter.

The most important thing to remember if you don’t get into your firm choice is that it only matters as much as you want it to. The likelihood is the people around you are still proud and love you, and you have not let down yourself or them in not quite getting there. Sometimes it really is just bad luck. Maybe you just had a bad day, or the examiner was having a bad day, or any number of things that meant it didn’t go to plan. Your self-worth is not determined by the letters on a sheet of paper. This also applies to things like university league tables etc. It only matters as much as you want it to.

The other advice that I would give with regard to going to your insurance choice is the sooner you accept it the happier you will be. Currently I couldn’t be happier where I am. The course is well-taught, the staff are passionate and helpful and (maybe a bit cliché but) I have met some of the best people here. It took me a while to get used to the idea of going here at first. I still couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I had failed or that there had been some mistake. It was only when I met people who had been through the same thing (in many cases with the exact same university) that I realised I wasn’t alone. By the end of freshers week I felt like I belonged here.

I don’t really believe in fate or anything, but I do believe we are happiest in our given situation when we choose to accept it and don’t want for an alternative life. Here is where I am, and so, here is where I am meant to be.

If anything, I believe I am happier here than I might have been had I gone to my first choice university, and even though it felt like the end of the world then, I know now that life goes on and you just have to carry on with it.

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