On the 24th of August last year, I opened an envelope that determined what the next step I took in my life would be.
Three years of solid preparation and 23 exams were over. When they say exams aren't easy, they aren't lying to you. In fact, 'exams' is probably one of the only words that can make our stomachs - as students - turn.
Depending on who you are as a person, exams can be a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, you might perceive exams as an opportunity to perform and show off your skills. You work well under pressure and can handle the heat. However, on the opposing side, they might completely freak you out and send your anxiety levels sky high. Or you may be a mix of both. All of these options are perfectly normal.
Here are a few things I picked up on my exam journey:
Human beings are notoriously imperfect. We all make mistakes and are stubborn in asking for help. And sometimes, we can allow ourselves to become snowed under. We allow pressures from multiple directions to build up, making us feel like we aren't good enough. We don't believe that we are indeed capable of beautiful things and we can't see past the hurdles facing us. But we are, all of us. Take me back to August last year, I was the exact same.
It's about that crucial balance. Taking care of your mental health through the exam season can be difficult. Nobody said it was easy and sometimes the world can become exhausting and overwhelming. It's okay to not be okay, it’s okay to ask for help and okay to admit it's all getting too much. Yes, those exams are important. But you, a young person, an individual with your entire life ahead of you, are more important than the grades you receive.
Look to the future! Luckily for me, my Prom was on the evening of my final exam. I was so looking forward to it and I counted down my exams from the first pen mark to that last paper. No matter what you choose to do - sixth form, college, an apprenticeship, it's a fresh start for you. If you were a hurdle runner, you wouldn't be focusing on that first hurdle. You would be aiming for the finish line whilst ensuring your technique is on fire along the way. You've trained for this! Make each moment count, it'll be over faster than you realise.
Exams don't determine your worth. The difference between exams and education is not distinct enough and this is something I genuinely cannot stress enough. Your exam results will never define your intellectual ability. Not for one second does this mean that they don’t matter, but exams can only test you on a very limited number of things. Remember no matter what, you are worth everything and more. Every happiness, every joy - and there will be life after exams!
At the end of the day, it’s no lie that this will be one of the most stressful periods of your life. Remember to be open to people. It helped me massively to have a ‘go-to’ person who was a real pillar of strength for me when my world felt like it was becoming too heavy. In stressful and anxious periods, you can think in a very black and white way. Remember there is always an opportunity to retake. It doesn’t make you a failure if you don’t reach achievement first time.
I wish you all the best of luck!
By NCS Grad, Amy