The weeks leading up to August 14th were the most nerve-wracking of my life. It doesn’t seem to matter how much you prepare for your exams, or how well you understand the systems of clearing and adjustment, thinking about results day will still result in an overwhelming feeling of nausea. And trust me, you will think about it. No matter how many times you ban it from conversation or distract yourself, every single person you’ve ever met (and probably the distant family members that you haven’t!) will ask you how you thought your exams went and where you’re planning to go. If you’re lucky and manage to avoid these conversations, the creeping sense of doubt will still make its way into your mind. When you’re trying to sleep, you’ll suddenly feel like you’re drowning in your own panic.
I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to University. I didn’t prepare anything, I checked clearing places, and thought about back-up plans. I stand by my decision, because if there is even the smallest bit of doubt in your mind that you might not make it, it’s better to expect the worst. Hopefully then, if your dreams are crushed, the blow might feel just that tiny bit more bearable.
Don’t panic when you wake up on the Thursday morning and find that your heart is already jumping up into your throat - it’s a normal reaction! Once I’d come to terms with my mini heart-attack, I drove to school in silence, and opened UCAS Track in the car park. Relief washed over me, my status had changed to ‘unconditional firm’. At this point, with twenty minutes until the school opened, I found my friends and shared the excitement. I was very lucky in that each and every one of my friends made it into their firm or insurance choices, and so there was plenty of excitement and laughter to go around!
Holding your results envelope can often mean a feeling of power. Finally you’ve got what you’ve been waiting to see for six weeks, and you know that you can look at it whenever you want to. Suddenly, you don’t want to be holding that envelope anymore. At least, you don’t want to be holding it while stood in the middle of a room of teachers. Those teachers, in my case, had been telling me for months that I couldn’t achieve, that I couldn’t get the grades I so badly wanted and needed. Of course, tearing it open proved them all wrong. I had surpassed everyone’s expectations, and every emotion that had been whizzing through my brain in my A Level years was suddenly released.
Heading home (after a night of celebration of course!) meant preparation. There has been a lot of things to get ready. My top tip for getting ready is to write lists, and lots of them! Watching my friends has taught me that preparation usually goes one of two ways. There are organisational freaks like me, who print documents, write lists, make advance plans, and pack slowly to ensure that nothing is forgotten. On the other hand, there are people like my best friend who do everything the night before, leave their iPod lying around and nearly take someone else’s ID to Scotland with them.
I’ve had to buy food supplies, cooking equipment, cleaning products, toiletries, a fresher’s wristband, fancy dress, books, bedding and stationary. There have also been clothes to pack, accommodation to accept, agreements to sign, preparation work from my department, bank accounts, vaccines, and goodbyes to say. See why I recommend the lists yet? I learnt that it’s important not to do anything on a whim, and consider each and every option carefully before committing.
You are about to spend the next three of four years penniless, and working as much as I can has meant that I’ve got some savings for Fresher’s, which I think is a very sensible idea. Getting your parents to buy you some basic food and toiletry supplies can also help to make the first few months easier whilst you get used to budgeting.
Of all the things that I’ve had to do, saying goodbye has been the hardest. Although I am yet to say goodbye to most of my friendship group, my best friend left last Friday. It’s when you start saying goodbye that everything begins to feel very nerve-wracking again. After a month of excitement, the reality hits that you and your friends will be moving away from home to opposite ends of the country, and in some cases, the world. After eighteen years of the security of my family, my school, and my community, I’ve suddenly got to face the world on my own. Whilst I like to think I’m independent and will cope just fine, as the eldest child, I don’t really know what to expect. Not only do I have the obvious goodbyes to say, I’m also leaving my local Guiding units, and stopping my flute lessons. Hobbies which have been my sense of stability since a young child are being taken away, or moved with me.
It’s all new, it’s all learning, and I’m sure it will all be awesome. It’s important to remember that when I move, everyone will be in the same position. Everybody in first year is nervous, and desperate to make friends. We’re all going to have a fabulous time!