AS Level results day. One of the worst days of my life. I opened my brown envelope only to find Ds & Us staring back at me.
I was screwed. Forget UCL how would I get into any uni?
All I got next for the next few days were sympathetic (some patronising) pats on the back. All I heard was “You don’t have a chance at getting into a redbrick”. I can still remember the disappointment on my parents’ faces.
I was devastated. Something had to change.
I let myself wallow in self-pity for a week, but eventually pulled myself out. I needed to make a plan.
Step One: Make a plan
I knew I was doing something wrong. The way I revised just wasn’t working. So I studied how to revise. Yup, you read right, I spent weeks between results day and the start of term learning everything I could on revision methods and tried to figure out what I had to do to get the grades I wanted. I came up with a 3-step plan to improve my grades (outlined in the Amazon #1 bestseller How To ACE Your A-Levels)
In theory, it could work and I believed it would. Now I just had to convince my teachers.
Step 2: Convince your teachers
I realised that coasting through wasn’t going to work anymore. I needed to show conviction. Without believing in myself no one would believe in me. So, I made it my mission to convince my teachers that I would get the grades I needed. I wasn’t going to let someone’s poor opinion of me dictate the university I could apply to – this was my future, it was up to me to make it happen. I had to give myself the best chance possible.
I spoke to each of my teachers to find out whether they’d give me the grades I needed. Suprise suprise, their answer was no.
If it was last year I probably would have accepted what they told me. But this time, it was different. I needed to put up more of a fight. It was for my future.
I needed to be taken seriously, so I rehearsed. I practised two or three times how I would talk to them, even practising what I would say when they objected.
So, 2 weeks later I went back with a plan. I sat them down and told them what I was going to do.
I wanted to go to UCL and turn my grades around. I wanted straight A’s and I was going to get them.
I looked them in the eye and told them my ambition. They were still hesitant.
I showed my teachers a revision plan and my layered learning timetable (Chapter 8 How to ACE Your A-Levels). The timetable outlined what I was going to study and how I would cover all the material ahead of the exams. Sure there was a lot to cover, but I was determined to do it and made sure they knew it.
In every conversation, I leaned forward on my chair, opened my eyes wider and said it slowly ‘I’m going to sort this out’.
After continuous pestering and trying different teachers in the same department, 2 of my subject heads agreed to give me the grades I needed.
2 down 1 to go.
What could I do now? Parents.
I realised that in order to stick to the challenge I set myself, I needed my parents on board. So I filled them in on my plan and we wrote a letter to the school. Sure enough, this really sealed the deal and I managed to get B predictions across all my subjects. UCL was asking for more, but this was the best I could do for now.
Moral of the story, don’t ask don’t get. Now I just had to achieve them.
Step 3: Put your plan into action
Securing better predicted grades was a long shot but thankfully, even though they still didn’t meet the minimum grades UCL were asking for, I stood a much better chance than I did before. I hoped my school reference and personal statement would be enough to persuade the admissions tutor reading my application.
In my mind, I closed the chapter on this UCAS/predicted grades saga and got down to business. Even if I didn’t get UCL, achieving straight As was still important. Clearing was a solid option as many students fail to meet their conditional offers each year. If that didn’t work, I could do a gap year and re-apply the following year.
None of this predicted grade stuff would matter if I actually achieved good grades. That’s what universities really cared about and that was the priority.
With my plan in place, all that stood between me and A grades was my own self-discipline. As you and me both know, this is the hard part. Throughout education I never found any real motivation.
However, something was different this time. The throbbing sting of my bad grades combined with a little inspiration from an older mentor pushed me into a productive habit.
It started with one hour of productive revision, then two, then three until I was doing a solid 4-5 hours during week days and more on weekends. It was normal for me to come home and go straight to my desk.
This routine more or less didn’t change until exams. During the year, I was never truly satisfied with my self discipline and always thought I could do more. My strategy was on point and self-discipline consistent. On August 14th I walked out of school with straight As and a confirmed offer from UCL.
I’m glad it all worked out at the end, but if I didn’t get the conditional offer at least my grades were sorted.
Push for the best predicted grades you can, but don’t be disheartened if you fall short. Submit your application and focus fully on your grades.
Every year I hear from upset students who feel down because their friends have received offers when they haven’t. Everyone around them is getting excited for uni. Don’t let that pressure you into settling for a worse uni. Have another go, take a gap year and reapply.