How do people exactly excel in life and education?

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jerz69
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I know it sounds a bit like a rant but I was in top sets and couldnt get A's for some of subjects that I needed to do in order to do what I wanted to do later. It feels like in tests there isnt as much things that you were learning but there are questions which require for you to think way beyond what youve learned. I dont know if am stupid I could of worked harder or I simply underestimate myself all the time. Maybe I became dependent on help of others too much. Ive never genuinely heard of someone who self taught themselves and did well. Even best people I know would get B's or barely A's. I kinda wanted to get my life right this year but it doesnt feel like I will get to do Comp Sci or go to university at all. I am wondering if anyones in a similar boat
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Keels25
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Warning: long post!

I felt a similar sense of dejection after getting my A-level results five years ago - mainly because I knew I was capable of meeting my predicted grades but I was not able to make this happen in reality.

I was predicted AAA, and had an offer for UCL which was my dream uni at the time. I was a first generation uni student so getting into UCL was a huge deal for me and my family. Unfortunately, I came out with ABB, missing my grades quite substantially and I was obviously gutted. Luckily, I'd met my insurance offer (Bristol), which is where I ended up going and I really enjoyed my time at Bristol - the fact I had missed out on going to UCL did not play on my mind significantly once I had settled in.

Looking back, I think there were several factors which limited my ability to perform - some of these were beyond my control, and others were not. For example, I attended a very low-performing sixth-form college in a very deprived area (the year I got my results, only 14 out of over 1000 students managed to get 3As or more in their A-levels). Beyond this, my college had this practice of selecting the students they thought were capable of A*s and giving them extra work/harder content but leaving the rest of the class out of this (including me) - so this meant that those students were much better prepared for those harder "Suggest.." questions in exams where you are required to apply your knowledge to novel situations. Another huge factor that was beyond my control was that a close family relative passed away two days before my A2 exams started (they had been deteriorating rapidly since the start of Spring) so this was something else I had to juggle alongside studying. I was very unwise and essentially internalised my grief - I didn't talk to anyone about it or how I was feeling, simply tried to just suppress it. To further complicate things, I was in a very unhealthy/toxic relationship at the time as well.

In retrospect, despite the unavoidable limitations, there were lots of limitations I imposed on myself too. I had very little confidence academically, which made little sense considering I had done quite well at GCSE. Secondly, the way I approached studying was entirely wrong. I spent far too long trying to write out perfect notes condensed from the textbook, which was a real waste of my time. At uni, I had to learn more efficient and effective ways of studying and managing my time (I was not very good at this during A-levels). I broke a lot of my bad study habits e.g. during A-levels I would be up working until 3 or 4am and force myself to get up and go into college the next day - this is very stupid and I can't believe I used to do this! I also would start preparing for exams far too late, so I would end up in a situation where I was having to work 15 hours a day, sometimes longer, to get through all the content. I didn't ask enough questions when I didn't understand something and would waste time trying to figure it out on my own (this isn't always a bad thing, but it would have saved me time, and helped my understanding, if I'd just asked my teachers for help in the lesson). It's not hard to see how these unhealthy/unhelpful study habits were compounded by my grief from losing a close relative. I simply was not in the right mindset, and I didn't help myself by sleeping an average of 4 hours per night. The result was that I ended up totally blanking in two of my exams (in different subjects) which ultimately brought the two grades down to a B. It was terrifying because that had never happened to me before in an exam situation.

By the end of it all, I was just happy to have managed to get into uni, full stop. I was actually grateful because I feared that I would get far worse than ABB and miss out on uni altogether. Going to Bristol was the best thing that ever happened to me and I learned so much about how I learn, methods of studying and exam preparation that work best for me, I have so much more confidence in my ability. Prior to university the idea of giving a presentation made me feel physically sick, but I've now done it so many times that it's nearly second nature to me, and I actually quite enjoy it now. I focused on making small, achievable goals each year i.e. after my first lot of Jan exams I decided to set a goal to improve each % in my summer exams, which I managed to do and I carried that goal of incremental improvement through my entire degree. I tried to develop myself in other ways - I volunteered for two years alongside my degree; I joined the gym and found new (healthier) ways to cope with stress. Long story short, I ended up graduating with a 1st (I ranked 1st in my year), despite having among the lowest A-level grades when I first arrived in Year 1. And now I'm about to start studying graduate entry medicine at Oxford this September.

To answer your question, I think everyone is different. Some people take a bit longer than others to figure out what they are passionate about and what methods of studying work best for them. I think, for me at least, university was just a better environment for me - I really thrived there and my lecturers were so encouraging. I think the best thing you can do is honestly reflect on your past performance and try to figure out what you could do differently to improve things in the future. Even simple things like asking teachers for detailed feedback can do wonders. There is always, always room for improvement.

If Comp Sci is your goal, you can still get there. Try and motivate yourself for sitting Autumn exams (if they happen), and try to prioritise your areas of weakness so that you can improve. Your ability is flexible, not static - just because you are not at the level you desired yet, does not mean you will never get there - you may even greatly exceed your own expectations eventually. Be kind to yourself, get plenty of sleep, manage your time efficiently so that you don't end up nearly destroying your life (like I did), stay consistent and try to remain positive. I hope this doesn't sound too lecture-like, I'm simply telling you what I wish someone had told me at the time! Good luck
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jerz69
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At this point everything feels so uncertain. Maybe I should go to work and do my A-Levels privately it just feels like I am not getting anything out of it. Yeah the part about internalising grief resonates with me for sure I feel like I really like Academia but school isnt for me. I just dont feel like Im preparing for anything making most of my time into commute and being off for 5 months. I know itll sound horrible but I was debating going military with my limited motor skills. At the same time I dont feel like its worth it for me if I dont go to Oxbridge and in order to do that I feel like I need to develop those skills independently if that makes sense. Ill try making some small goals could tell you how I get on if youd like to know
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tashkent46
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I flunked my a levels and now I'm on track for a first class law degree, what u do my friend is fail upwards.
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jerz69
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Oh sorry I dont quite get what you want to say with 'fail upwards'
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tashkent46
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don't let a failure define you keep going and find a way in, you only fail if you give up. cheesy but true,. Failure is an opportunity to learn from mistakes.
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Keels25
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(Original post by jerz69)
At this point everything feels so uncertain. Maybe I should go to work and do my A-Levels privately it just feels like I am not getting anything out of it. Yeah the part about internalising grief resonates with me for sure I feel like I really like Academia but school isnt for me. I just dont feel like Im preparing for anything making most of my time into commute and being off for 5 months. I know itll sound horrible but I was debating going military with my limited motor skills. At the same time I dont feel like its worth it for me if I dont go to Oxbridge and in order to do that I feel like I need to develop those skills independently if that makes sense. Ill try making some small goals could tell you how I get on if youd like to know
I think there are many people feeling the same as you - it is hard to be motivated with everything that is going on and it’s totally normal to feel the way you do. You’re just in a slump though and that’s temporary. Another thing to understand is that Oxbridge really isn’t everything. And you don’t need to do oxbridge now - so many people go to other great institutions first, and then perhaps do a masters or PhD at Oxbridge so this is something you could consider if it is your dream to study there!

That sounds like a good plan - make some goals and that is the first step to making progress. And yes do let me know how you get on
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