This week is A-Level results week. Social media is split down the middle between people celebrating academic triumphs and others reassuring those who failed that university is an unnecessary sham.
If you did well and you're off to university, congratulations. If you didn't do so well and you're turning your back on university, I commend you and wish you well.
In all the flurry of praising or deriding university though, I'm left thinking about the group floating in the middle. Those who haven't got the results they wanted, that can't go to university but still want to. Famous faces telling you they never stepped foot in a lecture theatre is nice, but it can't be that much of a comfort when a door you want to go through was just slammed in your face.
No, you don't need university to be successful or have a good time. But maybe you just want to go anyway?
To you I say, don't worry, you'll still get there. Forget the door, come back later, there are plenty of other doors to peek through first.
Hello, I'm Mia. I have no A-Levels and a laughable selection of deplorable GCSE results. If I was in your class this year, I'd have been the dozy girl that teachers patronizingly said wasn't living up to her potential, someone who would never really get anywhere in life. Yet I still went to university in my own time, I earned two degrees (take that, graphic design teacher Mr. Glen!) and I loved every moment I was there. I have no regrets about not being able to dash off at 18.
There's a popular narrative that to have the real young adult "experience" you have to move out right after school, escape your hometown and party the next three years away, while occasionally blagging your way through coursework. Blasphemously, I didn't drink at university, nor did I party or go on "nights out" with friends. I also arrived late, turning up in my early-twenties. I had a lovely set of years learning new things, meeting new people and taking advantage of the university's facilities (that's code for free counseling, plenty of places to eat and a late-night library).
You're young. Life is not a race, nor is it a predetermined story. There's more than one way to enjoy your youth and there's more than one way into university too.
A-Levels aren't the only route to University, college courses or even just plain ol' work experience are equally valid options. When you're ready, try emailing lecturers at your preferred institution, you'll be surprised by how many will be happy to talk about alternative ways onto the course. I know quite a few people, myself included, who got into university by proving their worth through alternate means, by speaking to staff and showing a passion and interest in their chosen subject. Hell, you could email some today. Take a moment to explain your results and ask for recommendations on what to do now, plenty of lecturers will happily tell you what would impress them when it comes to applying next time. Despite the stereotype, they're not all dusty, aloof, old grumps, many want to meet you someday and see you succeed.
The myth that everyone relies on A-Levels and a painstakingly worded UCAS personal statement to get into university, just isn't true.
You could even just forget university for now. Use the time to grow as a person, explore who you are. Trust me, it's better to work out who you are and what you want before you head to university and get saddled with deadlines.
I know it hurts to see friends going off to start new lives, that's not going to be a fun day when everyone ships out. But remember they're not "better" or "worse" than you for doing so. Things just turned out differently. You're not a failure for slipping up on a rigid memory test. Turn this situation into an opportunity. You're young, you have all the time in the world.
Go be you. It may not feel like it, but in the long-term this could be a blessing in disguise.