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In the wake of last week’s GCSE and A Level announcement, while some were celebrating, many were devastated by their results and the worry of what missing out on those predicted grades would mean for their future aspirations.

So our ABP Board have rallied to share their stories of how failure, academic or otherwise, doesn’t  necessarily mean the end of your dreams.

ABP Head of University Accreditation, Dawn Nicholson.

“Failure is something we all experience at some point – and often not just once. Even the most successful people have, generally, failed at something at some point in their life.

The important thing is to try and embrace the failure – but not allow it to define you. Instead try and learn from it. We actually learn more from things that go badly, so start by asking yourself what went wrong. Be honest with yourself in the response and – if this is something in your control – figure out a way to change it. It took me a number of attempts to pass my driving test and, although it hurt and I was embarrassed by failing, I realised afterwards that I simply wasn’t getting enough driving practice to help me get through my first couple of tests. My response was to make sure, when I approached my next test, that I was getting a lot of practice. Not just with my instructor but with family members who were willing (!) to take me out for practice drives.

Remember also that the person who feels the failure most acutely is you. It’s easy to think everyone is looking at you and thinking you are a failure when really they are not, but this can play on your mind. So look out for your next opportunity – whatever that may be, and be positive in believing that next time – whatever it is – you will make a success of it.

Failure can often kick off another – perhaps unanticipated – course of events. Many years ago, I failed to get into one university and ended up going elsewhere. I did OK in my degree, met my partner (still together) and ended up being employed in a great firm to kick start my career. Opportunities did not end because I failed one thing”.

ABP Head of Professional Development, Claire Lish

A nasty bout of glandular fever meant I missed a chunk of sixth form and skidded through my A-Levels in a very mediocre fashion, and I mean very mediocre.  In fairness I had never planned to do A-Levels, I wanted to go to Art School, but the head of sixth form was ferocious and ambitious so we all had to apply.  Come results day I was straight on the phone for clearing.

Top of my list was Staffordshire University, who were launching an undergraduate degree in Psychology that year which at the time I considered to be a decent consolation for not getting to go to Art College!  By chance I got through to a wonderful man called Professor Jim Zacune, and we had the most leisurely chat.

Jim seemed completely unconcerned about the fast pace of the day and was so generous with his time.  At the end of the call my place was confirmed.  The degree did not even have Graduate Basis for Registration with the BPS when I started, and I remember all of us celebrating when it was announced that it had been achieved halfway through the first year!

I had a fabulous time at Staffordshire, where I made lifelong friends.  I was rubbish at statistics and used to park myself outside Professor David Clark Carter’s office every Friday and plague him with dumb questions which he would patiently explain for me, and I would then forget by the following Friday.

Despite my disappointment about Art College, this did end up being the right path for me and I have had a wonderful career.  I did my MSc about 10 years later and now I am working slowly through my QOPII.

However, what I wish people realised is that especially today, university is not the only path or the best path to take when you finish your A-Levels.  The Apprenticeship route is really something these days and the chance to earn as you learn is compelling.  I think that if I had my time again, my head would have been turned by some of these opportunities to achieve vocationally valuable qualifications while NOT getting into debt.  Including this one:

I am still rather rubbish at stats, and I like to remind myself of the Samuel Beckett quote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”.. I pride myself on having been a failure many times over in my life, and the trick is to keep on trying, and maybe even failing again, so if you didn’t get the results you hoped for last week, its not the end of your journey, it is just a fork in the road.  Good luck, get out there and fail harder – it’s the only way forward!

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