Why I’m Secretly Glad I Missed My Firm Offer
It’s a very weird feeling. My school laid out everyone’s exam envelopes on tables in the canteen, and like the rest of my year I trooped in early on Thursday morning (apparently two years ago, though surely that can’t be right?). As I walked through the school gates, I nodded a wordless acknowledgement to my fellow pilgrims. Tucked into my pocket was a note hastily prepared the night before, with the phone numbers for my first and second choices, as well as the details for the clearing departments of a few others. I didn’t expect to need them, but the act of writing them down was ‘A Thing To Do’, which that night I needed more than ever, if just to appease my family.
Having received the envelope, I retreated to a quiet corner to open it. I’d been surprised at how un-nervous I’d been the night before – instead, every action felt unusually conscious, as if an element of some convoluted ritual. But, as I opened it, I felt the rising tension, as if an orchestra had picked that moment to start playing the score from a horror movie. I turned over the paper and saw a good number of As and… what was that? A D in a maths module? Wait. I’d got a C in Geography? A sudden lurching feeling, as my plans for the future violently wrenched themselves onto a new track. Apparently, I wasn’t going to Durham after all.
Overall I came out of Year 13 with 3 As’ and that pesky C, not an unrespectable set of grades by any standards. I had met my offer for Warwick (which makes sense, given I’m writing this blog) so I at least had a uni place secured, but I certainly didn’t feel that good at the time. What followed was a quick progression through the five stages of grief, from denial (“This can’t be right! I demand a re-mark!”) through bargaining (“It’s still pending on UCAS, so maybe if I phone them up they’ll take me anyway?”) to acceptance, through the course of the afternoon. The turning point was when I phoned up the Durham admissions desk, and was told that even if my grades improved in the re-mark, they wouldn’t take me until the next year anyway. At that point I said, “Sod that,” and decided that as I was going to Warwick, I was going to make the very best of it.
The sudden change in plans meant I had do some last-minute organising. I rushed to book the accommodation I wanted before the hordes descended, and put Rootes first as it was the only one I vaguely remembered from the open day (in retrospect a great decision, but at the time I was just looking for somewhere that wasn’t going to cost me an eye-watering amount). I also had to call the Student Loans Company and let them know I was going to Warwick. I spent a long time on hold, but once I actually got through this was relatively painless – with the number of people in the same boat, the process was nice and streamlined.
After a few days, the general dejection that naturally accompanies doing less well than you expect had begun to pass, and I started thinking about the place I’d be in a couple of months. I vaguely recalled the campus – I’d been to visit on an open day, when half of it was a building site, but that seemed very long ago. A little of bit of research revealed a Facebook group for prospective Engineering students, where I first came across some of my future coursemates. The highlight of the uni prep was the big IKEA shop, where I picked up the bits and bobs that have lasted me two years very nicely, as well as a lunch of meatballs and chips. Perhaps most importantly, I needed to book my tickets for Freshers’ week events, as I had been reliably informed by an insider they’d sold out almost instantly the year before.
Once arriving at Warwick, I was relieved to find that, a), plenty of people there had also missed their first choices and, b), nobody there really cared what A Level grades I’d got. Given my plans hadn’t originally involved Warwick, my mind-set was simple: make the most of it. Funnily enough, I found the sudden change in track almost an excuse to do stuff. So, I ended up going clubbing with flatmates, organising a flatmates’ holiday to Ireland, and knocking on doors in by-elections, and in the process having an absolutely fabulous time. Would I have done those things at Durham? I honestly have no idea. But I know I did them at Warwick and, had I had an advance inkling of how the last two years have gone, no way would I not have the place as my first choice. I think that says it all, really.
Until next time!