You know, taking exams is one thing. You take yourself through this journey of self-discovery/self-loathe. You really want to do well yet, you really, really want to just Netflix and chill.
But throughout my entire student life, I never could decide which was worse, studying for an exam, or receiving the results for the very exams I sold my soul for. Till today, the idea of a letter-number combo that can decide your whole future leaves me feeling queasy.
I can’t be the only one feeling that way.
Over the years, there are a number of things that I have managed to figure out though. And if I could go back in time, I wish I had known these when I received my O-Level results. But in the words of Kaecilius (that’s the blonde guy with the cool hair from Doctor Strange), “Time is the true enemy of us all.”
So till I master the art of time travelling, I have written a letter to myself, and all you guys out there about the things I wished I knew when I was taking my O Level results.
Dear 17-Year-Old Me,
1. It’s Just a Number
This can be hard to chew, both for parents and students alike. You spent years slogging (or not) over these exams… only to be told that it’s just a number!?
All I’m saying is that, your Os do not define you. You are a multi-faceted being (multi!!) so please, please do not even think that a mere digit can determine the rest of your life.
Our educational system is such that we have such a warped perspective about intelligence, and this perpetual need to quantify it. I’m not about to start an argument here. I’m just saying, failing subjects doesn’t make you any less intelligent than anyone else. That being said, acing it doesn’t make you better either. I mean, how many of us have seen people scoring A1s for English, yet can barely be understood?
2. Be Honest With Yourself
There are 2 things I want to mention here.
Firstly, suppose you didn’t get the points you were aiming for and you’ve spent some time convincing your parents why/how that happened (we’ve all done that). The thing is, only you would know if you had put in the effort. If you have, I’m sorry things turned out this way. But if you haven’t… there’s no point crying over spilt milk. Let me refer you to #01.
Secondly, let’s say you aren’t keen in taking the conventional JC/Poly/ITE route. You don’t have to, you know. Try exploring different avenues for you to continue studying… you might be surprised. For instance, Stansfield College runs a programme called the Foundation Certificate in Law (FCL) which was designed for students who have completed the O-Levels. This would enable you to progress on to do a CertHE and finally to the LLB. You could actually be on your way to qualifying to be a lawyer in the UK.
Conventional may not imply better, just saying.
3. Your Parents Really Do Love You
It’s so easy to get lost in the buzz and commotion of this day. Perhaps you were satisfied with your results… till you saw the points of the next guy. Suddenly things didn’t seem too great anymore. Your parents are mingling around with the other mums and dads, and they come back to you with a face full of disheartenment.
Your parents want what’s best for you.
We all know that. But not all of us realize that the idea of “best” differs from person to person.
I guess this is something I learnt with age. Your parents want you to have more than they ever had. It’s really that simple. And perhaps that may a tad difficult to wrap your head around but for now, just accept that their intentions come from a good place, even though their actions may seem a little harsh at times.
I mean, come on… you expect them to be superheroes and they expect you to get good grades. It’s all just this huge vicious cycle. Parents, like us, are just human after all. It’s time we see each other for what we really are.
4. Have Courage
I remember holding the results in my hand and having a million and one resolutions in my mind. I had plans, aspirations… and I am embarrassed to admit, I didn’t start to see them through till many years later. Why?
I was afraid.
Failure is a strange thing. Whether intentionally or not, people seem to keep failures hidden… almost as if they ceased to exist. Oh boy, have I got news for you.
Lim Wah Guan was rejected by NUS 4 times (Four!) before he was accepted into Oxford, and subsequently, Princeton.
Our very own Shi Li Shan topped her cohort worldwide and was offered a scholarship not only by Stansfield, but LSE too. Upon completing her Bachelors with LSE, she later moved on to do her Masters, and then PhD with Cambridge. All on scholarship, obviously.
Out of all the things on this list, I wish I had learnt this sooner. I’d have told myself to stop waiting around, and to start living. And once I got around to doing that (many years later, nonetheless), I found that small spurts of courage on my part led to a surge of miracles, which I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered.
What’s the worst that could happen? You are only 17. You’re meant to make mistakes and live through them. You fail. So what? You learn, and you try again. You fail, so you fight harder.
And here, I leave you with a quote;
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
Good luck. (: