I believe that there are lessons to be taken from every single experience you go through, good and bad, and while the main purpose of this blog is to creatively document my academic and professional development, I also want to use it to share some of my own experiences. I’m not trying to be motivational or wise or whatever, rather I simply want to share these experiences in the hope that those of you who choose to read them, are able to relate to and take something from them.
My path to Loughborough University was not a very straightforward one. It consisted of two bumpy years at one sixth form and one smoother year at another. I decided to retake my A-levels at the end of year 13 because I wanted to give myself a second chance to achieve at my true potential. I felt it was important to build my future on a strong foundation, starting with my A-levels, and besides, it would only take another year, which was really nothing in the grand scheme of things. In those three years, I would say I learned some very valuable lessons which I’m sure will help me during, and following, my time here at university.
Little and Often
Whenever exams came around, I found that I would end up trying to do too much, too late. I learned that the most effective way to revise is constantly and all year round, rather than just before exams. As soon as I completed a topic, I would attempt as many questions as I could find to get as much practice as possible. My studies became way more productive (and less stressful) when I spread my revision over time and did it bit by bit. This helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses more directly and by doing so, I could give an appropriate level of focus to every topic in each module. This meant I could spend more time trying to master my weaker topics and slightly less time practising the ones I had already mastered.
Practice Makes Perfect
I learned that the more hours you spend practising something, the better you get at it. It’s simple. The difference between my grades before retaking versus after retaking laid in the amount of hours I spent practising past papers and exercise questions. For me, this is the most valuable lesson because now, I understand that I can master (almost) anything I want to with time and dedicated practice. Like I said, it’s very simple, and like most, I’ve heard that whole “practice makes perfect” cliché many times before, but it was only once I had my own experience that I could really appreciate it.
Good Habits go Far
There is a quote I came across around this time last year which resonated with me. I don’t remember where I saw it or who said it, but I noted it down in my phone at the time and have kept it since then.
Motivation doesn’t do anything for you in the long term, habits and goals do. Doesn’t matter how many books you read, how many pictures you have seen, there will be times where you won’t feel motivated but it’s the habit and the hunger to achieve your goals that will make you move.
Since reading it the first time, the truth in it has become way more apparent. I learned how important it is to create and maintain good habits and set goals and I think these two factors are what made most of the difference. Setting goals at the beginning of the year gave me a challenge to keep my focus on and the desire to turn my setback around was what kept me hungry.
Of course, in order to set realistic goals you have to know what you’re capable of and what you expect from yourself. I learned how important it is to actually know and truly understand your own potential. If you know you can do better, do better. I knew I could do better, and once I was able to say to myself “this is what you can do and this is what I want from you” I could set these goals, and I knew what level I needed to maintain throughout the year.
You can see how these are all interlinked. The good habits I got myself into, kept me working at my full potential throughout the year, which I was able to achieve as a result of:
- Knowing my potential
- Setting goals
- Revising all year round
- Practising regularly (and a lot)
While I would have preferred to complete my A-levels in the “standard” two years, I am grateful for the lessons I learned while taking the extra year. I believe there are reasons why things happen in particular ways. Some of these reasons we can never deduce, but it’s important that we find lessons in the setbacks we encounter and learn from them.
P.S. – In case you were wondering, I went from C in Physics and Ds in Maths & French to an A in Maths, Bs in Physics & AS Further Maths and a C in French