Of all the low points in my life, crying in the toilet stalls of a ferry has got to be in the top 10.
At the time, it felt like my soul had been crushed – I was straight up sad. That’s the general emotion, I think, when you find out you’ve just been rejected from your dream course at your dream uni.
I’m not just writing about the story of a toilet cry, though. This is the tale of a family holiday, A level results, and an inflatable cactus. Oh, and my experience in Clearing – that’s the main thing.
Toilet stall tears
The moment that led to the toilet cry was all a bit of a mess. I had opened my A level results at exactly 6am on the last day of a family holiday to Orkney. Even though they weren’t what I wanted, I didn’t feel too awful until the UCAS website was open. This was 2 hours later at 8am. Exactly the time of my ferry crossing home.
Most UCAS applications update at 8am to show whether you got on your course or not. But my UCAS Track had not updated. Someone told me that it was because they were considering my individual case, so it would take longer. That only made it worse. I was filled with anxiety, and the wait for any kind of update was excruciating.
When the email deciding my fate finally chimed through, I read it out to my family once, and then excused myself to go to the toilet. Cue ‘the cry’.
Planning, planning, planning
A few days earlier, whilst I was kicking sand about on a beautiful beach, my mum had asked me if I had a backup plan if I didn’t get the results I wanted. “I doubt you’ll need it,” she had said, “but just in case.”
That night, as I laid my head on the inflatable cactus lilo that I was using for a bed, I scrolled through some other course options. I knew that no matter what, I wanted to be at the University of York, so that helped narrow down my decisions. One course that caught my eye was Physics with a foundation year. It was similar to the course I wanted, Maths, but also opened a lot of opportunities for me, too.
On results day, the email came through: a polite rejection from the Department of Mathematics and an offer to study Electronic Engineering instead. I’ve never considered myself much of an engineer, and I just knew it wasn’t right for me, but it did give me a little bit of hope that I might be able to switch onto the Physics course. My backup plan was starting to look very handy.
Calling Clearing from the middle of nowhere
When we finally got off the ferry, I rang the University of York Clearing line and explained my situation. I think I told about four different people my name, my grades. How I’d applied for Maths and didn’t get in, but did get offered Electronic Engineering but that wasn’t really my thing so would I be able to take Physics instead… please?
But it was all worth it.
The people on the phone were absolutely lovely, and really made me feel at ease. As soon as I realised that no one was going to judge me for going through Clearing, I felt a whole lot better.
After a quick chat with the Department of Physics, and a few emails to confirm my transfer to the foundation year course, I had my place at York!
Looking back on Clearing…
Looking back at my A level exams, I do see parts of where I went wrong. Did I play more Tetris than do actual revision?
Was that the sole reason for me missing my grades?
No, not at all.
There are so many contributing reasons for things turning out the way they did. The important thing is to realise that you can’t dwell on the things that you could have done better – it’ll only make you feel bad.
…and moving forward!
Now that I’m at the University of York, I couldn’t be happier. I’ve made some brilliant friends on my course and expanded my area of study into something I’ve always wanted to do. Plus figuring out how to face some tricky situations along the way.
If nothing else, I’ve learnt to always have a backup plan. For example, if uni doesn’t work out, my hand in the Tetris world championships is looking very promising…