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A Level Results Day - The Final Hurdle

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Fourteen years of education will culminate on Thursday and our entire educational careers will have been leading up to this moment.

The moment in which you open your letter to find to your excitement, that you have achieved your conditional offer and so will be going to your university of choice, or, with slightly less enthusiasm, you will be going to your insurance uni (i.e. the place you didn't really want to go to, but where you careers officer told you to apply because of the lower grades). Or even worse, you will be one of those students dashing to the phone, propelled into the utter mayhem that is "clearing".

And so, if all that pressure were not enough to subdue, or even incapacitate, an anxious student, then how about adding the fear, largely stirred up by the Daily Mail media, that hundreds of thousands of students will miss out altogether on a place at uni this year.

Exam results day is notoriously stressful, but failure has never carried such a high price. Missing grades no longer just equals crushing disappointment, frenzied reassessment of one's future, and untold amounts of shame, but for some, applying to university a year later, will leave them more than £27, 000 in debt.

Being a member of the graduating class of 2011 seems particularly unfortunate as, if no uni will accept you this year, you will forever rue that you missed the opportunity of lower fees, because you messed up.

Yet in the face of all this, I can honestly say I am excited for Thursday. Whatever my results may be, anything will be better, (or perhaps, more accurately, nothing can be worse), than the limbo that I, and probably most A-Level students, currently inhabit.

This year has been hard - harder than anything I could have expected. Alongside the work, that contrary to what commentators and politicians would have you believe, has been challenging at the very least, A Level students are forced to make decisions which, there is no getting round this (whatever we are told), will alter, if not determine, the course of our lives.

There were the lucky few who seemed prepared for such monumental decision making, and then there were the vast majority of us, who were not. Now throw in the stressful UCAS process - personal statement, deadlines, school reference, predicted grades .... anxiety piled on anxiety.

Yet most struggled on, enduring the tortuous wait for the offers, and the rejections. Waiting seemed to be a prominent feature of Year 13. There was so much waiting, in fact, that we received e - mails and letters thanking us for waiting, and telling us they're terrible sorry, but that we would have to wait some more. Is there anything much worse than waiting for months upon months, and then to receive a rejection?

We watched in horror as friends with 11A*s at GCSE and almost perfect AS scores, and this is no exaggeration, were rejected from all the universities they applied to.

And when exam time finally came around, it too seemed infused with additional stress and confusion.

Hearing that a number of exam papers contained mistakes, did nothing to soothe the nerves of an anxious applicant, nor did taking papers that the exam board themselves admitted were harder than usual. In the exam hall there was a shared tension, the universal mutual understanding, that this year the stakes were that much higher. And once they were over, they were over, and thus began the next long wait, to August 18th, this Thursday.

And that is what seems so cruel about the British system. Potentially you can work hard throughout your AS year, achieve excellent grades, survive the pressures of Year 13, receive a conditional offer at your first choice university, revise hard for exams, have an entire summer to become excited about college, and yet, still, fall at the last.

It's the suspense, that's the worst. Not knowing where you stand - desperately hoping for one thing, but all too aware that the outcome could be very different. On Thursday, students will know whether this, quite frankly, hellish year, has been worth it.

And so really, A - Levels results day is just the final hurdle in a long and exhausting race, a race that thankfully, is very almost over. So I would like to congratulate everyone on making it this far.

And now all that remains is for Thursday to come, and to go, and for that I wish you, all, the best of luck.