I read The Huffington Post's 'A-Level Results: Clearing Students Feel Rushed And Have Lack Of Advice, Finds Which' with a pang of sympathy for the many young adults who will nervously open their A-Level results today.
I remember when I did the same, seven years ago. It was the be-all and end-all, probably the same feeling for students today.
I went to a state school that produced good results, but it lacked the basic career advice and support for pupils who were confused about the next steps to take. All of my school friends were university-bound, and another close friend had planned the most incredible gap year.
My advice to those students opening their results today is this: if you don't know what you want to do - it doesn't matter.
If you don't get your grades, if you don't get your course, if you don't get the university you want - make sure the next decision you make is definitely right for you. Don't give into pressure and feel rushed - spend the time working out what you want to do, you have the time.
Know that the funds for your chosen undergraduate course could be better invested supporting yourself while you intern, work abroad, or re-take an A-Level. More companies are trialling apprenticeship schemes. There are far more support groups, mentoring programs and career blogs around than there was a few years ago.
Know that even if you go to university, a degree doesn't equate to success. It is likely you will have a year following graduation when you have to intern, possibly for free. Even then you may not know what you want to do (it still doesn't matter by the way). Universities will always be there. Nothing is stopping you from delaying your start date by one or even five years, when you feel more passionately about a certain subject. The same applies if you meet your expected grades, or do better.
I don't regret going to university, and I am really grateful for having the opportunity to go. At 18 years old however, I do think I could have made better-informed decisions about my future. Going to university doesn't automatically help you figure out what you want to do - trying and testing different jobs does.
Whether you decide to go to university or not: you will have fun, you will meet people and make friends, and you will learn. Just make sure it is on your terms - and know that you do have the support around you, whatever you decide.
Luckily, I have learnt that careers today are no longer linear, and you are entitled to have more than one area of work you feel passionate about. While I enjoy what I'm doing right now it is not necessarily 'what I want to do' - many of my university peers say the same. But that's ok too, as long as you don't stop researching your next potential move if the options facing you don't feel right.