Like many British 18 year olds, I am currently stuck in the post-A Level limbo. This state consists of actually being able to spend your money on objects other than stationary and copious amounts of coffee; seeing friends in settings other than emotionally-charged study centres; sleeping past 9am with no guilt; as well as having the haunting figure of results day just over your shoulder. Whilst I am enjoying not having to learn all of King John’s treaties and various fuck ups; working full time serving pizzas to screaming two year olds and struggling to open Prosecco bottles in a safe manner is proving to bore me very quickly. After all, there’s only so many times you can rewatch Gossip Girl. I crave a form of intellectual stimulation I have taken for granted in between various mares these past two years. I miss discussing Dido’s heartbroken speeches to Aeneas; the absence of Rossetti’s poetry in my life is heartbreaking; I even appreciate that my A-Level in Medieval History wasn’t THAT bad. However, continuing this intellectual stimulation is all dependent on the 17th August.
I envy those who were smart enough to take a year out. Whilst they plan backpacking trips around Bali and Cambodia and begin to learn Italian in between working hours in jobs offering hourly rates I won’t be seeing for the next four years; I realise that my entire future depends on three letters shown on that piece of paper on the 17th August. Whilst I used to be smug in my self-assurance of my desire to study English and Classics, I am now realising that that is easier said than done. The UCAS process was only the tip of the iceberg: the real concern was exams. From February, every spare minute was spent scrawling out treaties and Latin vocab in various colours, and when I cleansed my room after I finished exams, there were three piles of A4 paper which were just my revision notes: my class notes from this year took up a further four crates. It’s no wonder I suddenly feel as though I have no purpose and am achieving nothing when for two years my self worth was literally determined by how many revision cards I had done that day.
The novelty of spending every evening drinking cocktails and going to the beach every day off quickly wore off; and as the summer showers rear their ugly heads, so does the results day doom. I love being able to stay at my boyfriend’s every night without feeling guilty about losing valuable revision time, but I also fear what will happen next year. Some friends and my boyfriend still have another year at college; others are also off to university all over the country; some will be the other side of the world within two months. This year has academically been a nightmare, but there has been a sort of security in college and the people I have met at college. You could always rely on them to be there, also struggling to comprehend the Third Crusade. If you achieved an E grade in your Augustus mock and need a B to get into uni, same! And that was okay: whilst June exams were just around the corner, we had meme pages and each other to lighten the situation. I don’t want to think about the day I can’t meet up with my friends for a soy latte and a gossip because I’m three hours away at university.
As UCAS and The Student Room clog up my inbox with emails entitled ‘YOUR GUIDE TO CLEARING’ and ‘WHAT TO DO IF IT ALL GOES WRONG’, I become increasingly aware of the expiration date on my blissful summer. What do I do if it all goes wrong? My dream careers of curating and academia depend purely on a good set of As and Bs, and that’s a horrible prospect.
I have always wanted to go to uni to study English. I’ve had a photo of Exeter University in the back of my wardrobe sine year eight. But now that it’s so close, I’m more nervous than ever. Change never phased me: we adapt and move on – but what if we’re not ready to? Or maybe I’m just suddenly very aware of how well I need to do in my A Levels in order to get to university and no longer want to commit myself to this fantasy at risk of disappointment. The Post A Level Limbo is terrifying. You’re trapped in between joy at the end of exams; yet are now officially an adult and have to make responsible decisions. You have no clue what you will be doing come September and this uncertainty is paralysing and makes you question everything you thought you wanted. Perhaps it is now more than ever I regret taking A Levels: even more so than when I broke down in a study centre crying over Augustus’ foreign policy. We are all in the unknown: but, at least on the bright side, with no student debt (yet).