Independence often occurs when we transition from young children into mature individuals. We begin to take responsibility. We rely only ourselves for hard work and effort. We adapt to more mature ways of thinking. More importantly, we make decisions that we believe will have a positive impact for our futures.
Take sitting final GCSE exams at the age of 16 as an example. We realise the importance of them by understanding that they will shape our job prospects, post 16 opportunities and university options. Knowing that, we realise we must put in our highest efforts to reach our goals. But this realisation doesn’t always stem from ourselves and sometimes we need an external input to push ourselves just a little bit further.
I want to share a story about something that changed me. Changed me as a student. Changed me as a person. Changed me from underachieving to reaching beyond expected.
- Before reaching year 10, my grades were not the best. I cannot sugarcoat it except to say the situation the way it was at the time. My target grades were ‘A’ and I was achieving as low as C’s and D’s. Consequently, it lowered my self esteem and I began to feel hopeless for my final exams. My mindset was nothing other than negative. I questioned myself as to how I would be able to reach what my teachers expected me to reach. I compared myself to other students and felt I would never get as good as them. And really, if this is what I was setting myself up for, how could I ever reach my goals?
- In that same year, during a parents evening, my biology teacher said something to me that even now, 3 years later has stuck with me: ‘You have the potential to reach high. I know you can do this. You just need to put in the effort’. At first, that seemed to me like something teachers were supposed to say. After all, their job is to support their students. But from that moment, I began to take greater responsibility for my grades. I realised that if my teacher believes in me, then I should believe in myself too. After all, if I don’t believe in myself then am I really striving for self improvement?
- I then made some important decisions leading up to my summer mock exams. I changed my revision strategies from simply reading the revision guide to making my own, more understandable notes. I began to wake up earlier and work in the morning as the brain often functions better during that time. I changed my diet to eat healthier foods so I felt more refreshed and energetic, giving me greater strength to revise rather than feel tired and lazy. I swapped spending my free time ‘chilling with friends’ to sitting alone and working instead because I knew that would have a greater benefit. It was time for me to pull my socks up and if I was serious about my success, there were certain sacrifices that needed to be made. Even if that meant less socialising and more working.
- Did it pay off? In just 6 months, I achieved my first biology A* with my own effort. I remember how good it felt to have been able to say ‘I did that’. I remember how I had greater hope for my GCSE exams and it was no longer a negative mindset, but rather a positive one. And it was from then on, I realised I could achieve whatever I wanted if all I did was put in the hard work.
- Looking back, I realise that receiving even the smallest amount of support can have the biggest impact. For me, my support came from a teacher who believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. But support can come from your friends, your parents and even yourself.
- If you are a parent, the best thing you can do is support your child. Encourage their growth. Offer them help, both with their work or if there are any issues they want to discuss. Show interest. Ask them how their day went, what they learnt, what they did. Don’t be too harsh with demanding them to ‘study, study, study’. Realise, extra pressure doesn’t do them any good. Rather, advise them on the importance of studying and how it will only benefit them.
Students, when you don’t always receive the support you hope for, be your own number one fan. Support yourself. Remember, external validation isn’t something you should strive for but rather pleasing your own self. Any goals you set, you will always have the potential to achieve. Any aims you have, you can always be successful in them. But it’s the changes and sacrifices that you are willing to make, that will have the greatest impact.
It’s never too late to work harder, be better and strive greater!