What I wish I would have known in secondary school

I attended a relatively average secondary school. It wasn't the best but it also wasn't the worst. The teachers were overworked and nobody really focused on our future plans beyond finishing secondary school with 'adequate grades'. In other words, anything between A*-C was viewed the same as it fell under the same Ofsted school rating category. 

There were plenty of 'are you serious?' moments throughout year 8-13 but I shall keep it to the necessary minimum in order to avoid a post length the size of small novella.

To give you a bit of background, I was the child of immigrants who spoke little to no English when I first arrived. To the school, a jump from nothing to a B grade was great in their books but to me it wasn't enough because I wanted to go to the best university. I didn't make it into Cambridge and am still bitter to this day, but that's a story for another time.

My personal favourite kick in the stomach moment was when a teacher told me that the reason why she was not predicting me the grade I needed to get into the university I wanted was not because I couldn't do it but because (and I quote) 'you need to realise that not all dreams come true'. Here's the issue with that: you should NEVER say that to a child with aspirations, even if you are an incredibly bitter person.

To anyone currently in secondary school reading it .. dreams DO come true if you work your butt off, which is what I did to prove her wrong. My final grades were A*AA (no I still didn't get into Cambridge, yes I'm still bitter). I wish I could have stood up for myself and told her I am so much more than her prediction but I froze and subsequently sobbed in a bathroom thinking my academic life was over. It wasn't and I ended up at two of the best universities in the world with a great life ahead of me.

There are many more anecdotes I could run you through from my youth years but let's face it you're likely procrastinating instead of revising for your GCSEs and A-levels and would much rather read my top 5 survival tips, right?

1. Work your butt off ... seriously !
I can promise you one thing, university will be the best years of your live so work hard and get out of secondary education with the best grades you can. I studied a lot in my final year of university, to the point where I had to move out of my room after I finished my exams because I felt physically sick being in there. A few months of hell (yes, I know it's hard) are well worth the opportunities university brings. 

2. Teachers are not the be all / end all of your life
I am not saying don't listen to your teachers because some of them may actually have something valuable to say. But, don't ever let someone make you feel or think you are not worthy. Do what's right for you and your future. 

3. Be aware of opportunities beyond your home country
I would strongly encourage you to look at universities outside your native country because there so many with core specialisms that you cannot find elsewhere. I wish my school would have pointed out that I can study in Asia or Europe. If the financial aspect is a worry (as it was for me), there are a lot of bursaries and financial aid available if you get the right grades. This brings me back to my first point, WORK HARD ! I have several scholarships based on my grades and I am so grateful I kept my head down for a year in 2014. 

4. Just because you want to be a lawyer it doesn't mean you have to study Law at university, unless you really want to
I really wish I would have know this before I stared my Law degree. If you want to become a solicitor, top tier law firms recruit 50/50 Law and Non-Law student. So not doing a Law degree does not put you at a disadvantage at all, on the contrary it gives you a diverse set of skills that us lawyers may not have. So, if you like Psychology, Sociology, English , anything academic really that you can justify in an interview, do it ! Your stellar career in Law will still be there. 

5. Be adaptable
Sometimes things don't go according to plan, but that's when resilience comes in. Positive #1 - you will have something to talk about when you're asked in an interview about that time you failed and how you dealt with it (believe me, it's used a lot). Positive #2 - failure is how we grow. 
I remember in secondary school someone gave a one hour speech on 'it's ok to fail' and some people walked out saying, 'well I don't have to work because it's ok to fail'. That's not what that means ! 
If something goes wrong, and it probably will with at least one exam, shake ourself up and give it another go. It's easier said than done, I know but it's important. 

I have a lot more 'pearls of wisdom' where those came from and may re-visit the topic but for now I'll leave you with the above. If you're sitting your exams, good luck !


Until next time,

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