Learning lessons from failure

When you are growing up, you are constantly hearing adults say things like “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “better luck next time”, but it is not until you experience that first disappointment of failure in your life that you truly begin to understand what phrases like this mean. For me personally, the first real experience of initial failure leading to even greater success was the period in my life where I began applying to study at university. Having just coasted through much of school with little to no worries, I don’t think I was quite prepared for the cut throat nature of university applications, interviews and A-level results, perhaps not realizing just how important it was until the last few months of my compulsory education.

The subject that I enjoyed the most at school was English literature, so it felt like the logical next step to apply to study English at university. Not all schools across the country might be the same, but for my school at least, applying and then attending university was what all students were expected to do, so I didn’t see this procedure as anything out of the ordinary. Every single one of my friends was also doing the same thing. Just as I was advised, I applied to five different universities, all of which varied in reputation and regard to cover the minimum and maximum span of what my A-level results might get me. Institutions like Oxford and Cambridge were always going to be out of reach for me, but I was confident in my abilities and reached for some well-known places.

It wasn’t until a few months later that the rejection letters started to come in. First one, that didn’t bother me, then two, then three, and then I was worried. I didn’t come away from the application process empty handed, I had received two good offers from universities that I wasn’t opposed to, but something just didn’t feel quite right. My plan had not gone the way I had wanted it to, and for the first time in my academic career I wasn’t just coasting along and meeting all of the targets that I should have been.

It was at this point that I took the brave decision to reject the offers I had received, enroll back in to the final year of school, retake some of my exams, and get my results up to a standard where I would able to reapply to universities I preferred and receive better offers than I had before. This plan worked out better than I could have imagined, and with the inspiration from my previous failure spurring me on, I excelled in my exams and was rewarded for my determination with a place at a college that I could never have attempted to attend previously. Overall, what I learnt from the experience is that you don’t always do well from coasting along, you have to really put effort in to your dreams to be able to achieve them, and my initial failure was what reaffirmed this for me.