It's got to that point of the year where students are doing exams in order to get in to college, university or, a job with their degree. They're stressed, the pressure is high and it feels like if you mess up then you will have ruined your life.
So, I wanted to share my story with education...
Without being big-headed, I am intelligent. I was in the top sets at school, I did my Maths GCSE a year earlier and I got straight A's in my exams. In school, our form tutor used to give us all end of year "awards" for things we had done throughout the year. In final year my award was "Most Likely To Succeed".
At school we were all just told the route is GCSEs > A Levels > Degree > Job. That terrified me. I had no idea what I wanted to do (I still don't) and in the back of my head I also knew I didn't want to go to university at all. Nobody in my family has ever been to university so we have all grown up around the idea of going to school and then getting a job... and that's what I wanted to do.
I did my GCSEs, I did incredibly well and I enrolled for A Levels. All my friends did and I didn't know what else to do. From the very first day of college I hated it. I presumed it was just the change I didn't like so I left it to settle and to get used to things. But I hated it more and more every week. In hindsight, I knew that it just wasn't for me. I wasn't doing things I enjoyed and I wasn't getting anything from it.
Whilst I was at college I got my first job in retail. It was just a weekend job and it was a very low wage but it made me feel so good. It made me feel good to be earning money, meeting people, feeling useful and being independent.
As the college year got further on, I struggled more and more and I started skiving a lot of lessons. I live so close to college that I'd just go home and couldn't be bothered going back. I remember going to the doctors at one point because I was feeling constantly sick and I was told that it was stress.
You should not be suffering from stress at 17 because of education.
My mental health suffered badly. I wasn't eating properly, I wasn't motivated to do anything but I didn't know what to do to get out. I felt like I'd be letting down my family, friends, teachers if I quit. They all expected so much from me - "Most Likely To Succeed" was in my head constantly.
Around March/April time I decided to speak to someone. I did Psychology and I loved it. It was the only thing I enjoyed, I loved the tutor too and, felt comfortable around her. I went to find her during break but she wasn't in her room. That tipped me over the edge. I sat on the floor in the middle of the corridor and sobbed. She eventually found me crying outside her room and told me she knew I wasn't okay. She was amazing. She put me in contact with the student councillor, who spoke to all my tutors on my behalf.
I was then able to decide that I knew I had to leave college, for my own health. At this point, I only had a month or so left of the first year and whilst I couldn't bear to be there and I had so much work left to do, I stayed to do my AS exams. I saw the councillor every day and I did my work in a room with her where I could be on my own in the quiet.
I sat my exams and by some kind of miracle I actually did incredibly well. But I knew I couldn't carry on and do it all over again, especially with no intention on going to university. I signed a form to officially say I was leaving and I instantly felt lighter.
I called work and told them what I had done and they immediately gave me full time hours. I have worked and been independent ever since and I'm so proud of myself for that. I've now been working for 7/8 years, earning my own money and buying my own things without relying on anyone else.
I'm not writing this to put anyone off going into further education. If you want to go, that's amazing and I wish you all the luck in the world. This is just my story. I felt pressured into going to college and university when it wasn't what I wanted. I was made to feel that by dropping out, I would have rubbish jobs for the rest of my life. But that's not true.
And I wish I had known that sooner and I wish school hadn't put so much pressure on. Some people don't belong in education and that is okay.
And hey, whilst I don't have a degree... I also don't have a load of debt ;)