7am, 14th August 2012
I’d woken up ridiculously early, certainly earlier than I had the past few days. I got out of bed and set up the laptop, logged into UCAS and prayed something had changed.
No ‘Congratulations you have been accepted to the University of Chester’, only a notification telling me York St John had changed their offer from ‘Conditional’ to ‘Unconditional’, three days before.
That was comforting I suppose, but I had my heart set on Chester.
So the waiting began.
I’d looked into going to Chester before I’d even sat my GCSE’s, though it was all pie in the sky back then, it wasn’t until after receiving my first set of A-Level results that I looked into it as an option.
I remember going to one of the Open Days; it was gloriously sunny and buzzing with potential students like myself, wandering around the gorgeous red-brick Chester Campus and imagining life there for three years.
I’d been so impressed and enamoured with Chester that when asked about the other Universities I’d visited, I’d respond with ‘It was nice, but not as good as Chester’.
That was my thought process all morning, until 10:30am where I picked up the phone to call school (I was on holiday in Lanzarote, as I had been the year before during AS-Results Day).
I had two A-Levels and an AS result to get, and my offer at Chester was an A in either English Language or English Literature.
“Ok are you ready?”
“Right, English Language, C, English Literature, C, AS Psychology, B”
“Were you expecting any other results?”
“No, just those, thank you”
“Ok, well done and enjoy the rest of your holiday”
“Right, yes, thank you, bye”
C, C, B.
That was it, my dream sunny life in Chester was over.
I hadn’t met my offer.
I felt so stupid, I couldn’t stop crying. I went into my parents bedroom, laid on the bed and cried, all day.
I couldn’t see beyond what I considered to be a failure, I had completely forgotten the fact that York St John had accepted me already. I had also not realised that Chester hadn’t said ‘no’ outright.
I was just so distraught with myself. I thought I had worked so hard all year, but clearly it wasn’t anywhere near enough.
4pm and I was still on my parents bed feeling miserable. Still no change on my UCAS application.
Then my mum came in to me and said, just ring them and ask what’s going on.
I was reluctant, terrified of the inevitability of being turned down, but eventually I did it.
“Hello, University of Chester Applications Office, how can I help?” (Or something like that.. it was two years ago!)
“Hello, I’m just calling to ask if you know anything about my application, I’ve waited all day and I’ve had no news from UCAS”
“Right, what’s your name and reference number?”
“Ashley Baker” (Again, I forget the reference number)
“Ok, what was the offer?”
We know the offer already.
“Right, so you have just missed it”
Just missed it?
I appreciated her kindness.
“Ok so your application is under review at the moment, it’s just taking a little longer because we have quite a number of you in this position”
“So we’ll have an answer for you by Monday, but feel free to look at other Universities in the mean time, and if you get an offer from them let us know and we’ll cancel your application with us”
“Ok, thank you very much”
So it wasn’t a ‘no’.
I was still in with a chance, and failing that, I would be going to uni, albeit a different one, but still the opportunity was there.
I was starting to feel a bit more positive, and with that, we headed off into Tias for a meal.
The next morning I awoke feeling anxious. As far as I knew I was going to University, but what if that Unconditional offer was no longer worth anything?
What if Chester took too long to decide they didn’t want me and then York didn’t have room for me on the course?
Then it really would be game over.
I tried to put it out of my mind all day.
4pm came around again, but it was a Saturday.
Would they be open on a Saturday?
Only one way to find out…
“Hello, University of Chester”
“Hi, I’m just wondering about my application, I called yesterday and was told I’d be given an answer on Monday, but I have an unconditional offer from another University and am worried I’ll lose my place there if I wait”
“Right ok, well I shouldn’t really do this, but my boss is just at the other desk and she’s dealing with them now, would you like me to get an answer for you?”
“Oh yes please, if that’s possible!”
This was the moment I had been waiting for. A day after my friends had been accepted into their uni’s, finally it was my turn.
My heart was in my mouth.
It felt like the longest 10 seconds of my life.
“Ok, so how much do you want to come to Chester?”
“Oh, it would mean the world to me”
“Well, I have some good news for you. We’re happy to accept you here onto your course, we’ll update your UCAS application within the next 24 hours, congratulations and see you in October!”
“Oh my god, thank you so much!”
I’d done it.
By some miracle, I was going to Chester. My sunny red-brick future wasn’t lost after all.
I ran outside and told my parents, then posted a Facebook status (obviously), then cracked open our second bottle of bubbly in two days. This time however, my happiness wasn’t forced.
I wasn’t a failure at all.
I had worked hard, overcome some obstacles and got where I wanted to be. Now here I am, two years down the line, about to enter my third and final year at uni, watching my brother go through the same AS-Result shit-storm that I did.
The difference is, I now have the experience to know he’ll be fine, regardless of his grades.
I suppose that’s why I’ve written out my story, to let people know that it’s ok if you didn’t quite get what you hoped for. Yes it’s an awful feeling, and it’s fine to be upset about it but there isn’t one fixed way of doing things. You have plenty of options, in spite of what your tutors might say, schools will let you do other AS-Levels if you got an E, plenty of Universities will accept you even if you missed your offer.
This whole thing is a learning curve.
Take your situation and make it work in the best way you possibly can.
Don’t forget, You can do it.