Tempus fugit. Once again the seasonal wheel has turned and we’re back at the end-of-year exams.


Let me tell you a secret: this year I finished my own degree. 7 years of distance-learning elation, confusion, procrastination, tears, stress, hair-pulling (my own, we’re not talking bar brawls here!) and elation – yes, there was definitely more than one instance amongst the self-doubt and missed weekend plans. And now it’s done. It’s finished. I am a graduate. Well I will be, once I attend the ceremony. But I’ve completed my degree and I know I’ve passed it.

Now let me tell you a bigger secret: I didn’t do as well as I expected or wanted or perhaps could have if I’d sacrificed some of the mindless hours of Netflix binging (Project Runway became an irresistible temptation the moment my final, final exam-equivalent assignment was due).

Here’s the biggest secret: I don’t mind. Two years ago when one bad module dropped my overall expected result by 2 grades I really did. Enough that I considered throwing my whole degree out the window, well the “with honours” bit anyway, I could have taken my 300 credits, 5 years and run. I wanted to. I really, really, really wanted to.

Here lies - inc Katie.png

Instead, I started my final course, The Geological Record of Environmental Change. I hadn’t done the recommended Geology course, but it sounded interesting and I only needed a pass to complete my degree, plus I had studied a bit about rocks and environmental science so I thought I’d be ok. It turns out I wasn’t. A badly timed Roundness Index broke me. For anyone who’s wondering, it’s a tool you use to visually classify the shape of the grains that make up a rock.

roundness index.png

As I sat in front of a blank Word document just before my second extended deadline, in floods of tears, certain that I was just too stupid to understand what I was being asked, I had a revelation: this was not the module for me. I had fought to understand it, fought to brave my way to my 40%, fought with myself to start the damned thing in the first place after my ‘disastrous’ last year. I was not prepared to fight it anymore. So I made a huge decision, one which I hadn’t anticipated. I dropped out of my final module. On one hand my decision was a huge relief and absolutely the right choice. On the other it was immensely frustrating. I was so ready to be a 2016 graduate. I didn’t want to be an OU student anymore. I wanted a life back. I couldn’t remember what it was like to tell someone what I was doing at the weekend other than one word: “Assignments”. Instead I had no choice but to wait for 10 months until I could start studying my new final module the following October.

wallace katie2

I threw myself into enjoying my time off and in October embarked on a whole new trajectory, Investigating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. For a mostly-science degree, it was a bit of a curveball. It was also another big risk; I am not an Entrepreneur so I was once again pinning completing my degree on a new area. But I loved the course. And after three long assignments and a longer exam assignment that kept me up until 4am the night before the deadline (sound familiar?) I finished. And I passed it. If you saw someone on Tuesday 25th April whose expression alternated uncontrollably between looking on the verge of tears, shell-shocked and grinning more widely than Wallace, that was probably me on the day I got my final result.


Here’s my final secret: I started this blog post intending to update something I’d based on a workshop: Worried about Results? that I wrote two years ago, before I got the result that broke my degree. Before I was ever worried about my results. And revisiting what I’d written totally side-lined me. I thought about some of the resilience that I’d built up and started to appreciate the challenges I’d faced and overcome while doing my degree. I acknowledged some of the other life-changing moments that those same 7 years represents. And some of my stagnant feelings of shame about my result started to be replaced with feelings of pride. And that was when I realised: I truly don’t mind what classification I get. My degree is finished. A simple classification doesn’t begin to cover the experiences I went through to get my degree. So whatever result ends up on my CV, I will own it with pride.

the people who matter

So if you’re one of our Essex family who’s feeling the stress of exams and life, worrying about the seeming ‘finality’ that a less-than-amazing result might bring, here are my key messages, from one student to another:

The people who really matter will still love you, whatever result you get. Give them a hug. Talk to them. Let go of any fears or self-judgement.

Results represent a number from a single moment in time. They never define you.

Life goes on – and usually gets better.

So push your comfort zone and go for what you want. Get your well-deserved degree and be proud of it, whatever classification you come out with. Live well, laugh often and love always. And remember: there is life after exams. Good luck to all of you!

live well

If you’d like to read what I was meant to be re-posting, you can find it here on my LinkedIn account. Feel free to connect with me while you’re there!





Featured image credit: http://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=y%2bvtbMcE&id=118174CFEE7AF4782504620510AC2CCDA9252C75&thid=OIP.y-vtbMcExh5zIu_IAe6GFgEsBj&q=tough+times+don%27t+last+tough+people+do&simid=608022235053294522&selectedIndex=13&ajaxhist=0


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