In which Ruth ponders the exams she didn’t really pass

All over Scotland today young people will be ripping open envelopes containing their exam results. Or perhaps they don’t get envelopes these days? Perhaps it is all done exam resultsonline? I’m told the pass results are the best ever but I seem to remember that being said last year and the year before and the year… The teenagers I know these days seem to take it all very seriously and study ever so hard for those exams. Those who can afford it have tutors to help and their social lives take a long backseat while they study for that chance of a place in the university of their choice.

When I was young not everyone was expected to go on to University. In fact, it may have been a minority who did, even at my fee-paying school. Neither of my parents went to university although one uncle did and he was always thought of as the brains of the family. (Sadly he died last year of Alzheimer’s.) However, my mum and dad did have a faint hope that I might have gone to university but there was certainly never any pressure to do so. Which was just as well.

Revising for exams in my teenage years coincided with the much more exciting task of getting to know boys and going to parties. Being at an all-girls’ school (and from a family of four sisters) meant that I knew nothing of the mystery of the male species until a skiing trip to Switzerland in 2nd year with nearby Broughton High School. All of a sudden there was something more exciting than playing rounders or hanging round the swing park. Or studying for O levels. I’m sure if I had hung around with boys sooner it would not have been such a distraction. And there was no amount of revision which was going to take me away from listening to T Rex and Bowie on a record player in someone’s house while their mum and dad were away.

I was only allowed to sit three Highers and when that brown envelope came through the door nobody was in the slightest suprised that I only passed one – English. However, on appeal I got French and Art but they must have been the lowest mark possible for a pass. I think in those days you were expected to do 3 Highers in 5th Year and then more in 6th. I didn’t stay on for that, needless to say.  Although I was accepted at Queen Margaret College to do Drama with my one English Higher, I never did go. They wanted me to wait a year until I was 18 and by that time I worked in the bank and was far too used to having money to spend. The student life would not have suited me then at all.

But things change and life moves on and somehow in my late 30s I found myself doing an Access Course at New College, part of the University of Edinburgh and was accepted to do a BD. In 1996, at the grand old age of 40, I became a full time student and had the most glorious four years studying theology. Oh it was hard being a mature student with a lousy memory, but what fun. I think the only TV I watched in those four years was Casualty on a Saturday night for the rest of my evenings were spent writing up notes, revising and trying to remember what I’d learned that day. And you know, I think university would have been wasted on me as a teenager. Far better to be there when I really, really wanted to do it and could appreciate it.

So for those of you who haven’t got the results you want today, have no fear. There’s always time. And perhaps the time is not right for you at the moment. I can thoroughly recommend becoming a mature student. And Son #1 went in his late 20s too and got a great degree, which I’m sure would never have happened as a school leaver. Let’s hear it for mature students! Yay!

mature student

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