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August can be a very scary time of the year for students up and down the country. Every year, hundreds of thousands of young people open up their envelopes in the hope of receiving the results they need to continue with the next chapter of their lives. Although exams are no doubt an important and large part of school life, is it possible that as a society we have put too much emphasis on academic success and have forgotten that other types of success exists and are different for each person?
It’s all too common for young people to report feeling more and more under pressure from various sources in their lives to be successful within their educational careers, but do we really know what success means or even looks like?
I spoke with the team at Alpaca Communications - a multi award winning creative PR agency behind numerous exciting and creative campaigns for clients such as Heathrow Airport, Age UK and Vanarama - about whether there is too much emphasis on academic success and what it looks like to them now as individuals versus how they perceived it as teenagers.
“The definition of success can be very academic oriented in this country. Most of our team went to university and between us, we have degrees in Politics & International Relations, English and Law which aren’t all typically ‘creative’ subjects, compared to the industry which we are all now in. We all felt pressure to do extremely well in school, but it seems to be changing for those in school now. The younger generation have a very entrepreneurial spirit so we’re seeing more young people choosing to walk their own path and make their own definition of success.”
“For some students, achieving high grades in school is success for them but for others, simply turning up and attending classes could be their own version of success. Only you know what you’re going through and how hard you are working at that time.”
“In some ways yes. At school, you’re told by your teachers, family and friends that you’re good at this and you’re good at that, so you feel as if you should only apply for courses and positions that pertain to what you achieve the best grades in as if it’s your only option. But you shouldn’t keep your belief in your ability limited to just things that other people say that you’re good at if it isn’t what you want to pursue deep down. We should let young people know that they’re able to pursue things that they’re passionate about even if they haven’t necessarily completed a qualification relevant to it.”
“On the other hand, pressure isn’t always a bad thing and can actually be a driving force to make students want to achieve more. For example, one of our team members went to a school where the teachers didn’t really help us to realise how competitive the world of working is. It can especially hard for young people who aren’t from the bigger cities in the UK to move to places like London where it seems like everybody has had more opportunities to develop their skills compared to you. Employers aren’t just looking to see if you have the grades anymore, but the experience too.”
“As you get older, you realise that success is more of a continuous line rather than a specific point in time. What may feel like success at one moment in your life may feel completely irrelevant to you in the next year. We feel like there is a lot of pressure to feel that by a certain age you should have already achieved certain things, especially when your peers are uploading their own personal achievements to social media, but you have to remember that most people upload the highlights, very few of us upload the hardships and struggles that we have to go through to get to that moment of success.”
“For our team, success isn’t about academics anymore as we have all left education. It’s now about things like improving your health, gaining more personal time outside of work or even saving up for something like a dream holiday.”
“At different stages in your life, pause and take a look back at how far you have come. Sometimes it can feel like you haven’t gotten very far with something but if you remember to just stop and celebrate the small wins, you’ll feel better and more motivated to reach your end goal.”
“Know your worth. No matter what other peoples’ perceptions of you are, knowing who you are and want you want out of your life can help you make the decisions that are right for you. If you don’t receive the results that you hoped for, it’s natural to feel disheartened but knowing the work that you have put in and continuing to have faith in your abilities can get you far.”
“Remember that it isn’t the end of the world. Life is unpredictable, so you never know what is around the corner and what opportunities may be coming your way. Many jobs and courses may require you to already have experience to qualify, but keeping yourself busy and giving things that may not normally catch your eye a chance could lead to something amazing.”