Failed your exams? Didn’t get UE? Here’s what to do
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you didn’t get UE in 2018.
That’s okay – you’re one of many, many people reading this, and although it may not help too much knowing that you’re one of many facing the harsh reality of our credits-based system, it should help that an email from NZQA doesn’t determine the brightness of our futures.
However, firstly, it’s allowed to suck. Truly.
The disappointment of subjectively not-ideal academic results is a universal experience you’re currently sharing with Harvard Law students complaining about a B.
Whatever wave we’re riding, sometimes we come across obstacles for reasons both inside and outside of our control. The most important thing to remember, and to hold on to, is that acceptance into a particular academic institution or field is not representative of our future success.
If you want clear proof of that, simply do a quick Google search of iconic and high-achieving people who had similar circumstances. Bill Gates dropped out; Albert Einstein was called stupid; Simon Cowell failed his exams.
Although Simon Cowell and Albert Einstein are on perhaps pretty different levels, they’re both extraordinarily successful in what they do and they didn’t need an academic qualification to do it.
This is because whether you want to change the way we understand the universe or create One Direction, both are incredibly important jobs, and as is often the case with pretty important jobs, there aren’t any academic prerequisites for them: just drive, responsibility, and consistent failing.
The first thing you may want to do before taking any of the practical steps we’ll outline here is just some thinking. Success is often due to reflecting on our failures, learning from them, and then doing it differently.
Mark Manson in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck writes that taking responsibility for ourselves, regardless if what we’re experiencing is our fault, is one of our most important values in how we should see ourselves and the world.
This was a lesson given by the ‘father of modern psychology’, William James. If you take responsibility for yourself when things go wrong, you’re more likely to be able to take positive steps to overcome the wrongness of the unfair universe that we live in.
By taking responsibility, we’re able to analyse what really happened, understand why it is that we’re feeling the way we are, and work on improving the situation.
Some things are totally out of our control, yet directly impact our education.
Maybe 2018 just wasn’t your year, and although that sucks, it’s okay. However, it’s still your responsibility to make 2019 better (because it’s no one else’s).
Some things are in our control, which also directly impact our education. Decisions to watch YouTube over studying, or to study ineffectively, or to come to the conclusion that maths is chess with the devil and best avoided entirely, for example.
The importance of this exercise is to understand why it is that you didn’t get UE. If it’s because degrees aren’t something that you value as a priority or because you weren’t committed to education in the academic sense, the conclusion may be that university maybe just isn’t for you.
Regardless, sometimes we want to do things that aren’t for us, and that’s why people study law (kidding).
Maybe we want to do things that require consistent practice and commitment (like studying), but we underestimated how much work we had to put in. Or, sometimes we think things are for us because of how our education system is structured, when it’s really not.
Discretionary entrance and prep courses
If you’re adamant that uni is for you in 2019, there is the possibility of discretionary entrance into one. Universities have the option of selecting students who missed out on UE, which you can apply for using the form at the bottom of this page.
Basically, you need to have completed Year 12 and met the literacy and numeracy requirements for UE.
There’s also the option for university preparation courses, which a lot of universities offer for getting into degrees so long as you get a crash course on the required content.
To check those out, you’ll need to have a look at your chosen university website, and browse the options available to you (you don’t need as much knowledge in English for astronomy, for example).
Talk to your school or uni course advisor
NZQA will often accept credits until late February.
If you talk to your school, there may be something you can do over summer to get those extra credits. Alternatively, you may want to see if you’ve got a shot at getting your marks reconsidered for $20 (if you’re right on the edge).
There are also things that your uni can offer, such as bridging courses or night classes, and advice from people who can help you. Sometimes, unis will make exceptions or offer other ways to gain entry into specific courses.
Consider waiting (and doing something cool or financially lucrative)
If you’re 20 or over, you can apply for special admission and get into uni regardless of UE. This means that if you want to get into uni, you can do some stuff in the meantime, which could actually be sick.
Travelling the world as an 18 year old sounds pretty daunting (and expensive), but there’s still a world of opportunity available to you.
It’s totally cool to wait for a couple of years, get some work experience, and figure out what you want to do with your life – and when you realise that that’s an impossible concept, at least figure out what you want to do for the next few years.
There’s also quite a few options available for travel and work, which could really expand some horizons (although this requires some funds).
There are opportunities to be a working homestay in countries all around the world, OE set-ups like Camp America or jobs on cruise ships, or teacher-aid programmes overseas.
Basically, there are ways to become more interesting or set yourself up financially in the next couple of years.
Education that doesn’t require UE
Not every skill or discipline requires Level 2 English. In fact, there’s a whole list of really interesting things you can do without the need for academic qualifications.
You could be a chef. You could be a tailor. You could be a mechanic. You could be an actor. You could be a farmer. You could join the military.
What you should do is Google everything. Take a look at all the polytechnics, apprenticeships, work experience, and careers available in New Zealand. A Google search could open up doors you didn’t even know were there.
Also, definitely check out the CareersNZ job database to take a look at careers open to you without the need for specific academic qualifications. Spoiler: there’s a lot.
You don’t need university to learn skills or pursue education in a field. In fact, you may find you love something else way more than that dream of being a dentist you’ve always had in you (everyone knows that every dentist is passionate about dentistry).
It may just be that not getting into uni was the best worst thing that ever happened to you. In fact, if not getting into uni is the worst thing, you’ve got a bright road ahead of you.
Whatever 2019 or 2020 brings, it’s safe to say that life is uncertain and planning what it will bring (or worrying about it, for that matter, is pretty useless).
Steve Jobs once said that you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. For him, dropping out of university and going to a random calligraphy course one day meant that he had the time and drive to create an enterprise – with really pretty fonts.
Not succeeding in uni was the best worst thing to ever happen to Steve Jobs, but how was he supposed to know that at our age? Gordon Ramsay getting injured and turning to culinary school after his dreams of football was the best worst thing to ever happen to him, but I’m sure he was pretty cut up about that. Dwayne Johnson didn’t get into the NFL, but he’s in every movie ever, so I think he’s doing alright.
If you’re anything like those of us already here – your twenties will likely be a happy, unhappy, confusing blur of you and your friends stumbling through jobs, degrees, relationships and the world, with everyone trying (clumsily) to work out what on earth to do with their lives.
And that’s the best thing about being young; it’s really, really difficult to screw up.
2019 can be your best year yet.