Didn’t get the grades? It’s okay…

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It’s okay if you didn’t get the grades you wanted or needed. You may feel like it is the end of the world but honestly, a few years down the line, you’ll be laughing at how upset it has got you. It really doesn’t matter, despite what society says. Whatever you want to do, you can get there one way or another. You don’t need straight A’s to make it to the top. 

At school, I wasn’t really much of the academic sort. I hated school so much that I hardly ever listened in lessons (doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!). I was the daydreamer type, always in my own little bubble. I remember being so angry at myself because I wasn’t “clever” that I used to hide in the toilets at school and cry my eyes out. I didn’t match up to anyone in my year.

I never ever got an A* in my life – I just didn’t have it in me. Some people don’t and that’s okay. In fact, I was a C/D borderline student at GCSE level. I knew exactly what I wanted to do ever since I was little and in a way, that saved me because I had a goal and was determined to reach it. At school, I was just so consumed with my low self esteem and that did have an effect on how I did. I was a slow learner so things like Maths and Science never really got into my brain. I enjoyed creative arts subjects like Music, Drama and English.

I did do well in my GCSE’s in most Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 21.08.51subjects (only failed Maths) and did get the grades to do A-Levels but I decided from Year 9 that I don’t want to do A-Levels. I hate exams and most A-Level subjects are academic and theoretical. Again, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and knew how to get there so I didn’t mess around. 

In Sixth Form, I did BTEC in Media Production. Yes, a BTEC. That doesn’t mean it’s any less than A-Levels and it doesn’t mean it’s for “dumb” people. BTEC is just as valuable as A-Levels. It’s vocational and I see it as a qualification for people who know exactly what they want to do. I didn’t see the point in doing academic courses for two years if I don’t think it would help me in the future. I would be wasting my time. 

And yes, you can get into university with a BTEC – I did. I got 2:1 in my creative based degree and look where I am now – not to sound like I am boasting but I am a full trained journalist and I learnt more by going out into the world and working (which was part of my degree) than in school. Literally at the end of my degree, I cried my eyes out in happiness because I proved myself to people that you can get to the very top without amazing grades. If I can do it guys, so can you. 

So if you received your A-Level or any other results last week and are getting your GCSE results next week, remember that whatever you got/get, it doesn’t define you or your future. You tried your best and that is all that matters. You don’t have to know what you want to do, but just don’t rely on your grades entirely. If you know what you want to do and didn’t get the grades to do it – trust me, there is always a way to get there – it may take you a different route and may take more time, but there is no rush. You will get there one day. All I can say from my experience is to try your best but don’t let your results define who you are.

My University Experience

I went to City University London to study a Foundation Degree (two years) and a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Industries.

2011 – 2014.

First year

The first year was rather scary because it was new. The transition from sixth form to university is such a big change and I found it rather overwhelming at first, especially because I still lived at home. Making friends was really difficult. During the first few months, I felt like university wasn’t for me and I was actually thinking about dropping out. I don’t drink, I don’t party and the whole university stereotype is basically drinking and partying and I felt like I did not fit in. After talking to a lot of people about thinking of dropping out, I decided to stick at it for a few months and see how it goes. I didn’t make a good set of friends until I was 5 months into the course and this is when I started to enjoy university. I started getting involved with the media team at university and did a bit of reporting for my student radio station.

With regards to the course itself, the first year was very practical and I enjoyed most of the practical modules. I got a lot of 2:1’s and 1st. Because university essays are rather different to school and college essays, I found that difficult and during the first year, my essay grades were not that great. I found referencing really difficult and I found the structure really difficult too. Also, I did not attend any seminars because during my first year, my social anxiety was rather awful and participating in class seemed terrifying. I got a bit more confident after completing my work placement at the BBC and when I went back to university after that, I really quite enjoyed it and felt really confident and was very excited for the next two years. I finished that year with a 2:1, which I was happy about.

Second Year

The second year was so much better. In fact, out of the three years, I felt like the second year I came out of my shell a bit more (which impacted my third year). My course was part music events management course and we got to manage and organize a music gig in the Roundhouse in Camden. I was into music a lot before but during my second year that kind of died down. I developed a passion for news, broadcasting and journalism so for that gig, I decided to join the broadcast team and challenge my filming and visual mixing skills, which I absolutely loved.

During my second year, I decided to write for the student magazine CityOnTopic. I wrote a few articles for the Politics section and it was rather lovely seeing my writing published in print.

My second year grades were absolutely amazing. I got a lot of 1st‘s and high 2:1’s as I did work very hard indeed. Again, I did enjoy the practical modules more than the academic ones. At the end of this year, I officially completed my foundation degree and achieved a high 2:1…and graduated!

Third Year

We had a choice whether we wanted to go onto the third year or not. I wanted a full degree so I decided to go ahead with the third year. This year was crucial and so much more difficult than the other two years. Starting third year was so overwhelming because I soon realized how much work I needed to do. In fact, it did make my anxiety rather worse but I realized I needed to work hard if I wanted to get a decent grade. I am such a perfectionist and study every single day for hours until I am happy with what I have studied.

We got to choose which modules we wanted to do focusing on our career paths – I chose the journalism route and did most of the journalistic modules, which I did enjoy very much so. Compared to other degrees, my course had to do two 6000-word dissertations. When I look back, that was quite scary but I actually quite enjoyed writing them both. My first dissertation was about ‘The Future and Management of British Newspapers’ and my second dissertation was about ‘How Citizen’s Perceive Press Coverage of Political Scandals’. There is a pattern. Both were about news and politics – something that I have a passion for. This is why I enjoyed writing them because I had a passion for the topic. In both of them, I got really good 2:1’s.

Basically, all my other essays were about news too. I got Firsts in all my third year essays, which I am so happy with. I love writing essays a lot, mainly because I love writing in general. I also did a full year Media Law & Ethics module and I honestly loved that module, despite it being so difficult, it was so worth it. In order to become a good journalist, you must know the law. I have no idea how many times I have written about defamation in my third year essays. Law certainly did have an influence on me during my final year. Coming out of university and going straight into working for BBC News – I realised how crucial Media Law was, so it was definitely worth studying it.

Because this was my last year, I applied to be a section Editor for the student magazine to increase my journalism skills. I got chosen to be the Health and Fitness Editor due to my passion for this area. I must say, I challenged myself a lot with this role and learnt so much about leadership and assertiveness as well as writing good articles.

Graduation was enjoyable and a very proud day for me and my family.

After three tough years, a lot of struggle – being in and out of hospital for my eating disorder, in the end, I achieved a very high 2:1, which I am so happy with.

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Going to university was the best decision of my life to be honest. It gave me so much confidence in myself and I developed a lot of skills for my career. Here I am now at the BBC. Dream job? Thank you university.

5 Ways To Reduce Academic Stress

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Sometimes, I suddenly go through a writer’s block phase and I do not know what to write about. Usually, it is because I am stressed with university work. Academic stress is certainly something a lot of you are going through at the moment. A lot of people tell me they are surprised when I tell them I am stressed because apparently I am one of the most organised person they know. Well, I am stressed but I do cope with it pretty well I suppose. Here are my top tips on how to cope with stress…specifically academic stress.

1. Work-life/Social life/Study Balance – What I find that stresses out a lot of students is when they have other activities on their mind, such as a job or socialising along with their studies. For me, that would be such a stressful thing because not only do I have to worry about getting my assignments done on time but I also need to balance my work-life. I am lucky enough to not have to worry about that but I know a lot of people aren’t. If you can manage, I would say for now, reduce those commitments, so you have time to study. Of course, you need to socialise now and then. Please do, otherwise things will get on top of you. All work and no play is certainly not a great way to go about things.

2. Study Plan – I know a lot of people dread this but I find that keeping a study plan keeps me very organised and it actually satisfies me because I know exactly what I have completed and what I need to do and by when I need to do it. It keeps me grounded. A study plan is a very good way to reduce stress. List all your subjects and modules that you need to complete and by when. Then, give yourself a limited time to do it in. Do it one by one – going in order of deadline. This makes it more easier and clear for you to follow.

3. Keep Calm & Breath – Do some light exercises. Yoga and Pilates reduces stress and keeps you calm. Along with exercise, you must make sure you are eating well and getting enough sleep. Get at least 7 hours sleep a day. I would NOT suggest pulling all-nighters. I don’t know how people do it. Sleep is very important to reduce stress and prevent illnesses.

4. Ask For Help – This is something I find a lot of people struggle with. They don’t like to admit that they are stressed and actually need some professional help. Universities and colleges all have counselling services. A lot of people go to them during the exam period. It will be an extra way to reduce stress if you can talk to a professional about your worries because they are the ones who can help you manage your academic stress. Do not be afraid. Ask for help if you need it.

5. Lower Your Goals – It is easy for you to say you want the highest grade but make sure you are not setting yourself up for failure. The worst thing you can do is targeting yourself the highest grade, stressing yourself out to get that grade and in the end, failing to get it due to the pressure of it all. Be realistic. Set a goal that you will be satisfied with and is achievable for you. Look through your past grades and think about if the grade you want is achievable for your academic level.

 

Motivation To Study

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The motivation to study is not something many people are blessed with unfortunately and due to all the social media and technology these days, we can often sway away from studying very easily because there are a lot of distractions. It is coming to the end of term now before Christmas and I am sure most of you have a lot of deadlines coming up, like I do. Motivation to do the work is hard so below are some of my tips to make it easier for you to get your work done.

Study Space – As I mentioned in my Essential Study Tips post, you will need a good space to study with all your essential study materials. The place you study is the most important thing for motivation. If you think people distract you easily, I would not suggest studying around or with people. I cannot study in the library because there are people around but some may find the library helpful and some may find studying with a friend helpful. I study best alone in my bedroom.

Block The Distraction – This is probably the hardest one. We have all done it. Browsing through Twitter and Facebook when you are supposed to be doing your work and the guilt creeps in but you are still very unmotivated to study. You may be thinking “How can I stop going on Twitter when I am writing my essay on my computer?” then block the sites you think are distracting you using I-AM-STUDYING BLOCKER. This will help you immensely and the temptation to go on those sites will ebb when you are restricted to visiting them. Leave Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, ASOS etc.. for your study break.

Aim – One thing that really helps me is looking into the future. Why am I doing this? What do I want to achieve? Do I want a good grade in this? The answer is of course I do and that is what motivates me. Hard work pays off. It really does. You are not going to study forever so the thought of it being a temporary thing is a motivation in itself and wanting to do well in it is the main motivation for most people.

Reward – This is something that I have done a lot throughout university and it works. During term time when I have a lot of work and deadlines to meet, I put myself on a self-imposed shopping ban. I love shopping and always end up buying clothes that I want, not need. I love clothes! So, in order for me to work hard, I ban myself from buying any clothes during this time but, the motivation is this – I tell myself I will buy myself something nice once I have completed all my work this term. After I have done this, I then “allow” myself to buy that dress I have been wanting for a long time. It may or may not work for you but it works for me. It does not even have to be with shopping. Materialistic things are something that excites me personally so find something that excites you and ban yourself from it until you finish your work. Then reward yourself. “When I complete this, I will treat myself to a nice pamper session” or “After I have done this piece of work, I will go out with my friends for a drink.” Anything. This does really help with getting the work done.

Unwind – You may be feeling really stressed so if you feel like this, just take a step back and unwind. Have a relaxing bath and read a nice book. What I find de-stresses me is listening to some Hypnosis. It really relaxes me and also makes me fall asleep. Getting a good nights sleep helps with motivation. One reason why you may feel rather sluggish and unmotivated is because the stress is causing you insomnia and that will affect your motivation to study. Just try to keep calm and positive and then start again. The motivation will eventually come.

Is Work Experience Worth It?

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People often have a rather cynical view of work experience and in this economy, we are seeing a lot of youth unemployment. Many of that is down to no experience or a lack of motivation to go out and find a job and yes, I know the government has a part to play in this and they are offering a lot of training opportunities for young people who do not go to university. However, unfortunately, if we do go to university, a degree is simply not enough. In any sector now, you need to have some kind of experience outside of education and many of them are unpaid.

In 2012, I completed eight unpaid work experience placements and now, with me being in my final year of university, I have a lot of experience under my belt for after graduation. One of the reasons why I excelled at getting those placements is because luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I was simply aiming for that, which does makes things easier.

There is nothing wrong about not knowing what you want to do but that is what work experience is for. Finding out what you are good at and where you want to go. When people think of work experience, they think of a job that you want to do in the future but that is not necessarily the case at all. If you don’t know what you want to do, I suggest you think long and hard about what you like, what you don’t like, what you are good at, what you are not good at and find a sector that you think you may want go into and research that.

I have had ambitions ever since I was young to work in the media, specifically in the music industry. I got my first work experience placement at a music studio in Year 10 and I really enjoyed it. Since then, I wanted to be a music journalist because I loved new music and I was obsessed with certain bands – I thought I really wanted my future to be based around the music industry. A few years down the line, I could not have been more wrong and that is down to work experience.

When I eventually got my first undergraduate work placement during my first year at university, I did something that was nothing to do with music. I worked at BBC Radio 4 for one month and then I did a lot more unpaid radio and TV work placements.

By meshing all of those work placements together, I am now confident enough to tell you exactly what I want to do as a career because I had a lot of different experience to come to a decision about what I really want to do. Sometimes, you may think a certain job is so amazing yet you have not had a chance to work there but when you eventually do, it may not be what you were expecting and vice versa – a job that you really think won’t be to your taste but when you do it, it may perhaps be your dream job. So, do not knock it, until you have tried it.

What I am trying to put across is that, do not be put off by unpaid experience because all my placements made me gain so many skills and industry based knowledge. It did a lot to improve my confidence and self-esteem. I also got to see how the world of work will be like, so it has prepared me for the real thing. Most importantly, I made amazing contacts (who I hassle now and then for a job). Now, I will not have to do what many students do after I complete my degree – go out and look for unpaid work experience, which to me is a waste of time after graduation. I do not want to be unemployed after I leave university.

Also, what I want to stress is that, people think work experience is just making tea. Well, I do not know about other industries, but certainly when I was on work experience, they basically threw me in at the deep end straight away and I had to do big tasks. They treated me like I was an actual member of the team and people relied on me to finish a task promptly. I did not even have to make a single cup of tea to be honest with you. So, it may be unpaid but it may not be what you are expecting it to be like and you get so much out of it for the future.

So, in a nutshell, what I did was, whilst being at university, I did as much unpaid work experience as I can to make myself ready for employment freshly out from university in 2014. That is what employers look for, experience as well as qualification but to me, experience overshadows everything.

I am in my third year now and along with two dissertation to do, I am also starting to think about if I want to do a postgraduate degree or apply to paid graduate schemes or even proper jobs and applying to graduate schemes and jobs feels right because I feel qualified and ready, or rather I will do after I graduate and perhaps after working in the industry for a couple years, I may want to get back into education to do my Masters.

To me, work experience is so important. In fact, it is a must if you want to get a good job. Work experience can also be life-changing, because for me, it was and to answer the question of this article, yes, work experience is so worth it.

Essential Study Tips For Students

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I have been asked to write a post on how to study in general giving examples of how I study so here it is.

I study everyday. A day without studying, especially at university, is a day wasted. Now, being the introverted and a perfectionist person that I am, I guess you would not be surprised by that.

I am basing this post more around university students but I do speak in general terms at times so it can still apply to school and college students as well.

Plan

The most stressful thing about studying is when and how to fit in your studies on top of everything else, such as a job and social life. Thankfully, I do not have any of those problems because I am solely concentrating on university and university only this year. But of course, everyone’s case is different.

If you have a job, do schedule your shifts on days you may not have university but make sure the shifts are sensible. I would try and leave the evenings free, so that can be your time to study.

As for social life, do go out and have fun but make sure it is not on a day before a lecture. Go out on a Friday night only and leave the weekends for studying. Some of you may not agree though but I think that is sensible.

Also, if you have various modules you are studying for, then split the studying for each module for a different day. A study timetable comes in handy for this. I know that may seem geeky but honestly, it will make your studying so much easier. Every Sunday night, I make a plan for the week ahead and write down what day and what time I will study each module. It really does help.

Space

I don’t know about you but I study best alone, in my bedroom with no distractions. Music is off, radio is off and TV is off. I have my own desk with all my study materials and because I have the space, it motivates me to get up, sit on my office chair and just get on with it. If you have the space, you will find that it will motivate you to study.

Have the Relevant Study Materials

Make sure you have the right study materials. This includes stationary such as a notebook, pens, pencils, highlighters, sticky notes, page markers etc…

Most importantly, look through your reading list and buy or borrow textbooks from the library. Having the relevant books will help you immensely with your studying. I find them incredibly helpful. A dictionary can be very useful too when you come across a word you do not understand. I would recommend the usual Oxford English Dictionary.

A computer. My Macbook Pro is my life and is a lifesaver when it needs to be. When you are writing an essay, you will obviously need your computer so have that at the ready.

Keep all your study materials in one place. That way, you will not lose anything – important papers, notes etc… Get yourself a folder and keep things organised.

Make Notes and Highlight/Underline/Annotate

Making notes is crucial. Read your texts, pick out the relevant points, underline, highlight, annotate. Get your notebook out and write down the most important points. When I have finished reading a chapter, I usually summarise it in my own words in my notebook. It is always good to test your memory – especially if you are revising for an exam.

Recently, what I have been doing to my textbooks is page marking them with a colourful page marker. For example, I am studying Media Law and there are chapters I need to read but because there is a lot and I cannot possibly cover all of them in one day, I get out a page marker and stick the marker onto the end of the chapter. This reminds me that I need to read that chapter soon. This trick is very helpful.

Ask for Help

At university, when you are in the middle of an assignment, you will have seminars – which is a class after your lecture with a small group and everyone must participate and during this time, you can ask for extra help for your assignment. Go to them and ask for help if you need it.

In my case, I do go to my seminars but even though it is a small group, I still feel quite anxious asking for help around other students, so I usually book a personal tutorial with my lecturer so I can have a one to one session/seminar with them and that helps me a lot. If you have issues with anxiety, I would really reccomend this.

Take a Break

Do not just study all day with no breaks. Take a 5 – 10 minute break every 15 – 20 minutes or so. This is important because it relieves stress and it gives you time to take in everything you have just learnt.

…Finally not everyone will benefit from this form of studying because I do understand that life can get in the way. It is up to you to develop a study routine that will work for you. If you are serious enough to do well in your studies, you will put the time and effort into developing a well structured study plan.

Following Your Dreams

yI have wanted to write about this for quite a while now because it is very close to my heart and it is about following your dreams instead of your parents’ or peers because that is what I did and I must say, it has been a hard couple of years because of having no support in what I chose to do – career wise but I do not regret it one bit.

In the Asian/Muslim culture, creative subjects are seen as something that will not give you a rather secure financial future and so it is often scrutinised. I have always loved the media ever since I was little and I knew I wanted to work in this industry. I was never an academic child. I loved creativity and subjects like music but that is seen as a negative thing in my culture.

Coming from a rather academic family, I was expected to choose a more academic subject to study at college and university but no, I chose to study a subject within the media because that is what I had a passion for.

I know a lot of people who love the arts but yet their parents wanted them to become a doctor, lawyer, teacher, accountant etc… and so they are pursuing that as a degree and not because they want to but they feel obliged to. Many parents in the Asian culture want their children to achieve what they themselves have not achieved when they were young and so I guess they think if their child achieves that, then it will make up for what they have not done and make them feel better about it.

Many people think that if you study a creative subject, it will not be a financial goldmine but the way I see it is why can it not be? If you truly have the passion for a certain subject and have the talents to do well in it, then why can you not earn as much as a doctor or a lawyer can?

I would really urge anyone, especially young people who’s parents are telling them to study a certain subject at college or university that you are not interested or passionate in, then please do not do it because in the long run, it will not do you any good. Do what you want to do whether it is English, Music, Art, Media, Photography etc…

I am not saying rebel against your parents., of course not. Sit them down, explain to them about what you really want to do and what opportunities there are in the future for you. Make them understand that it is not all bad.

At the end of the day, you have one life and you are living that life so you should do what you want to do. There is so much more to life than having a safe career. Go out there and follow your dreams.