Left behind – when everyone’s starting uni but you

Being “left behind” when it seems like everyone else is going off to start a new life at university can produce a challenging set of feelings, especially if, like me, you weren’t planning on taking a gap year. In my last year of A-Levels, I spent too much time playing basketball and not enough time studying. I ended up failing my exams and was forced to repeat them, while my friends went to uni. Although it was a tough year, the one that followed was probably the most critical to my development as a person. Here’s why.

Failure is an opportunity (really!)

It was probably the first time I had experienced proper failure. Before then, I had just managed to coast through life, never being outstanding, but never failing too hard in anything. I’d never really developed a work ethic in anything outside of basketball (which if anything I worked too hard at). Failure was an opportunity to develop a work ethic in academics. 

How to build on existing friendships and start new ones

As the majority of my friends left home and were mostly living miles away from me, I really had to step up my game to keep building existing friendships. I learned how to communicate long distance, and value the friends I had. It was also a great opportunity to look around and start making new friends. During this time I developed relationships with people that I know I’ll have for life.

Sacrifice is a key part of life

Finally, with an increased focus on academic success, I realised that some other things had to take a back seat in order to prioritise the thing that needed prioritising. Unfortunately, this meant giving up most of the basketball I had been playing in order to spend more time studying. This was the most difficult thing I learned during the year I spent repeating my exams, but the most crucial. 

All of these things were key to my character development and have stuck with me to this day, making the time spent repeating the year absolutely worthwhile. I’m also glad to say that I did pass my exams and achieved my goal of going to university the following year.

Dan Callan


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