Wherever you are on exam results day, at Support in Mind Scotland (SiMS) we want to remind you that there is no wrong path to success. We are a group of volunteers raising awareness of mental health support for students, through a project we call SiMS for Students. We joined together to write about our own experiences of our paths to where we are now.

Today, many students around the country are receiving the exam results they have waited for. It’s a day which can feel stressful, overwhelming, disappointing, exciting…  So we are supporting #NoWrongPath, an initiative that recognises that so many people take a winding, alternative path in their careers which isn’t the A to B we are often led to expect.

Below you’ll find a few of our experiences – we hope you find this helpful! 

Georgia, SiMS for Students Group Coordinator

My own experience was certainly not an A to B journey! After graduating from my Psychology degree, I embarked on a career in research. I completed a masters in Animal Behaviour, which led to being accepted on a PhD programme. At the time this felt amazing, and what I had worked towards since the 2nd year of my undergraduate degree.

But after 2 years, I started experiencing health difficulties, and my mental health plummeted. I finally received a diagnosis and support 2 years later, but it was a long journey. I came to realise that the stress and pressure of academia was consistently damaging my health. So, I decided to take a full year off and step back.

That year was transformative to me. Even amidst the pandemic, having that space away from my PhD gave me a chance to rest, look after myself, and figure out what I wanted and needed. I was able to gradually explore my passions. I trained to become a yoga teacher from home, started to volunteer with SiMS, and even got a job at NHS Scotland when I was feeling better.

It made me realise how much happier I felt away from my PhD, despite being in the middle of a pandemic – which I think says something about how unhappy I was doing it. I made the decision to quit at the start of this year, and that led to me finding what feels like my dream job.

I’m now a Trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner with the NHS and studying with the University of Exeter. Every day I feel grateful for the opportunity to support other people with their mental health, I truly love my job now!

I would never have thought I’d be here back at my own exam results day, or even just a few years ago! So I would say to everyone getting their results today that this day doesn’t determine your whole future. There are always other ways to work towards doing something you love. 

Georgia's Path

Caroline, SiMS for Students Raising Awareness Volunteer

My experience at school involved being taught to prepare for one career and one career path only (when you approach the end of school years). For the majority of young people in this era the goal is mostly to finish school, go to University and  get a job. I was told by my 6th year tutor days before leaving school:  “Your grades won’t get you into university, so you need to do something else” (My grades were: higher B,B,C and D).  

Bearing in mind this was days before leaving school, I was disheartened and panic stricken about what I was going to do when I left school, with no guidance or support of what I should do! So, I got in touch with a careers advisor who said they would try their best to help.  

A couple of days passed, and I could not describe the despair and anticipation I was feeling. Then I got a call from the career advisor saying he has found me a place at University to study Events Management. I had never considered Events before but was ecstatic to be going to University (as this was the path I felt I NEEDED to choose). I ended up graduating with a Bachelor of  Honours degree and having a successful career in events management, however I didn’t feel completely fulfilled.

For years I have had an intense interest in the field of psychology and when the pandemic hit, I decided to apply to do my Masters in Psychology, I got accepted and after 11 years I am finally working towards a career I have always desired to be in. In addition to this I started volunteering with Support in Mind Scotland – which is a very rewarding experience, as you feel you are actually helping to make a difference. 

There really is “no wrong path” . Most importantly, you have to do what is right for you! 

Caroline's path

Rachel, SiMS for Students Awareness Raising Volunteer

When I was 17 and in 5th year of high school I decided to apply for university on the off chance that I achieved the Highers to head off a year early - in summer I got my results and I was off to uni that September!

I hadn’t looked into courses at all, simply chose my favourite subject that I did at school which was business. I started my business degree at Edinburgh University and very quickly came to realise it was not for me, but I carried on to the end of first year hoping I would start to enjoy it.

I kept feeling an overwhelming lack of confidence in every area of the degree I was doing but dropping out at the time didn’t seem like an option. I felt I would let people down, even though I had no pressure from friends or family.

As I was about to start second year, the pressure I had put on myself got a bit too much and I finally admitted that I didn’t want to continue on the course. 

Now I’m 22 and heading into my fourth & final year of Psychology and Sociology at Napier and I absolutely love it! I think the main thing to remember when things don’t go as you planned when you’re leaving school/in university or college is that there is no need to rush your decision.

All year during my business studies I felt I was running out of time to make a decision. I carried on with a subject I wasn’t motivated to learn about or dedicate time to getting the best marks I could. Now that I’m doing a subject I really enjoy, I feel like I have all the time I need to find a job I like and properly invest time into career paths.

Don’t just go for something because everyone else is doing that. There’s so many avenues you can go down after you’ve left school that lead you to great opportunities, and it doesn’t always have to be university!


 

If you would like to join us as a Student Awareness Raising Volunteer or are interested in other volunteering opportunities, please get in touch! You’ll find details of how to apply here: www.supportinmindscotland.org.uk/volunteering-opportunities