Three quarters of students feel their future depends on exam results

Parents rank seeing a child go through their exams alongside the stress of moving house, changing jobs or separating from a partner, new research has revealed.

A new report commissioned by Birmingham City University and youth mental health charity the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, showed that parents believed watching their child take exams was as stressful as other major life events.

The study interviewed over 1,000 university students and 500 parents to uncover their feelings on exams, results day, selecting a university and the mental health support available to them.

It also showed that 74 per cent of students thought their future depended on their exam results, that 92 per cent of female students used negative words to describe their exam experience. One in ten students had no external support during their exams.

Other findings included:

  • Three quarters of students were stressed during results day
  • Nearly a quarter of parents were ‘fearful’ about their child’s results
  • A third of students wish they’d had more information about dealing with disappointment in the run up to results day
  • 92 per cent of students think it is important for school of college teachers to be trained in mental health
  • 82 per cent of students were stressed during the month leading up to their exam results
  • majority third of students depend on their friends for external support for the stress of exams and results day.
  • 85 per cent students thought their pre-university exams were stressful.

The research also revealed that over a third of students were ‘scared’ about their exams, that three quarters found waiting for their results and results day stressful, and that 89 per cent thought it was important for university staff to have mental health training.

New guidelines to help students deal with the challenges have been developed by the Trust and published on the University’s website for students across the country to access.

The University will also be running a dedicated mental health support hotline and a ‘wellness centre’ at its City Centre Campus to offer specialist mental health support for both students and parents. A 24-hour social media service will also be operated in the days surrounding A-Level results.

Alongside advice from counsellors, young people will also be able to pet therapy dogs, proven to reduce stress anxiety and visit a quiet space to sit and consider their options. Professor Clare Mackie, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Birmingham City University, said:

“Results day can be an exciting time but for many students it can be a difficult period which ends in disappointment and confusion.

“While universities around the country will be extremely busy during this period it is important to remember that we have a duty of care to students and prospective students, and helping them to make the right decisions for them.

“We partnered with the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust because we wanted to do something to support the many students who will be feeling concerned or overwhelmed at this time. And the support we are offering is backed up by the work they do with young people every day.

“The results of this survey also demonstrate just how big an impact this period can have on not just students, but also their parents, and we want to make sure that the resources, our wellness centre and our hotline are available to all those who feel they need help.”

Among the resources being made available, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust has advised students to neutralise their thoughts, see Clearing as an opportunity and encouraged them not to blame themselves.

The Trust also produced six key tips for dealing with the challenges of A-Level Results Day:

  1. It's OK to say ‘stop’ to yourself, to try and interrupt negative thoughts
  2. Remember that catastrophic thoughts are typically irrational, i.e., they are not based on facts or your usual experience
  3. Think about alternative outcomes: a bit like re-writing your own story
  4. Identify what you like about yourself and your successes, and remind yourself of them regularly
  5. Acknowledge that sometimes unwanted things happen, but that doesn’t make you a bad person
  6. Practise self-care strategies: things you like doing, such as spending time with friends, exercising and eating well.

Clare Stafford, CEO of the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, added: “Supporting young people with the challenges of mental health has been the Trust’s vision since it was set up in 1997.

“We know that receiving your results and picking a university can be a stressful time for many people so we wanted to take this opportunity to work with Birmingham City University to provide support for those who need it.

“Talking openly about mental health and offering advice to young people can make a major difference to their lives and we hope that we can support as many students as possible during this period.”

Students or parents needing help around results day can contact Birmingham City University on 0121 331 6777 and selecting option 5, or visit its campus throughout results day to speak to a professional.


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