Dear Y13 Psychologists,
This is a confusing and uncertain time for all of us, but especially so for people in your position. You have been working towards your A-Level exams for 13 years, since the first day you set foot in primary school. A-Levels give you the chance to demonstrate all that you have learned and the person that you have become in that period. It is therefore very, very sad that this chance has been taken away from you, and I am so sorry that this has happened. I’m also sorry that your time at school has been so cruelly cut short, taking away the chance to say a proper goodbye to a place that is of such importance and which you, in many cases, will have grown to be very fond of.
The first thing that needs to be said therefore is this. None of what you have done over the past two years is wasted effort. Even though it looks like you will never take an exam at the end of this, your learning will not have been pointless. The fact that you may not get to say it in an exam does not make anything that you have learned less valuable. Knowledge is always precious, and the more of it you have, the more doors that will be open to you in the future (and the more interesting you become as a person). You should treasure everything that you have learned over your time at school and be proud of it… and you certainly shouldn’t stop learning now just because your exams may not take place.
The best thing for you to do in the immediate future is to stay productive, active and positive as much as possible. You’ve studied the effects of isolation in the context of both prisons and attachment – so you don’t need me to tell you it can be a bad thing. Staying connected to others, and mentally challenged and switched on, is the best thing you can do for both your immediate self and your future self. It could, for example, be a great time to look at some university reading lists and select some of the most interesting looking books to order. But this could be a great time to also learn a new skill or to try a project that you’ve been putting off for a while. If you can’t already, learn to code a computer. Learn a musical instrument. See if you enjoy gardening. Go for a (socially distanced) jog in the park. Or just read all the books that A-Levels have made you too busy or tired to properly enjoy. Have a daily routine where you get up at the same time each day and make your bed. Sounds trivial but it means you’ve done two tasks already (and it makes you less likely to get back in!). Have a daily to-do list which you can tick off, and include even small social interactions (e.g. messaging a grandparent) on this list as well as your more academic jobs. Ideally do this in a small notebook so you can look back through and see how much you’ve accomplished with your time.
We don’t know what comes next in terms of grades, university applications and so on. It’s a complicated decision and to be honest I’m glad they’re not rushing it. It’s not a decision that we as individuals can have any control over, and so (although I know this is hard), you need to try put it out of your mind for the time being. Aim to control only the things that are in your control, and only worry about things that you yourself can directly affect. Anything else will just wear you down. It’s easy to catastrophize, but we have all been assured that you will get the qualifications in the end. The only questions that you need to worry about for the time being is this: whenever this is all over, will I look back and be proud of how I handled myself? Will I have used the time productively? Will I have helped myself and others?
Take care of yourselves, stay well, and good luck.