Person writing in an exam

Can you work in PR without good A Levels?

I’ve worked full time in PR for almost a year, spending the last three months at High-Rise. This is in spite of failing my A Levels and being rejected from my top three university choices to study PR. I thought it was the end of the world. Students up and down the country are sitting their GCSEs and A Levels. I wanted to share what happened to me, and what I learned along the way…

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it’s stupid” – Albert Einstein

Until I came to do my GCSEs, I never fully understood this quote. I got by with mainly Cs, the odd B and the rare A. I tried to revise for the more academic subjects, but I wasn’t an A* student when it came to examinations. The subjects I loved, I excelled in. The ones where my creative side could be set free and I could put what I’d learnt to use in a practical setting, I did well in.

This was fine for the couple of years of GCSEs. But it started to become a huge challenge when I came to study for my A Levels. Every part of the learning was more strategic, with processes more set in stone. There was less room for a creative flair – it was a lot more black and white = right or wrong.

After two years of studying for my A Levels I’d managed to bring my coursework grades up to As and Bs. But, I flunked my exams so miserably, I came out with the grades D, D, E. Failing not only my exams, but to get a place studying a PR degree at any of my top three university choices.

I thought my life was over because I failed my A Levels

Devastated and thinking my life was over – I was upset for three days. I found it unfair that they didn’t base grades on the practicality and real-life application of work. But instead the ability to regurgitate information onto a piece of paper.

I hung my head in shame as my friends all got into their first choice universities, I felt as though I’d let my parents down, as well as myself. But I was determined to go to university! So I got cracking with finding somewhere that would take me through the UCAS clearing process.

A first class degree and a PRCA award

I decided I wanted to apply to Sheffield Hallam. It wasn’t my first choice; however, the practicality of the location was perfect. With my family less than an hour away, it meant I was able to go home when I wanted to, whilst still being far enough away that I could grow my independence. They also did a PR degree, rather than Journalism or Media alone, which was was a huge bonus.

The past upset and hurt of failing my A Levels washed away by my first day of uni. I wasn’t where I’d planned to be, but I was studying something I’d been passionate about since my early teens. I had to do a Foundation Year as a ‘catch up’, but after a four-year course, I came away with a first class degree… WITH honours… AND a PRCA award! I had no exams in the whole four years I was at the university. Instead I was graded on my ability to apply what I had learned to real life scenarios. Such as creating PR plans, working on a PR campaign, writing press releases and more.

If you fail your exams you can still work in PR!

So, whilst I understand some of the reasoning behind exams, I think it’s time to scrap them. I’m in favour of a system that allows society to thrive by encouraging the study of what we’re passionate about and good at. As opposed to an outdated system that judges you on your ability to work out the circumference of a circle. Maybe then, when we stop judging fishes on their ability to climb a tree, we will have a society where more of us can be happy and prosper.