Having to resit your exams doesn't necessarily mean the end of the world. For 19-year-old Charlotte Martin, it opened up the opportunity to travel to Thailand and volunteer in Equador.
Getting my results
I was absolutely terrified of opening my A-level results. My entire school career seemed to build up to this one moment. I had never for one minute thought I wouldn't go to university - that was what everything was leading towards for me. I had considered the fact that I may not get the grades I needed for my first choice uni, however it was never more than a passing thought, if I am honest.
My plan before results was to study for a degree in Law and I needed to get my predicted grades - AAB - to do so. Before I opened my results I felt physically sick and really just wanted to know one way or another. I knew I couldn't put it off any longer.
When I opened my results I had mixed emotions of extreme happiness and extreme disappointment. I had got AAC, so had missed my place by just one grade. I hoped that maybe my first choice university would accept me, however the course was already heavily oversubscribed so there were no available spaces. I was devastated. I didn't contemplate any other option until the next day when the reality of my results hit home.
A gap year had never really crossed my mind, although the desire to travel has always been there, it was just not something I had considered straight after my A-levels. Uni was always going to come before travel for me.
Within 48 hours of my results and after many tears and a lot of thinking, I decided that I would retake the subject I had got a C in. I really didn't want to go to my second choice university as I had worked too hard and too long to settle for it. I had set my heart and mind on the best and that was what I was determined to achieve.
The logistics of this took a few more days to sort out, as I had to ask my old school if I could go back and retake. I didn't want to spend the whole year retaking - I wanted to have time to travel too - so I decided to retake my exams in January, leaving the rest of the year to travel and work.
The planning stage
I spent September to December back at school in preparation for my resits. I had one hour a day, five days a week and then had additional lessons on top. I was also working a few hours a week to save money for the travels I had planned after my resits. This wasn't an easy time, especially for the first few weeks as all my friends were off to university, whilst I was in lessons.
I planned to go travelling around March as this would give me time to work and save money before leaving. I decided to go to Ecuador for two months to volunteer at a centre for street children and then my plans were left open. In the end I decided to come home and work for two months before going out to Thailand for a further month.
The right move
The most significant moment of the past year was finding out that I finally got my place at my first choice university. I remember sitting in an internet cafe in Quito when I received the email - I was so happy but there was nobody there I knew to hug. I just sat there smiling and laughing like a complete idiot, but I didn't care because I had finally achieved what I had been working for most of my school life.
Other than that, I think the moment I finally realised I had done the right thing by travelling was when I arrived at a beach in Ecuador. It was the first time I had seen the Pacific Ocean, and all I could think was 'I could have missed this?' It was the moment I realised that everything must happen for a reason.
My advice to others
The advice I would give others waiting for their A-level results is don't panic! If you find yourself in the same position as me then think it through thoroughly before you make a decision. I found that some universities wouldn't even look at people who had A-level retakes, but it is a risk I decided to take.
Travelling is an amazing experience and I can't believe I didn't decide to do it in the first place. Whatever you do, do what's right for you - there is nothing worse than going somewhere because you feel you have to or because there is no other solution. Trust me - there is always a solution!