For some school-leavers (and their parents) the next few weeks will be a tense time as they await their OP results. Some will have planned what they want to do for a career and know exactly what OP they need to gain entrance to a specific course. After that, comes the wait to find out which course they’ve been accepted into. Tense times, indeed for some.

What if your child doesn’t get the result he/she hoped for?  That long held dream of being an astronaut might feel as though it’s floating away off into space. What can you do to help your child?  First, saying something like, “It’s not the end of the world,” probably isn’t going to cut it. Actually, apart from expressing sympathy, nothing you say will help at first. Allow your child to express and acknowledge how he’s* feeling. It’s fine for him to feel sad, angry, disappointed, afraid or whatever and it’s better to get it out. If he’s been so focused on one career path, it can be nearly impossible for him to see the way forward. Eventually however, he will come to a point of acceptance and needing to figure out his next steps.

A wonderful thing about our education system in Australia is that there’s nearly always another path to our destination (unless there’s too big a gap between our expectations and reality.) Results do not define a person and a student’s OP only means something for the year after graduation. One of my daughters made a comment, that apart from university entrance into her original course, nobody in the field of work or academia was interested in her OP results. There are plenty of avenues open, but your student may have to be willing to look for them.

Not getting into a course of preference can feel like failure, but many very successful people failed in this aspect. Steven Spielberg was rejected from Film School several times. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, Richard Branson and Albert Einstein were all seen to be academic failures. Failure is a normal part of life, and it’s often only as we fail in something, that we even become open to considering other options.

In The Australian, (17 November) demographer Bernard Salt wrote about the changing world of work where workers are continuously learning new skills, meeting and integrating with new people and needing to adapt to new systems. He concludes his article by saying, “The best advice for parents is to cultivate resilient kids who can deal with disappointment, who know how to get along with others and who aren’t treated as overly ‘special’ (which does little more than make parents feel good about themselves)”. Personal qualities of drive, determination and ability achieve more than academic results. Most people whose results aren’t up to their expectations go on and do well in life. They don’t let that one bad experience keep them down nor do they give up when things aren’t going their way.

*(I have assumed we’re talking about a male student for the rest of this article for ease of writing/reading, but all comments apply equally to female students too).