Young people with cameras walking on a snowy mountain

The exam season is drawing to a close and everyone involved looking forward to a well-deserved break (well, except teachers – yay for marking…). However for many, myself included, the wait and weight of exam results always hung heavy. It’s difficult to fully enjoy the precious time off knowing that your grades and future are being decided. In fact, for some the experience of getting the results is almost more stressful than the exam-taking – at least you can be proactive about the exams!

Never fear, however, because there are ways to take your mind off of results day. The essence of this article is to be proactive. Doing stuff and keeping your head occupied is by far the best way to stop over-thinking all the permutations, grade boundaries and entry requirements. So, what sort of things should you be aiming for?

Fun with friends

Whilst I heartily encourage fun at all times, post-exams is definitely the best time to be doing a lot of stuff with your mates. In fact, most of the other things in this list are better with a friend. What I wouldn’t recommend is just sitting around at one another’s houses. This is won’t keep you both occupied enough to forget the exams. You need to get out and about – whether it’s doing one of the things further down the list, or for a simple kick about, interacting with the world is far more likely to take your mind off things.


I know what you’re all saying “surely not? We’ve just spent the last two years learning!”. Hear me out for a second. Whether it’s through an online course or simply by opening a book that interests you, new knowledge is never wasted. Choosing a degree course is never easy and it is always worth seeking out new fields and subjects that you’d never considered before. An excellent resource for exploring new subject matter is Future Learn. Run by the Open University, Future Learn is a massive open online course (MOOC) website that offers free courses on a huge range of subjects. 

Most courses on the site are specifically aimed at students looking to into higher education, last about six to ten weeks and, it’s worth mentioning again, completely free. The lectures shouldn’t take more than two to four hours a week, leaving plenty of time for less school-like activities. As each course is compiled by different universities there is an option to get official certification (with a grade) from that university. However, this does cost and is not the main reason to explore the course list. There is a broad range of subjects, many of which you’ll not have encountered at school/college that, crucially, might be the right fit for you.

If an online course isn’t your thing, most universities also offer short course throughout the year (these will cost money though) or better yet, explore your local area for opportunities. You might not realise it, but you’re probably surrounded by a variety of different fascinating resources. Whether it’s a historical heritage site or an area of natural beauty there are plenty of opportunities to stimulate the mind across the UK. Often, you’ll find that the site in question will provide a real-world example of something you might have touched on in school. It could be a monastery dissolved by Henry VIII, a forest with rare animals or plants or geologically unusual area – or perhaps something totally unexpected. The best part about discovering your local area is that you can definitely bring your friends! It doesn’t hurt that a lot of sites offer great deals for students and under-18s… 

Man in a shirt with his hands dirty with paint holding a pencil and paintbrush

You don't have to be a genius to enjoy being creative


Perhaps the hardest on the list, being creative can be daunting, but is always rewarding. School is great for learning about a broad range of subjects, but can sometimes fall short in letting you simply create. Creating can be tricky as you are, inevitably, putting yourself out there and can leave you feeling very exposed. Ultimately, however, creating is fun. Drawing, writing, photography, music, building, reading, acting, painting, the list is endless. The key is always to start small and keep it fun. If it’s drawing, start by just sketching something in your garden or, if you prefer the sound of writing, try jotting down a few silly lines about, well, anything. No one is a creative genius from the off so enjoy the mistakes – the sketches of trees that look like broccoli, the sentences that make no sense, the out-of-focus photos – they’re part of the process.

Being creative can be done alone or with friends. Often small groups can be really good for getting ideas flowing whilst later working alone can refine these ideas. So whether it’s doing a bit of drawing, building something in your garden (maybe ask your parents first…) or even doing short plays with friends there is a creative field for everyone. You may even surprise yourself with the interesting ideas you come up with.

Become an Olympian

Ok perhaps not an Olympian just yet, but doing sport is important. As with the creative subjects, I can guarantee there is a sport for everyone. Even if you feel it’s not at all your thing, I would heartily encourage you to try. It concentrates the mind and it’s great for the physical health and mental. It’s also pretty fun. This suggestion in particular is great with friends, especially someone of similar fitness levels. Keeping up sport alone can be tiresome and having someone cajole you into exercising when you don’t really fancy it is invaluable. The Olympics this summer could help you find a lesser-known sport that really appeals or you could stick to one of the classics like football or running. Either way, I’m sure you can find the sport for you.

With that I’d like to wrap up my recommendations for what to do during the excruciating wait on results. This list is not intended to be exhaustive but rather to give a little inspiration about what to do with your time off. Happy holidays!