I view qualifications as keys to doors. The more keys you have the more doors you can open and good keys open lots of doors. A choice of doors is not to be underestimated, choice is freedom!
Poor qualifications, for many people (someone always brings up Richard Branson at this point), severely limit the choices you have; it could be college courses; apprenticeships, University or careers you can’t enter.
Sometimes students will say ”I don't need good grades to do what I want to do“, it is difficult for many teenagers to take a long term view. The point to impress upon them is that not using the qualification is fine, they have that choice. Poor qualifications could see them stuck in a job they hate as they aren’t qualified for anything else. Good qualifications mean that they have the freedom to unlock a different door and choose something else.
There is of course the option to go back to college and study to gain the qualifications that should already be in their pocket. Ask anyone who has gone back to college and they will tell you that it is extremely hard to do. While they could have started their dream job they are spending time gaining the qualifications for the job, usually while trying to manage work and often family. Hats off to those who do this and achieve their goal!
In summary the message for students is that whilst exams are really tough there is no better time to work really hard to achieve your best grades. You will never have as much help support and resources as you do while at school. If you are in year 11 think quickly, what will you do to maximise your freedom; you may need to change what you do a little; you may realise that you need to change a lot! If you are not in year 11 don’t wait to think about this, your GCSEs reflect 11 years of school, not 1.
Make sure that you leave school with as many keys as possible so that you can fling open whichever doors you like.