Education Quandary: 'I'm doing A-levels and supposed to be focusing on university, but I just don't care about what I'm doing. How can I find some motivation?

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Hilary's advice

What you need to do is have a good, hard think about your future. Suppose you drop out – or mess up – now? It's a lose-lose situation. You will have wasted a year or two at school and be leaving without qualifications.

But if you study hard and get your A-levels, your options are still wide open. You could work, save, and go travelling, and take time to work out what you do want to do. Or you could take a job – or think about switching to a different course at university. And whatever you choose, you'll never have to slog through A-levels again, and they will always be there when you need them in the future.

Motivating yourself will also take some tough thinking. What most stops you from working? Boredom? Distraction? Pressures from friends? And what would help you overcome these problems? Working in short bursts? Drawing up a timetable? Studying with a friend? Devising treats and rewards?

Try and change the voice in your head. Don't tell yourself that your lessons are boring and a waste of time. Instead, you have got to make an effort to think about each of them as one more step towards your goal. Practice working 100 per cent when you work, and relaxing 100 per cent when you switch off.

More than anything, find someone who is close to you that you can talk to about this. It might be a teacher, tutor, counsellor, or even just a friend, but enlisting outside support will help you get on track.

Readers' advice

Sounds familiar. Our son, now 20, did very well in GCSEs, but has been academically off the boil ever since. He has just finished his first year at university, which he loved, but still hasn't knuckled down to study and needs to re-sit two exams. He assures me he will take it seriously next year. Maybe his laziness will be overcome by the realisation that he needs to fund the lifestyle he has grown accustomed to. Time will tell.

GV, Suffolk

Everyone feels like this at this point. It seems like you have been doing exams forever. I had a massive crisis and wanted to drop out, but my parents wouldn't let me, and the next year was actually much better than I expected. I was predicted a B and two Cs, but in the end I got an A, B and C and the work wasn't even that bad.

Sam Ryan, Essex

In the sixth form, two years ago, we were given a really scary presentation by an employment expert about how there were going to be no jobs for people without qualifications in the future, and how we would have to get serious about what we were doing or else we would find it hard to get even the worst sorts of jobs. It might seem bad now, but you should definitely stick at it and go on to university.

Nadia Leisman, London SW15

Next Week's Quandary

My husband and I pay more than £48,000 a year for our two sons to board at their public school and, as taxpayers already paying for state education, we cannot see why our investment in their future should be diluted to support enterprises designed to "prove" their school is a charity.

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com where they can be searched by topic.

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