When I was sixteen, I applied to University seven times. It started with me sending out my standard five applications, for various subjects at a few Uni’s across Scotland, and promptly beginning to wait impatiently for my responses. You can get one of three responses from whichever Universities that you’ve applied to; either an Unconditional offer, which means that you’ve been accepted to study your chosen course at whatever University you’ve applied to; a Conditional offer, which means that if you achieve a certain set of grades in your final exams, you’ll be accepted to study your course; or an Unsuccessful, which I’m guessing is pretty self-explanatory.

For weeks, I waited for my responses to come through, thinking that I had decent enough grades to at least get a few Conditional offers. My friends all got their offers, a few Unconditionals, a few Conditionals. Still, I waited. And waited. Until, almost all at once, three Unsuccessful responses came through. And then another two. And I was crushed. Even more so when I was given a chance to apply one more time. Unsuccessful for that one too. And then, I was given one last ditch effort, where I got to look at whatever places were left across the country and try to be the fastest to send in one final application. I was rejected by that one, too.

Seven rejections. Seven.

So, while most of my friends went off to Uni, I got a job that I hated and worked full time for a couple of months.


I almost smiled for this picture. Almost.

Later that year I was talking to a friend who was in the year below me at school and was going through the process herself for the first time. Talking to her made me start to think about everything; the fact that I hated my job, the fact that I still — despite the disappointment of being rejected seven times — wanted to go to Uni. I wanted to see what it was like. I wanted to live in a dorm, meet new people, go to classes and pretend to know what I was talking about. In the end, I just went for it. What’s the risk? I thought. I sent another five applications away, and started to wait patiently once more…

Cut to now, almost five years later. On Thursday morning, I graduated from the University of Stirling with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in English Studies. I walked across a stage, shook hands with some Very Important People, and was handed a degree. I think I got hit on the head with a hat somewhere along the way. I doubt I’ll ever forget, or even be able to put into words, how I felt when I was standing at the side of the stage waiting for my name to be read out. How long the walk across the stage felt. How I suddenly forgot if I was supposed to shake hands with the Principal after I shook hands with the Chancellor, even though he clearly had his hand out for me to shake. How I was overcome with relief when I reached the end without falling.IMG_6157

I’m still sort of in disbelief, pinching myself and constantly looking at my degree certificate to check that it’s really real. I’ve come a long way from the sixteen year old who was told he wasn’t good enough. My time at University was four years worth of ups and downs, of disappointing results and unexpectedly good results, of beginnings and endings. I met so many people, from countries all over the world. I wrote two books (one of which was awful, the other of which was kind of alright #ProjectNYC). I spoke up in class even when I was terrified that I might say something stupid (and trust me, I definitely said a lot of stupid stuff in classes). I climbed up a hill in the middle of a rain storm as part of a Creative Writing class . I met John Green, and I shook Stephen Kellogg’s hand, and I hugged Megan Nicole (who was one of the inspirations behind my dissertation). I saw Wicked three times. I rode on a lot of early morning trains. And I graduated. Really really graduated. With a certificate and everything.

I guess it just goes to show that if you really want something, all you have to do is be willing to work for it, to never give up, to chase it relentlessly. And if you’re like sixteen year old Michael and you’re worried that you’re somehow not good enough, just remember these words I learned from Sierra Boggess;

You are enough. You are so enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are. 


 What I’ve Been Reading

Away from the sentimental rambling now, I’ve read a few books since we last spoke! I’ve read too many to mention them all, but here a few stand outs:

  • The Something Strange and Deadly series by Susan Dennard (I’ve now read all of Sooz’s books this year, and she’s quickly become one of my favourite authors! The SS&D series was incredible, and Strange and Ever After was so great that I read it over the course of 24 hours.)
  • Lost Stars by Claudia Gray. I’m a massive Star Wars fan, and this book was just so epic. A must-read for Star Wars fans!
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley. This was my first John Corey Whaley books, and I couldn’t have been happier with it. It follows an agoraphobic teen, and a girl who becomes friends with him so that she can write an essay about him and be accepted to college. It’s funny, heartwarming, and truly eye-opening.

Other than that, I’m currently reading The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, which I’m enjoying a fair bit!

And that’s been about it. As always, I don’t know when I’ll be back. Until then, thanks for reading, and I’ll (hopefully) see you soon!

– Michael Burns BA (Hons.)


3 thoughts on “UNDER CONSTRUCTION #2: On Graduation

  1. hiraethforthepages says:

    I am so glad that everything worked out for you! Things are horribly hard sometimes and I’m so glad it all turned out well and that you’re happier than you used to be 🙂 It must’ve taken so much courage to try and put yourself back out there to uni but I’m happy that you did, you should be so very very proud!

    Liked by 1 person

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