When somebody use to ask me, “oh how is sixth form going?” I’d usually respond very dramatically something along the lines of it being terrible, me being close to death, or just a prolonged stare that would leave the person in question, the person in regret.
But when I actually look back at it, there are a lot of things that I’d learned during my time there, and enjoyed. After all, between the ages 16-18, at least for me there was a lot of maturing to be done and not just in my subjects. Looking back on it there are somethings I wish I had known when starting and adhered to, so here are ten pieces of advice I will give to you.
1. PREPARE YOURSELF
Sixth form is not playing games guys. You’ve probably heard at least 14 teachers patronisingly tell you its a ‘big jump’ from GCSE to A level. It’s not a jump. It is a free fall into a black abyss of coursework, essays and the stench of the sixth form microwave. I remember being two months into year 12 thinking to myself, hey sixth form isn’t even that hard! Everyone just says that to feel big! Meanwhile filling out my to-do list in my unicorn diary. Who would have thought not more than a month later I’d be a wrecking ball of stress crying over getting a U in my french mock that at the time was IMPOSSIBLE TO DO. For me, it was incredibly tough to work so hard and for so long on essays with loads of help only to get a below average grade. Stay patient and do what your teachers advise you to do and in the end, you will get there eventually. It gets to a point where you struggle for so long only to reach a point in which the penny drops and you can feel yourself making progress in your subjects.
I use to absolutely DESPISE the year above telling me ‘GCSEs are easy, I don’t know why you’re complaining’ but after doing A levels I completely understand the ‘rage against the GCSEs’ hype. Just make sure you’ve taken on board what all students before you have, and then do what with it? Don’t get freaked out about how everyone says its incredibly difficult, but use it as a tracker of your process when you reach a level you once thought was unachievable-go you!
When you’re prepared AF.
2. CHOOSE WISELY
I can’t stress this enough. It is true that there are some A levels that are harder than others and some that require a lot more work. When choosing subjects or changing subjects, which actually happens a lot within the first month of sixth form, follow this key: Pick a subject you need, a subject you like and a subject you are good at. Usually, people pick the coursework heavy subjects for their ‘good at’ one but don’t be fooled. For a lot of sixth form I treated Business as my ‘easy’ subject and that got me staying in school till all hours erratically trying to finish business coursework when the deadline was in the same week. Also, try not to get too excited and pick four a levels unless you really need to. That’s what I did and guess who dropped one in the first week…
Naturally, some subjects require more work time than others and if that is the case, make sure you allocate the appropriate timings to each of your subjects and stick to it, and if you don’t like it, don’t be afraid to change subjects. Make sure you do this ASAP if this is the case.
On a side note, you might hear people rip the back off of BTEC students purely because they do BTECs. At the end of the day, when they don’t have to sit an exam or worry about results day like A Level students everywhere are currently doing, who is the real winner?
Smilin thru da pain. x
3. PEN DRIVE
Don’t get too excited whilst in Paperchase with all the cute stationary and forget to buy the most sacred and important piece of sixth form weaponry; a pen drive. You will not survive without one…okay slight hyperbole but it will make your life so much easier. I and many students have lost countless pieces of work due to saving it on the school computers; you’d have better luck trying to retrieve The Heart of the Ocean from the Atlantic. Using a pen drive just makes everything quick and easy, just please DO NOT lose it. Unless you’re willing to tell your teachers you have no coursework a week before the deadline (I’ve witnessed this happen and it is not cute). To avoid this, personalise the pen drive to make it both identifiable and hard to lose, such as putting it on a lanyard or do what I did and glue blue crystals to it. Yeah I bet I looked bougie, but guess who never ever lost th… okay well maybe that one time, but then all I had to do was ask around if anyone had seen a sparkly pen drive, (p.s. I got it back within ten minutes).
Pen drive is almost as essential as chewy and earphones.
4. BRING ALL OF THE SNACKS
Sure, walking to the Tesco Express to get yourself a meal deal for £3 or running the chippy if you’re feeling extra sassy might feel boss for about a week, then you realise you’re wasting your money, you’re too lazy to spend most of dinner walking and now you can’t even look at salt and pepper chips without feeling a bit sick. Or maybe you or your mate has just passed their driving test and you are now dying to conform to the most classic sixth form stereotype of driving the Maccies; can you’re meer part time job salary really support such a wild and lavish lifestyle?
Bringing your own dinner is a good idea and will save you a lot of energy and money. Yeah so the sixth form microwave from 2004 might proper stink, but so does that chicken and mushroom pot noodle you’re about to make. I can assure there are plenty of things you can make with a kettle and microwave, just ask Pinterest. For your free lessons, however, chocolate is essential. Pretending to revise is so tiring so that Malteaser share bag is a must-have. Additionally, bottles of water in my sixth form at least are £1. FOR WATER. buy a refillable bottle and you can refill it all day long from the free drinking water tap.
Sometimes you can’t resist.
5. ORGANISATION IS KEY
I don’t care if you have a reputation to protect, buy a planner and use it. In sixth form, I had 7 different teachers for 3 subjects and would get homework from each one every week. As well as planning when I was going to complete this work, I had to remember UCAS/Student Finance deadlines, Assemblies, head girl activities, extra-curricular work, important dates etc. Using a pretty planner paired with colour coding and/or stickers will make you so much more likely to use it and stay on top of your work.
When Buying stationary, folders/binders and plastic wallets are essential. For example, in French, I had two MASSIVE binders. Binder one was split into past papers, essays, grammar and tenses, research on the French occupation (45% of my A2 exam) and oral notes for my two oral exams. Binder two was split into the six topic areas I had to cover e.g. Youth Culture and Concerns. This way if my teacher told me that I needed to work on a certain grammar point, I could easily find appropriate revision I needed.
Oh, unicorn diary how I will miss you.
6. JUST DO IT
The famous words of our generation’s hero: Shia LaBeouf. In your time at sixth form you will probably tell yourself oh I can just do that on the weekend I don’t have much to do, then you’ll live to regret that decision. The biggest piece of advise I can give is to stay on top of your work. You’ll be surprised how quickly work can build up and then you panic and don’t do any of it. The number of times I have cried to my boyfriend because of all the work I ignored is ridiculous and he would just tell me “why don’t you just do the work then it’s done and you don’t have to worry” every single time. If you spend too much time complaining about the work you’ll never get done in time, then the task seems impossible and too difficult to even attempt and you’ll ignore it even more. Just break the task down and do a small amount at a time. This way the task is a lot less daunting and stress thus you’ll be more motivated to complete it and most probably to a better standard.
When your deadlines hit you all at once.
7. GET INVOLVED
Throughout my school and sixth form life, some of my best memories come from extracurricular activities such as being part of the choir and musicals the school did. With choir, I’ve had so many opportunities like singing with Andrea Bocelli in the Echo Arena and singing in Disneyland Paris. They really are unforgettable memories I’ve made with people who are now my best friends, but it’s important to note that these experiences and achievements look AMAZING on a CV or a Personal Statement for a university.
Thanks to having singing lessons during my time in school I’ve earned 4 qualifications: a Grade 5, a Grade 8, a Diploma and an Associates Diploma. These all carry QCF points and if you’re doing music grades 6,7,8 they all carry UCAS points that in some cases will help you get into university. Thanks to my Grade 8, I only need 190 UCAS points instead of 260 to get into University!
Choir in Disneyland 2015.
8. USE YOUR FREE PERIODS WISELY
The idea of free periods at first might seem great, but they quickly get boring. And then you realise you’ve spent a double lesson drinking 50p hot chocolate and playing snap and now you’ve got to spend dinner frantically learning the benefits of a public limited company for next two lessons. For the rare occasions of when I planned out what work I was going to do in my free lessons, I actually did a lot of work and felt so much better when I got home knowing that I didn’t have as much work to do. To maximise productivity, last two lessons in the common room are definitely the quietest time so you have last chance getting distracted and more chance getting some work/revision done.
Setting up a Christmas tree wasn’t the best use of our time.
9. TEACHERS ARE HUMAN TOO
Don’t do what I did and let all your problems build up until you break down to a teacher when they ask are you okay. Because I did that a few times. If you have the slightest problem with anything whether it be homework you’ve been given that you don’t understand or whether there is something going on in your personal life that is affecting you and you need support. Don’t feel silly either. I remember seeing some of the people in my French class understanding grammar points as if it was second nature to them whilst I felt like an idiot for not being able to grasp it as quickly. Everyone learns at different speeds and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and most teachers understand this, and if you want to spend some time going over something you don’t understand however stupid it may seem, I’m certain they would be more than happy to help you; after all, you’re showing an interest in their subject and are making a conscious effort to improve in it. Of course there are some teachers that you wouldn’t dream of turning to for anything like that or you might feel like a bit of a ming or teachers pet, but I can guarantee that there is at least one teacher who is proper sound and gets how you feel and can offer you the appropriate support you need.
When it’s the first day back from Christmas but you’ve already had enough.
10. BE HAPPY
I can’t stress this enough. Sixth form can feel very hard and stressful especially around exam season. For me, sixth form started to feel like an endless cycle of panic, stress, revision and getting told off about my uniform. In such an environment, it is essential that you remain positive, no matter how hard it may be. My biggest tip that I’ve learned is to surround yourself with positive people who help and encourage you. If you’re constantly around negative people and negativity, even if it’s someone in the morning saying “oh I hate this place I want to go home” chances are that will put you in a bad frame of mind and you’ll probably be headed for a bad mood for the rest of the day, meaning demotivation and the work that has built up from your strop will give you something to cry about. Trust me I’ve learned the hard way. Surround yourself with happy people who can have a laugh and then sixth form will seem more like a fun place to see friends rather than a prison. People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining. So it’s best to stay positive and enjoy your time there as much as you can, after all, there will be something to miss when you leave.
During your time in sixth form, a lot will change. You’ll make new friends and you might lose some. You’ll fall out with people over something stupid and then makeup with them like nothing happened. You’re maturing into a young adult and experimenting with new things and probably going through some questionable phases, so you’re bound to have disagreements with people you may have been mates with for years. You’ll experience both positive and negative influences and experiences but at the day, it’s down to you to learn from them and utilise these lessons to make you a better person. I never thought I’d be one to say that I kind of miss school.
Except for student services. You can get to fuck.