I wanted to write this post as I know that I would have loved to read something like this before I went to sixth form, to put my mind at rest. I’m not the biggest fan of change so I was quite nervous moving up to sixth form, but I absolutely adore it now. However it wasn’t exactly like I expected so I wanted to share some things I wish I knew when I started my A levels, and hopefully this will help some people. At the end of this post I have also got a few people who I know to share what they wish they knew at the start of sixth form, as I didn’t just want to share my own opinion!
So here are 8 things I wish I knew before I started my A levels…
1. Expect work
I am not going to beat around the bush and instead be completely honest when I say that sixth form is pretty challenging and its probably the biggest thing that I wish I knew when I started A levels. Its different to school and that shocks a lot of people when they move up, but if you expect the workload to change and are willing to put more work in then you will be absolutely fine. People think that because you are reducing the amount of subjects to 4 there will be less work, but them 4 subjects are more demanding than a GCSE is and will take up a lot more time. Im not sure whether this is 100% true, but I once heard that a D at A level is a similar standard to an A at GCSE, so that just proves how much work there is to be done in order to achieve the high grades. On saying this, although you get a lot more out of class work you also get a lot more free time throughout the day. With good time management you can easily make space for everything and still have plenty of free time to relax and see friends etc.
This is something that I was really worried about when I went to sixth form, as it was the first time in my life that I could wear casual clothing everyday. I thought it was going to be like charity day at school, and I used to hate them throughout secondary because I stressed about everything (on reflection I have no idea why). Turns out sixth form is nothing like this, literally NOBODY cares about how you look or what you are wearing. I know people who go to college in shorts, or skirts, or have bright blue hair, or wear no makeup, or lots of makeup. Seriously it doesn’t matter what you look like, there will be so many people who are feeling the same as you but after the first week or so everyone gets more comfortable and you end up not thinking about it.
The only advice I would give is not to be someone you are not on your first day, just wear and present yourself how you actually are. After all, if you are being someone you aren’t you will attract the wrong crowd of people, being yourself will mean that people know you as you from the beginning. Wear something that you think you look nice in and I’m sure everyone else will think you look good too!
3. Get to know your teachers
This is probably the biggest thing I wish I knew when I started my A levels. At sixth form, teachers are not like they are at school. You call them by their first names (took some time to get used to ngl), and lessons are a lot more relaxed… so get to know them! After all, they are people too and it will make your entire year so much better if you are friendly with each other. You wouldn’t think it after being at school, but teachers are a laugh (some of the funniest moments of my year have been because of my teachers). Also on a more serious note if you are on good terms it makes going to them about work related problems so much easier. I have been so lucky with my teachers this year and they have done everything they can to help me get my grades, the amount of times I have gone to them to ask for help is unbelievable and I used to very rarely do that at school. Teachers are more on your level at sixth form and treat you more like adults, so don’t be intimidated by them and instead use them for all the support they can give you. After all… they know their subject incredibly well!
4. Friendship groups change
You might think now that you friends are going to be your friends forever, but honestly that won’t be the case. Friendship groups shift and move around, and most of the time you end up with a completely different group to what you started with. My advice would be to stick with your friends but equally talk to everyone, at sixth form ‘groups’ and social standing completely disappear and everyone will talk to everyone… you never know who you might meet! Some of my close friends now were made from having random conversations in frees when both of us didn’t know someone else so got talking. I was really lucky with my group and we all stayed pretty intact, but we have gained so many new friends and I love that. Its so nice to have new people to get to know, and they have made our group so much better. As always, I have drifted apart from others but overall I love my friendship group and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You might be someone who is moving to a college on their own and honestly don’t worry! Two of my good friends are people who moved to sixth form without friends who they knew and they quickly fitted into our friendship group perfectly, there will always be people to talk to and everyone is very chilled when meeting new people, after all everyone wants to make friends!
5. Start as you mean to go on
Out of all of the points on this list, this is probably the one to note down the most. At college it is ridiculously easy to get out of your depth, and once you start getting out of your depth it is very hard to get back on track. If I could give you one piece of advice for sixth form it would be to do your revision notes after the lessons, I did for 3 out of 4 of my subjects and I feel so much more confident in them as opposed to the 4th. It makes revising so much easier, because you have already done half the work by the time you come to revise. At A levels, you go through a lot of content and can easily fill a lever arch file or two per subject in a year, so to have to go back through all of that during exam season is not the best idea. Just keep up the best you can and start working from the start, as it would be very hard to relearn the whole first year again.
6. Pick subjects that you actually like
It is so easy to pick subjects that you are good at, but trust me when I say that it will make your entire sixth form experience better if you are picking something that you enjoy. I know so many people who picked subjects this year because they are seen as ‘good’ subjects (science and maths… I’m looking at you here) and they have absolutely hated it, which has ended up in worse grades. In my opinion, the difference between GCSE and A level is that at GCSE you can get away with memorising the syllabus but with A level you actually need to understand the subject. If you want to do well, I would pick something that you enjoy and have a passion for so you have genuine interest, and researching the subject isn’t a chore. If you don’t like your subject you won’t put in effort, which is a negative cycle from there. It is better to get good grades in slightly less prestigious subjects, as opposed to doing badly in subjects that are better rated.
7. Learn the value of good stationary
This is a bit of a throwaway point but it does make everything a bit easier. I would recommend buying plenty of notebooks and folders before (lever arch files are a saviour!) and start filing your notes straight away, it makes it so much easier to be organised from the start. I don’t like carrying my lever arch files to college everyday so instead I take small day files for my day to day work, which works well. Some people even take their tablets/laptops to college to make their notes on. I take my iPad everyday for my frees but very rarely actually use it in lesson as I prefer paper… everyone is different so it is completely up to you and your preference.
Luckily if you are a stationary addict like me you are in luck. I am working with the brand ‘coconut lane’ to promote their stationary and other products. I love what I have ordered from their website, so it is worth taking a look at the shop to see if there is any stationary for you. The MacBook skin is also amazing, and perfect for if you take your laptop to college in order to distinguish it from others. Click here if you want to check out their website and use the code TORI20 at the checkout for 20% off everything you buy! Perfect for a back to school treat to yourself.
8. It really isn’t that bad
This is my last tip, and something I wish I knew before I started my A levels as I was dreading it. You will have a good time at college, I am almost sure of it. There is always something going on and the atmosphere is so much more chilled than school. Expect a laugh with your friends in your frees when you are all supposed to be doing work, have some fun and really immerse yourself in everything that you can. Even if that thing is going to the cafe in your free and treating yourself to a coffee and a warmed up cookie (trust me, they are good and make your day just that little bit easier).
So there is what I wish I knew when I started my a levels, now for some of my friends opinions…
‘It’s a big change from secondary school due to lack of structure and it took me quite a while to settle and I don’t think/feel I have settled in yet and it’s been a year so if you are someone who needs structure then make structure for yourself and don’t just struggle through and hope u will settle in soon and then realise u are not settled but it’s to late for u to build proper structure for yourself’ Stacey Thompson
‘Be sure to make sure you spend Sixth Form not worrying excessively about future beyond college, simply enjoy the time you spend at Sixth Form and then decide where you want to go from there, no ones pressuring you’ Alex Dixon
I hope that this post about what I wish I knew when I started my a levels was helpful for anyone going into year 12, to give a little bit of insight into what sixth form is like. I would love to do more posts about my college/sixth form experience next year so if you have any ideas please do let me know, after all the aim of them is to help people. Work hard but equally enjoy it, and I’m sure you will be just fine ❤