This is probably the year that I am most qualified to talk about because I have just left year 13 and finished my A levels, so I can definitely give you a few tips whilst they are in my mind. Again, this post was one of the main requests in my back to school series so I thought to dedicate a whole post to it and give some more tailored tips and advice. Year 13 is one crazy whirlwind of a year so its good to get prepared a little before you go back.
If you are in year 11 and wanting to learn about the jump from GCSE to A levels then I would click here to be redirected to a post that I wrote last year that will be more up your street.
- Get organised
You should have done this every year and year 13 is no exception to this, get organised before you go back to college! Make sure that you have enough stationery, flashcards and folders to last you for a while, and as soon a you know your timetable pack your college bag so you have time to remember what you might have missed (such as your homework!). You will need your AS knowledge again so its good to have a refresh and sort out your folders before going back, as if you haven’t read through your notes for nearly 2 months you will have most certainly forgotten some details. You don’t have time to be forgetting AS knowledge! Something I didn’t do but would totally recommend is getting up to date with AS notes in the summer before you join year 13. I wish I had done this so I just had to read through the mindmaps instead of actually making the year 12 notes again… but now I can pass my stupidity onto you in the form of knowledge!
- Personal statement
If you are not going down the university route then skip this but I know that many people do apply to university in year 13 so I thought to include this point regardless. Get your personal statement done as early as possible! Most people get caught into the trap of ‘its only 500 words’ and then find themselves stressing about the application the night before the due date. If your college hasn’t already started writing them, get your first draft done before you go back in September and then you are already at a headstart over other people. It is definitely worth it! I spent hours writing it and then rewriting it, and from start to finish it took about 3 weeks and a lot of eyes giving me corrections. I think I did about 8 redrafts! It is definitely worth getting it done early and then it is out of the way when other year 13 priorities take over, such as mocks and other parts of UCAS.
Not all subjects do have coursework and they are slowly trying to take it out of the A level specification (cheers Michael Gove) but if you are lucky enough to have coursework then don’t let that go to waste! Its a percentage of your grade that you can be sure of before you go into the main exams, and its one where you can have ‘guidance’ from your teachers unlike being sat on your own in an exam hall with absolutely no idea as to what is going on. My geography A level had 20% of coursework and it was a complete life saver, I can certainly say that I wouldn’t have got an A* without it. I poured so much time into my coursework, and I got nearly full marks, which gave me a huge percentage of my grade already and therefore more room to fall when I was under the pressure of exams. In addition to that, it gave me the confidence boost I needed and the last bit of motivation to push through with geography as I thought ‘well I already have 20% at an A*, why let that go to waste?’ so I really worked hard to maintain that grade in my exam. Geography is the A level that I am most proud of by a mile and I do think it was helped due to coursework so definitely work hard at it… 20% is a huge amount and could be the make or break of your grade.
- Learn to prioritise
I think that one of the hardest things about year 13 is maintaining focus on academia when there is an awful lot going on in personal lives. In year 13 you are turning 18 which means you have full right to go out partying every weekend, people are learning to drive, getting together (and breaking up), working part time and generally there is A LOT of distractions away from studying. Its hard to manage everything but to put it bluntly, everything else can wait for the next year. That being said, if you commit your whole life to studying and never go out, that is going to have a huge detrimental effect on your mental health. Studying comes first, but equally do make time for friends, family and partners as they are a huge part of switching off. I always tried to have one or two nights a week where I didn’t do any work and instead went out for a meal or saw my boyfriend and thats completely okay, what I’m trying to deter you from is the partying every weekend and never doing any studying… we all know the type. Learn to prioritise and find what works for you, and I’m sure that you will find a happy balance between both work and play.
- Keep up to date, even if it means waking up early
My main tip would be to write up the notes neatly after every lesson, or at least after every week of lessons. It may seem like a chore at the time but once you get into the swing of doing it then you won’t look back, as it makes revision so much easier when you only have to look at a file of condensed notes as opposed to 4 giant ringbinders of knowledge. Trying to condense two years worth of notes in one go seems like a much more daunting task! Keeping up to date may be hard but its definitely worth pushing yourself to stay on top of your game, because once you start to slip at A level it is incredibly hard to get back on track… ask anyone! Learn the value of getting up early and getting into college to do work, over exam season I got up at 5am to get done everything on my to do list. Crazy times but the dedication and pure adrenaline will get you through, and you won’t regret one second of it when you open up your results next August.
So there are my 5 biggest tips for starting year 13, and although they are quite straightforward I hope that they have helped you and put your mind at rest if you are starting year 13 in a few weeks. I think that I can easily say that year 13 was my favourite year in education and although it was super stressful, I really did enjoy my time I spent at sixth form. It is a step up from what you are used to but it is gradual and I wouldn’t worry about it, plus I’m sure that you have a team of teachers that are there to support you through the stress and UCAS etc… listen to them as they will have done it many times before with other year 13’s! This is your last year of formal education so make it count and try your hardest, and you will 100% see the rewards.