Sooner or later, Sixth Form colleges up and down the nation will be looking to collate all their applications for the year and work out who wants to do what in September. It’s quite the elaborate process that involves a lot of logistics and assigning groups to teachers.
Unfortunately though, it isn’t all about the teachers working out who works with who… You’ve got the most important decision of all. Chiefly, what do I want to do at A Level?
Firstly, there is not an immediate answer to all that. For example, there are several things you should think about first…
What did I do at GCSE?
More often than not, what you can do at A Level is dictated by what you chose at GCSE. If, say, you wanted to study a Science at A Level they probably will expect you to have studied either Double Award or Triple Award Science at GCSE. This will, of course, depend on your school, but what you’ll find is that a Sixth Form college will probably want you to study to a high standard in a given subject beforehand.
Do I fulfil all the basic requirements?
You will also need to check if you fit the bill for entry. Most Sixth Forms will have a general requirement, such as having a certain number of GCSEs and often a Grade C in Maths and English.
On top of that, you’ll have to match their admission grades for the particular subjects you want to do. For example, I remember at my Sixth Form that, to do Maths, the minimum requirement was a Grade B and for Further Maths it was an A. Because many people file an application to a Sixth Form during their GCSEs, it could serve as an extra bit of motivation!
What do I want to do when I leave Sixth Form?
Funny, isn’t it? You spend ages thinking about what you can do at Sixth Form when really you have to think about what you’re doing when you leave.
In this case, you need to think about if you want to go into a place of work, university or perhaps something else. Each of those options carries their own set of needs – for example, the university route will probably require a lot of work around certain subjects and will need you to think about your career path in a more long-term way than just leaving sixth form and going out to work.
Now, I don’t want to dictate to you about different subjects – ‘if you want to do Subject X at university then you’ll need to do A, B and C and get certain grades.’
Ultimately, it is your choice completely how you want to go about it. However, there are a few general things that I suggest you look at…
If you plan on going to university, some universities will probably have a particular subject that they would prefer you to have done in order to get into a certain degree course. For example, medical courses almost always require you to have studied at least one science and usually mathematics too. Generally though, they aren’t going to tell you every subject you must have studied – they won’t say ‘you must have studied Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics and have an AS in Physics.’ Why? Because at the end of the day there are places to fill and universities won’t go down the route of prescribing your chosen path entirely. It is simply too unattractive for prospects.
However… If you have a path you are keen on following, consider the idea of picking subjects that ‘go’ together, so to speak.
Maths and either Chemistry or Physics go well together, for example. In Chemistry, you normally get to work on a lot of chemical maths, such as constants and enthalpy changes, whereas in Physics, you’ll get to explore wavelengths and quantum mechanics. You’ll also understand concepts of motion and formulae that help you work things out. If your maths is modular and you study mechanics, you’ll find that it ties in so nicely with mechanical physics.
There are so many different combinations of subjects that work well, though sometimes it can come down a little to the course content. Think about this a little bit.
Pick something you like!
The number of times I’ve seen people struggle through something they don’t like… Don’t do it! I was lucky in that the subjects I picked were ones that would help me get to what I wanted to do AND I enjoyed them.
There is nothing more soul destroying then doing a subject that you feel you have to do, even though you don’t like it. Add that to the fact that you’ve voluntarily decided to come to Sixth Form suddenly it gets all the more difficult.
Whilst you should be thinking about your future, don’t force yourself into a subject you’ve always hated. It could add a lot of stress to an already busy time for you.
Remember that you make your own success
When you get that lovely prospectus that talks about what a place can offer you, you’ll find massive long data tables and claims of how many students achieve certain grades in their subjects – all very impressive.
What I want you to do though, is to ignore that completely.
You make your own success and the only person that can do that is you. So what if 75% of the pupils before you got A or B in a particular subject? That in no way affects you – you will put in the work, no-one else. If you’re that determined to achieve success, then you will. Easy enough.
The school may try and bombard you with it from the word go (my Sixth Form even had stats on the front cover of the prospectus) but remember that they need to find some way of making themselves look impressive. They’re just feeding off a lot of hard work from students.