You’ve got your GCSE results, you’ve had your time to reflect and enjoy your long summer… Now is the time to begin to make your mark.
If you’ve decided to move on to Sixth Form that’s great – you’ve made what is, in my view, a great choice for your education and it will set you up nicely to go on to some great things.
However, I will say that Sixth Form is by no means easy – you’ll find it a rather large step up from GCSE where I always found that I could do an exam based on my own knowledge – OK so I revised a bit but definitely not enough. Perhaps it gave me some bad habits for later on. Maybe then the opening Top Tip should be simply ‘brace yourself.’
With that in mind, here are my top tips for when you get started…
Get yourself a diary
I can’t really say enough how important this is. Remember in earlier days when you got a ‘homework diary‘ from school and a timetable? Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to cut the mustard this time round.
Some Sixth Forms will provide you with one, but I remember mine being expensive and cramped. For some, this will be fine and that will save you some time looking, but if you’re one that doesn’t mind writing a fair bit of detail then going out and getting one from a stationary shop might be a good idea.
Why do you need one? Well, you’re going to have to manage lots of different things all at once, such as when you don’t have lessons (and what you do in that time…!) to homework, meetings, other events and activities and, if you have a part-time job, your work life too. They’re such a useful tool to have in your bag.
Some people use their phone to record things like meetings and so on – fair enough. However, that can lead to distractions when you’re trying to work (been there!) and it only works if you remember the charger…
Be careful with a part-time job
A part-time job can be one of the most responsible things you get to do as a teenager – you go off to perform a task and be paid for it. In your wallet goes some earnings and that will of course help you later on. Parties, shopping, social life… it’s all there for you now!
Of course, all of this has to be balanced with your academic life. My school recommended that you work no more than around 10 hours a week to ensure that you kept up with your studies. I would say that probably is a good guide. For me, I did about 8 a week and it felt nice and comfortable – I was able to fit things in OK and still earn a decent amount.
When it doesn’t become OK is when you spend so much time in work that you forget your Sixth Form commitments. A Levels take a bit more work than you think so don’t overload yourself.
If you are worried about the hours you’re currently doing, I would suggest you go and talk to your manager or supervisor at work and see if they are able to help. If you’ve been getting on OK then hopefully you’ll be able to come to a compromise and find something that suits.
Manage your free time properly
Once you enter the A Level you’ll have a different mentality – for me the idea of not wearing school uniform, having free time and generally having a different experience was enough.
The thing about free time is that, whilst it is a chance to get away from the stress, it can be used as a means to be unproductive.
In your free time you should make sure things in your academic life are in order, such as timetables, diaries and homework. If you have things to start, then use some of this time to get it started. OK, so it doesn’t seem like ‘free time’ once you fill it up but ironically many Sixth Forms have this in mind.
No matter though, if your head of Sixth Form is anything like mine was, you’ll have this nailed into your head from the first day.
Stay focused and motivated
I promise you, after a while it will seem like it will never end. You’ll have lots of work to finish off, meetings with teachers, a UCAS application to get going with (eventually) and countless other things.
Sod’s Law says that you’ll have some less-than-helpful people in your group project for that subject and you’re shouldering that load too.
Think of the end result though. If you can knuckle down and remember why you’re there – even in the toughest of times – you’ll be so glad when you come out the other end.
Seek help for things
Sometimes things can be a little tricky – you’ll have lots of work to get on with and you’ll be concerned that things don’t quite make sense.
One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was believing I could just get through it and everything would be OK. The reality is… sometimes you are going to need to find teachers and ask them about different things. There is no shame in that at all, something I never realised until I got to a parent’s evening and it was all too late…
Teachers will appreciate the fact you’re coming to see them and they’ll nearly always see what the issue is. I’ve never met a teacher during my struggles who wasn’t willing to help.
Finally, have fun while you’re at it…
If you’re able to enjoy your time there, so much the better. Get involved in things if you can, such as helping out some of the younger members of the school, make all the difference to you as to get through your work.
Remember that, whilst you’re there to work, having something to look forward to each week can really be uplifting. For me, I hosted a school radio station each week – that was my little escape.
I’m sure you’ll have parties and the like so you’ll be able to relax and have fun with all the other people you know too – remember that they’re in the same boat so it’ll be even better.
Whatever you go for, I hope it helps! And best of luck to you as you get started too.