Hello! As you probably know by now, I’m studying A Levels here in the UK at a sixth form college. This September I’ll be going into year 13 (eek!) so as I’ve been learning in a sixth form environment for a year now I thought I’d share some advice and tips with you for any of you who will be going into year 12 this September, or in years to come!
Before I start, I have written some posts giving advice about sixth for before, so if you would like some tips on how to manage your work load and revise for exams or want to read about my experience of year 12, then you may want to check out the linked posts as well!
As I do tend to rant quite a lot about A Levels on here, I’m going to be talking more about Sixth Form itself today, because the prospect of starting year 12 at a college or sixth form that isn’t joined to your secondary school can be quite daunting!
Try to relax – everyone is friendly!
I know this is much easier said than done, but honestly I was so nervous about starting sixth form that it took me a while to settle in and I didn’t take advantage of the first few weeks as much as I should have done in terms of making new friends. Of course you’re bound to be a little nervous, but it’s important to remember that everyone else is in the same boat. If you’re lucky enough to have friends from secondary school at your sixth form/college, then that’s great – they’ll already make you feel a bit more comfortable, but if not, you definitely won’t be the only person who doesn’t know anyone. It may be hard to believe but people at college are a lot more friendly. For my first week – induction week – I literally didn’t know anyone in my group, and it was scary at first as I was the first to arrive in my allocated classroom for that week, but as soon as more people started to arrive I wasn’t the only one who was on my own and a group of friendly girls sat with me and we hung around with each other for the first week, which really helped! So I would say don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people and try not to let your nerves get the better of you!
Teachers aren’t always intimidating!
When I first started year 12, I did find most of my teachers quite intimidating, purely because I didn’t know them as my college isn’t joined to my old secondary school and the way that A Levels are taught was new to me, so at first it was a little overwhelming when they kept using complicated language that I didn’t understand and it felt like they had high expectations of us already. But really your teachers are there to help you, so if you’re stuck ask! Now I’ve got to know them better, my A Levels teachers are some of the best teachers I’ve ever had and you can have a lot more relaxed relationship with them than at school. Whatever you’re stuck with, they’re always there to help, not to mention they have an incredible knowledge of their subjects!
Enjoy the freedoms of being a Sixth Former
Something important to remember is that as a Sixth Former, you typically will have more freedoms than you had at secondary school. For example wearing your own clothes instead of a uniform and having free periods. I think sometimes this is what makes the whole sixth form experience more enjoyable as you have more freedom to express yourself and more responsibilities. It really helps you to mature and learn to manage your time better as well once you have to decide what the best use of your free periods are.
Try to buy your text books early on up
It’s best to try and get all of your required text books early on in September as otherwise there may be a sudden rush as every A Level student in the country tries to get their hands on the same books, so you have to wait for more copies to be printed (*cough cough* AQA French). Bear in mind that they are expensive though so maybe have some money saved if you can. If you can’t get your hands on the text books however, you could take them out from your sixth form library in the meantime as you don’ want to get behind in your learning.
Sixth form can be expensive
This kind of links in to the previous point, but as well as the cost of text books, there can be other significant costs that you’ll have to pay out when starting and during sixth form. To give you an idea, when I started last year I had to pay out around £120 on my textbooks (for three subjects) alongside £70 for a bus pass for the autumn term (as my nearest college is about an hour away). On top of that, I had to buy lots of stationary that I hadn’t previously needed at school such as ring binder folders, plastic wallets, tonnes of paper and refill pads, folder dividers, French dictionaries ect. and although I can’t remember exactly how much I spent on it all as I didn’t buy it all at once, it was probably around £50-worth of stationary. The good thing is that most of your stationary you can reuse for the next year of sixth form. As well as buyg the basics you need to do your course, there’s also the added cost of clothes to think about as if you go to a sixth form that doesn’t have a uniform like me, then you may find that you don’t have enough clothes to wear everyday or that your clothes (and shoes for that matter) wear out quickly.
Now I’m not trying to put you off by outlining the costs, but it’s important to be aware of them so you can put some money aside and make sure you have everything you need for sixth form. However, it is worth investigating if your college offers bursaries for low-income families and to see if you are eligible. This has been very helpful for me as it means I get some money each term from the college to cover the cost of books and stationary, as well as them paying for my spring and summer term bus passes. They also paid for half of my trip to Marseille with college which I am so grateful for as although it wasn’t extremely expensive, it definitely helped my parents out to not have to pay for the whole trip. So bursaries are definitely something you should look into if you think you may struggle with the costs of college but as I mentioned before, teachers are friendly so if you are having any financial problems throughout the year, you should definitely seek advice from them and they may be able to help you by loaning you a text book until you can pay for it for example.
Look after yourself
My last tip would be to make sure you’re taking care of yourself too, as well as all your academic needs. Starting college or sixth form can be quite an upheaval and although you may think you’ll be able to cope as you’re older than when you started secondary school, sometimes the stress can affect you in different ways. So of course make sure you’re working hard and meeting deadlines, but don’t forget to schedule in times to meet up with friends or relax at home with a book, because everyone needs a break sometimes and you’ll be able to focus much better because of it!
Well, that’s all my tips for today, all that’s left to say is good luck to anyone starting sixth form and everyone else who’s heading back to school in the next few weeks! If you have any questions about sixth form, then I’m happy to answer them as always. 🙂