I consider sixth form/college to be an interesting time. While you can finally relish the independence that comes with reaching the top of the (secondary) educational food chain, you’re ultimately faced with the decision as to what comes next. Read on for some tips on how to make the most of your time at sixth form/college.
The step-up from GCSE to sixth form/college studies can be overwhelming at first due to the sheer volume of content and increased level of detail. For this reason, you should also make sure that you’re studying subjects which you are genuinely interested in, or it’ll be an uphill battle. Furthermore, please remember to take care of yourself, stay hydrated, get a good night’s sleep, eat some greens and get some fresh air. Attention to wellbeing is paramount to success and no top grade is worth ruining yourself for. Reach out to members of staff if you’re feeling low and they can help and signpost you towards relevant support.
Revision, revision, revision
Oh yes, the dreaded r-word. Consolidating as you go along doesn’t have to mean intense caffeinated bouts of non-stop exam revision. Revision should naturally take the form of wider reading, using your study periods wisely, completing homework, acting on feedback and taking good (and legible) notes. When exam season begins to brew, do some honest self-assessment and ensure you cover all topics, paying special attention to weaker areas. Revise in a way that works for you. You may have friends who prefer using flashcards whereas you might respond best to reciting your notes over and over again. Everybody has their own way of working.
It’s the small things
Try to get into good habits early on, such as handing in your assignments on time and filing your notes correctly. These may seem like small details, but it’s easy to get swept up in day-to-day life and let these things slide. Good organisation can be aided with the use of physical planners, to-do lists, or online note-taking applications, such as Notion. I used a small pocket notebook throughout sixth form which worked well for me. And it actually fitted very neatly in my coat pocket!
Put your hand up
If you don’t fully understand something, then please be assured that it is perfectly fine. You’re probably not the only one! Asking questions is a healthy part of student life, both at school and sixth form/college, and even at university. I find that it’s always the thing that you didn’t quite understand that worms its way into the exam. By asking for help, you can avoid that dreaded uh-oh moment! Absorb the content, mull over it for a bit, talk to your peers, and use your textbook or the internet. If things aren’t clear, then do reach out to your teacher and ask them to guide you through the problem.
Establish academic goals
Having realistic goals can be a great way to stay motivated throughout sixth form/college. These can be short-term or long-term goals; it’s completely up to you. Do discuss these with your teachers, such as aiming for one grade up from the one you get in the mock exam. By setting goals, you have something to look forward to and you can work backwards from it and map out how to get there. For example, if you know when the next assessment is due to take place and you have a set target in mind, you can factor in revision blocks leading up to it.
Explore your options beyond sixth form/college
It is important to be mindful of potential career options because some of them might need prerequisites. For example, if you want to train to be a doctor, you will need to study Medicine and that will require taking Biology and Chemistry at sixth form/college. That said, if you don’t know what you want to do yet and you really enjoy a subject which doesn’t seem to fit the ‘norm,’ that’s okay too.
For example, I picked French alongside Mathematics, Further Mathematics and Physics at sixth form. I did this because I had fulfilled all necessary requirements for studying Mathematics and Physics at degree level, and could afford to have some fun with the extra wiggle room! I had always enjoyed French at GCSE and I liked the shift in style of teaching from my other subjects. In addition, I sought advice from the Head of French and my form tutor prior to making my choice. You could even try a new subject such as Philosophy or Law, but you might want to discuss it with your teachers for advice, and to find out more about the subject first.
Don’t feel like you have to put these on the backburner just because you’re in sixth form/college. If anything, extracurricular activities are a great way to develop new skills such as teamwork and leadership, or just simply have fun! Furthermore, should your chosen activity relate in some way to something you’d like to apply for beyond sixth form/college, then you can use it to bolster your UCAS application.
Whilst life beyond sixth form/college is looming near (and all the lovely decision-making that comes with it), don’t forget to enjoy yourself both inside and outside of the classroom. Immerse yourself in your studies, engage in lessons by asking questions (and answering them too!), and create your revision plan when the time comes. Take part in extracurricular activities that interest you, make time to see friends and make some “me time”.
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