If you are reading this article, then it is likely that you will be entering sixth form college in September, having completed your GCSEs. Firstly, congratulations! Year 11 is an extremely difficult and stressful year, with exam revision and preparations for your next level of study.
The summer tends to be a great time whereby students can relax completely, after finishing exams. Although very important to take a much-deserved break, you should also aim to prepare for further education (likely, A-Levels or BTECs). Being organised is critical to reduce stress before sixth form college begins. Even if you are unable to take steps to plan, you should at least think about your aims for the year and your potential work ethic going into sixth form college.
This article will give you three ways that you can make sure you are well-prepared for your next step in education. Let’s get into it!
1. Go Through Reading Material Before the Start of Sixth Form College
By now, you will have submitted your A-Level subject choices to your chosen sixth form, and therefore, you know exactly what courses you will be taking. Most A-Level courses build on previous GCSE knowledge, so it is important that you revisit this work in your own time. Even though much of the content from GCSEs is vital for progressing onto A-Levels there are many differences; to learn more about these differences click here.
While it may seem like a tedious task, having just completed your GCSE exams, going through material will be extremely beneficial when you start your A-Levels. I know from experience that the students in my class that prepared for college had a much easier and more fun first few months, because they did reading in advance, so trust the process.
You’re maybe thinking it is unnecessary to start your preparation in the early weeks of your summer holiday, however, time flies by; so, having an idea of what you will be covering when sixth form college starts can put you in a beneficial position. Leaving your preparation until the last minute won’t kill you, however, doing so may lead to a backlog of work in the first couple weeks of college. This is unpleasant, especially when you are in a new environment and wish to spend some time making new friends too.
Which GCSE Material Should You Go Through When Preparing for Sixth Form College?
GCSE and A-Levels have many crossovers, but generally, in most subjects, A-Levels build on the knowledge gained at GCSE. To really see the difference, take a look through course specifications and past papers, this will give you a taste of how large the jump is between GCSE and A-Level. Within these specifications, there will be far more detail within the A-Levels even if they cover the same topic area as the GCSEs. Reading this article might give you an idea of the step-up of GCSE Maths compared to A-Level Maths.
Once you’ve done your research on your upcoming A-Level course and you have a good idea of how hard the course could potentially be, this puts you in an advantageous position compared to other students, as you are already able to identify how much work you should be putting in weekly. Going through reading material does not necessarily mean scrupulously combing through every A-Level textbook, it could also mean doing some wider reading on topics that interest you and that are loosely related to the course.
The extra knowledge you may gain from wider reading will help your understanding and application of the content you learn at A-Levels. For example, I undertook a Future Learn course on DNA and the human genetic code, purely out of interest. However, this had very strong ties with the genetics module of A-Level Biology. Because of this, I was able to use some knowledge from my wider reading and apply it to my college studies, this gave me a huge leg up on the other students in my class.
Some sixth form colleges may choose to send out some optional bridging material to prospective students. This is basically a set of tasks or reading activities to give students a taste of what the subject lessons may be like. I suggest you, at the very least, complete this work as it will likely be directly related to your first few weeks of study.
2. Think About Your Potential Career Path After Sixth Form College
Whilst it may seem much too soon to be thinking about career options, it’s always a good idea to begin early. This is because what you will be studying at sixth form college will likely affect what you go onto study at university, and what job prospects you will have available after you finish education.
If you already have an idea of what type of career you would like to pursue, then that’s great! Hopefully, your A-Level choices reflect the course – if you were set on a specific career before you chose your subject choices, then it is likely that they are reflective of your chosen career. If you are unsure of your future career, and therefore are unsure which A-Levels to pick, then check out this helpful article here.
For example, the requirements for the medicine course include Chemistry as a compulsory option, so if you have your sights set on a specific degree then it’s good to check the course requirements. Although this process varies between sixth forms, most will provide some sort of support and careers guidance. This may take the form of assemblies, forms, or meetings in which your career options are discussed.
It may seem like a long way away, since you are only just beginning Year 12, however, it is important to remember that a lot of your achievements and actions will affect your application. This summer is the perfect time to organise and maybe even begin some work experience or volunteering. This experience would be great for your personal statement. Organising a placement cannot be done in a few weeks and needs months’ worth of preparation, you need time to find placements and work there for a considerable amount of time, this is why planning ahead can be extremely beneficial.
3. Start Scheduling Your Personal Life Around Your Sixth Form College Timetable
Sixth form can be considered one of the toughest and most important years. When you enter sixth form, you will find that you have heaps more independence and freedom. For example, the lessons will be more relaxed and your classes will be smaller. This is a great benefit as it allows you to have more attention from the teacher and creates a comfortable working environment.
It is very important to retain your focus alongside the newfound independence. During your free periods, try and get as much homework done as possible. This way, when you get home, you can spend the evening revising the work rather than completing homework.
Your routine does not need to be exactly this – just try and find a schedule that is realistic and feasible; this means that you should ideally be getting homework done before the deadlines and extra time to revise.
What Should You Do With Your Free Periods at Sixth Form College?
Free periods are initially a novelty, and it is tempting to spend them chatting with your friends. However, keep in mind that this time is for you to be productive, and this will benefit you in the long run. Saying that, it is equally important to meet new people and make new friends, as these are the students who will be with you for the new two years! Talking with people during this time does not have to necessarily be an unproductive pastime.
If you have friends in the same classes, revising together or helping each other with difficult concepts can be very useful when consolidating material.
Create Good Habits at Sixth Form College
As you settle into sixth form, you will naturally realise the importance of being on time with deadlines and good work ethic. These good habits are what allow your teachers to give you high predicated grades as well as for you to score highly in general class exams. It is important to know this earlier on rather than later, so keep this in mind! Additionally, timekeeping and work ethic don’t just end after sixth form. They become especially important at university and the world of work. So, take this as an opportunity to develop your current skills for the future.
Preparing for sixth form includes being prepared to set aside some time to relax and do something that you enjoy. The curriculum can be demanding at times, and if you don’t pace yourself or overwork, you can burn out very quickly. Taking breaks to recharge will help you retain information easily and helps you to relieve stress. Taking part in sports and exercise in particular can get the blood flowing and release feel-good endorphins. Sixth form is another exciting jump ahead – take it as a learning approach and always seek out opportunities to improve yourself!
Importance of Staying On Top of Your Classwork at Sixth Form College
This is a bonus tip for once you have actually already started studying your A-Levels, but it is something you can still prepare and plan to do before you go to sixth form.
Unlike GCSEs, for A-Levels you are expected to do a lot of independent study other than set homework. This work is what enables you to keep on top of your classes. To put this into perspective, you may be given a set of homework worksheets after a specific lesson, however, instead of merely finishing the homework sheets you should be making extra notes. These extra notes will provide you with context and help you apply them when you come round months later to revise before exams.
Through my experience, I have found that a large portion of my study time is actually spent revising the topics from that lesson and making concise notes, ready for the following lesson. This is also great practise if you are thinking of going onto university.
Another point to note is that A-Level lessons tend to be heavily based off principles discussed in the previous lessons, so learning to revise as you go becomes a necessary skill so as not to fall behind. If you want to read more about how best to prepare for your A-Levels, if so we have a comprehensive guide here.