For any former year 11s who are starting college this year, you have a valid reason to feel a bit nervous. Moving from GCSEs to A Levels is a big jump, but it doesn’t have to be as scary as everyone is making it out to be.
I can only speak from my experience – I went from an average state school to my local sixth form college like most. I’ve learnt LOADS during my first year at college, so in this blog post I’m going to attempt to pass over some of my ‘knowledge’.
First of all, choosing the right subjects is important. Make sure your choice of subjects is varied, that they play to your strengths and that you enjoy the subjects you’re choosing. Also, don’t be afraid to study something you haven’t had any experience in before – most people won’t have ever studied Politics or Economics or Geology before, so go for it. Remember, you always have the option to switch around your subjects if you really need to. Personally, I took 4 subjects and Extended Project and took part in the choir and the school production and ran the student magazine (it was a struggle for me not to volunteer for the college council either *nerd alert*). I probably took too much on and honestly, I really didn’t enjoy the content of my drama course so, I dropped it and at the end of my first year, I feel so glad that I did; Don’t make life hard for yourself and overwork yourself early in the year.
Also, make sure you have researched a course that you might like to switch to if worst comes to worst. Alternatively, you could pick a fourth subject that still follows the old AS format so you can complete year 1 and then drop it having still got an AS out of it.
Another thing to remember re: subject choice, is that what you choose may affect what you can study at University. Some Uni courses have specific requirements regarding what A Levels you do so make sure you fully research anything you want to potentially study at Uni. Other courses don’t have specific subject requirements however they may look on some subjects more favourably. Essentially what I’m saying is, don’t study art, textiles and drama if you want to study law at Uni. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take subjects you really enjoy; if you do want to study law you could take history, law and drama at A Level for example – in my opinion, that’s a pretty good balance.
Now the huge topic of subject choice is out of the way, let’s get to some of the more trivial stuff…
If your college is in your town centre like mine is, I’m warning you now, be smart with your money! I know so many people who spend a fortune on junk food every lunch time at college – they could’ve saved a fortune by just bringing in their own food every now and then or being savvy and utilising meal deals. It may be tempting to splash your cash at the start of the year now that you’re free from the restraint of secondary school teachers but try holding back, your wallet will be grateful at the end of the year.
Utilise your free periods! I’m going to do an entire blog post on this at a later date but free periods can be some of the most important time of your day at college if you learn how to use them wisely. I’m not saying on your first day of college you should sit in the library and learn your 2-year syllabus, but when you’ve got important homework, coursework or tests coming up, frees can become essential. Don’t disregard them.
Be prepared! Don’t turn up without paper and a pen on your first day. It’s not like school. Teachers won’t give you workbooks, you need to bring your own shit. So have highlighters, pencils, paper and pens to hand. Your teachers may happen to have a spare red pen on them, but there’s no guarantee. On a similar note, bring extra pens for others! Lending (or giving away, as is more often the case) a pen to someone is a great way to first get to know someone without having to be brave enough to think of a conversation starter.
This nicely segways into my next point; try to make friends! Starting college without being in classes with your mates is scary, but everyone is in the same boat so there’s genuinely no need to worry. The people around you will be grateful that you started a conversation with them because they’re probably too nervous to talk to you. Put yourself out there! Of course stay in contact with your secondary school buds but don’t feel like you can’t make new friends because your old ones are so great. It’s important to have a support network of pals in each of your classes, even if it’s just so you can message someone on Facebook to ask what the homework was – in my first year Politics class, nobody spoke to each other and as a result, the rest of the year was spent in complete awkward silence. Not exactly ideal. Learn from my mistakes!
Another easy way to make friends is to get involved with after school/college activities. I met so many great people through the college production- I basically have a separate little family of theatre friends!
At the end of the day, everyone’s time at college will be completely unique and trial and error is an important part of any experience. The most important thing you can do at college is to enjoy it. College is a really unique and short part of our lives and for me, it’s been the best part of my education so far. It won’t be long until it’s all over and I’ll be moving out of my parents’ house and off to uni and trying to learn how to adult. So right now, I reckon it’s important to just enjoy being a 17-year-old sixth form college student.
What about you? Are you starting college this year? How are you feeling? Have you finished your first year of college? What are you top tips? Let me know by either leaving a comment below or tweeting me!