It is stating the obvious that stepping up to A-levels or IB will be a bigger challenge than GCSEs. One of the first differences you’ll notice is that you really do need to take responsibility for organising yourself right from the start and you need to develop a routine incorporating some great study habits. Now that we are heading into the end of the summer holidays, I recommend investing in a good academic year diary to start planning how you will spend your time over the next academic year. An old fashioned, hard copy diary, not your phone! Include all aspects of your life- your studies, obviously but also sport, social life and any other commitment such as a part-time job. Be sure to factor in some down time for relaxation as this will be absolutely essential for your wellbeing and to sustain you during the year. Personally, I love a good To Do list and the satisfaction of adding and then crossing things off it – and it will really help you to feel in control and to maximise your productivity.
Homework is a big one. For GCSEs I imagine you were doing something like two hours a night? Well, in the Sixth Form, you will almost certainly need to do more as matter of course. Your deadlines may well be longer than you’ve been used to and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed – or conversely, that you have plenty of time! By writing everything in your diary, you can be sure that nothing will be overlooked and you will keep on track with where you need to be.
Revise, revise and revise. If you can go over what you have learned in class each day, it will help you make sure you learn it properly the first time round. Create flash cards, read up on what you’ve learned each day and I promise you it will reduce the pressure when exam time comes around.
Another tip is to get a head start by reading up on your subjects. There is a wealth of resources available on-line to complement your text books and help you absorb and consolidate your knowledge and learning. Check out YouTube, webinars, revision guides etc. for an alternative and complementary source of learning.
Study periods will be another new inclusion in your timetable. As tempting as it might be to think of them as ‘free’ periods, they absolutely are not! Resist temptation and try to use them productively to write up your notes from class and make a start on your homework.
Year 12 is, of course, also when you will start to think seriously about applying to university. If you have already have an idea of what you want to study, now’s the time to research where you might want to study. Talk to your teachers, as they will be able to help refine your thinking based on your academic progress and abilities. If you don’t know which direction you want to go in, take a good look at which subjects you enjoy the most – your career will likely last 40+ years and if you don’t love what you do, it’s going to feel like a very long time indeed! Make a friend of your Careers Counsellor and discuss your ideas with friends and family. A Morrisby or similar test will likely help identify your strengths and will offer some career suggestions.
Which brings us to: Your personal statement. Your first year of A-levels is a good time to start building up some more relevant experience and knowledge that you can write about in your personal statement. Reading widely around your chosen subject is obvious but, post-pandemic, more than ever before you will need to be able to make your application stand out and demonstrate a range of different skills. I promise that if you direct attention to this in year 12, you will absolutely reap the benefits in Year 13
Universities love students who can demonstrate initiative, a pro-active approach and co-curricular enrichment and there are many things you can do that will add strength to your university application, including:
- Seek out opportunities for work experience in an area related to your chosen subject; Do some voluntary work will also add weight to your application
- Take up a new hobby, or pursue an existing one to a higher level; ideally one that demonstrates qualities such as teamwork, communication and leadership
- Tutor a GCSE student in your chosen subject
- Embark on a character-building project or challenge, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award
As a Sixth former, you will be among the older pupils in the school and as such you may notice a shift in your relationship with your teachers. Try to build and maintain good relationships with them. Why? Because twelve months from now, your teachers will be writing your university reference for you, so it’s in your best interests to make a good impression, show commitment to your studies and a real effort to produce the best work you can.
With greater freedom also comes some additional responsibilities. This is your opportunity to be a role model for younger pupils, especially if you are at a boarding school. Try to show leadership and to be a good ambassador and someone they can look up to and aspire to be.
Read as much as possible to develop your general knowledge – quality newspapers, read up about current affairs and stories that interest you. This will all help you perform well at interview and in forming and being able to articulate your opinions.
It’s an exciting time as you start to become a young adult, By thinking ahead and adopting these strategies, need not be overwhelming.
The Independent Education Consultants offers advice and help on all matters relating to education in the UK. We would be delighted to help you with university advice, choosing the right school, mentoring, coaching and careers guidance. Please contact us and we would be delighted to help.
As your child prepares Sixth Form, we would like to remind you that it is never too early to start preparing for University applications.
We have a number of upcoming webinars on Uni-Assist Hub that are being presented to help with this challenging process.
You can sign up now for the first webinar using the button below, or head to the Uni-Assist Hub website for more information.