Five Things to Know Before Starting Sixth Form

Before I started Year 12, I couldn’t stop envisioning myself strutting down a bustling corridor, best outfit on show for all to see, Frappucino in one carefully manicured hand and impeccably detailed notes in the other, meeting up with my large group of multicultural, equally as fashionable friends by my locker, retrieving my car keys, and driving us all down to some hip vegan cafe. Gone were the days of baggy jumpers and straggly ties – now, without a uniform (and legally being able to drive), I could experience an education akin to that of High School Musical.

That’s not exactly how things turned out.

1) You might not make friends immediately

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I was truly convinced I’d have a tight-knit friendship group within my first day. Like some students will, I started college alone – no friends from high school attended my college – and this new leaf was exciting for me. Being partially alone on that first week was quite a shock to my system, which is why I feel it’s important to mention. I actually had three separate sparks of friendship in a row on my first three days, but we never saw each other again afterwards, which I found really disappointing. However, making friends when everyone else is looking for a new group is really easy, and as long as you try and open up a little in classes and clubs, you’ve nothing to worry about. I’m as shy as anything, but I was pleasantly surprised!

2) Your free periods aren’t chat-and-chill sessions

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I know, I know. I thought I knew this too. I kicked off the year feeling motivated. I stayed at college from 9-4 initially and went over my classwork in my two and three-hour free period blocks. I never even considered leaving, though! Quickly, however, I saw free periods as an opportunity to have an early lunch, go on my phone, chat with mates and leave early. Oh, and they’re great for lie-ins. The amount of free time you receive can feel overwhelming at first, but don’t take it for granted. Time passes impossibly quickly, and deadlines creep closer. Get all your homework, essays and assignments out of the way, go over your notes, and revise for your next exam – then you can snake off for lunch at Subway.

3) Your teacher is there for you to talk to

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Teachers might feel a little less accessible than they did in high school. You’ll typically spend less time with them, and lessons tend to be less interactive (and more your teacher droning on for ages). Whilst independent study is important and initiative can score extra marks, there’s no need to be scared of asking teachers for extra support and advice. They’re there to help you, after all. Ask them about any exams, coursework or assignments you’re unsure about, and they’ll be happy to go through any of your essays and homework with you. They’ll probably be up for just a chat, too!

4) Clubs are great social and academic opportunities

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I was terrified of joining clubs… but I joined them anyway! Chances are your sixth form will shove extracurricular opportunities down your throat so it’ll be difficult to avoid, but always make time to check out clubs and societies. Sixth form should start off with a fair for clubs where you can check out all kinds of societies. You should be able to find something you’re interested in, even if it’s not something you considered before. I personally joined a writing club, a song-discussion club and even an archery club, which I’d never done before! Not only are these great for making friends with similar interests, but they’ll also look great on your CV.

5) You need to give yourself time to relax

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…Not whilst you have a list of essays to complete as long as your arm, of course, but once you’ve got everything you need out the way, you can take a well-deserved break. Studying your A-levels can be a stressful time; you’re potentially in a completely new environment with a greater workload and university looming over you. That’s why it’s important to settle down, calm down and not let the stress build up. If you’re feeling too panicked, though, you can always talk to friends and family, and your tutors will always be available for you to talk to – see if your sixth form has a counsellor.

Uni – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I have just returned from an open day at the University of Salford and have suddenly been struck by the realisation that uni isn’t actually that far away. It’s over a year away – I’d be starting September 2018 – but this first year at college has gone so fast that I’m a little overwhelmed. It’s honestly gone in the blink of an eye. University was unthinkable back in Year Seven, but then again, so were GCSEs. And I’ve already sat an AS level.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve had my heart set on living on campus. I would have never even considered this when I was in Year Eleven, but I’ve become more and more accustomed to the idea. I’m the opposite of an independent person, unfortunately, but I’m currently trying to change that. Uni seems like the perfect opportunity for a fresh start and to ultimately make me a more independent and confident person. Everyone will be in the same boat, separated from maybe lifelong friends for the first time and living away from home. Living on campus would immediately force adulthood on me – cooking, cleaning, shopping, making my own appointments and phone calls (I’m not the only person who still struggles with that, right?), and it’s being forced into situations that truly helps me. I find it all too easy to shy away from responsibility and conflict and settle in my comfort zone. I won’t be able to do this forever, and I believe university will be the perfect shock to my system.

It’s not like I need to live on campus. All of the universities I’m thinking of are close enough for me to make a reasonable commute – Lancaster, Bangor, Chester, and, of course, Salford – and this was a conscious decision. I don’t want to move in to East Anglia and suddenly realise I’m not cut out for living on my own, because that’ll be a bit messy. But I really want to get away from my town. Now, I can talk and have talked about how much I loathe my hometown for pages and pages, but let’s just say I feel stunted here. I feel like there are no opportunities. It’s a place void of hope. It’s home, but I don’t feel any attachment to it. I can’t wait to leave. Now, my mother often helpfully reminds me that there’s misery in every part of the country and if I want somewhere nice I’ll have to pay a lot for it, but that doesn’t deter me. I am determined to get away. Uni might be this first step.

It is costly, however. I’ve never had a job, and we’re not particularly wealthy. I’d like to think I’d get a job once I start uni, but that’s something I’m pretty anxious about. More than that, though, is that at this moment in time I am simply not ready for living on my own at uni. I could not do it in my position as of now. I lack a novel’s worth of skills and experience to handle it, although I have made significant progress over the past year. And look, I love my family, I love being around my family, I love being comfortable. I like the idea of change, but often struggle with it when it actually comes into effect.

That’s why I’ll really be making it my mission to develop the skills and confidence necessary for this over the rest of the year and the next. I’ve already had a go at it, but I have a lot of work to do. I truly believe if I push myself, however, I’ll be ready. Even if things don’t work out and I end up wanting/having to stay at home, at least I’ll still be a more confident person.