Sixth Form – How to Make it Work for You
Starting Sixth Form or High School is unquestionably a big step up from what you’ve experienced at school so far – all the more reason to treat the transition as an opportunity for a fresh start. Here are our top tips for approaching the new term:
- Managing the “leap”
A great deal is made of the transition into further education, and students are told to expect it to be tough. The key difference between secondary school and sixth form, however, is not necessarily the difficulty of the work but rather the self-motivation required to keep track of everything. It is now your responsibility to manage your own workload, and once the initial relief of teachers no longer chasing you to meet your deadlines has worn off, it’s important to figure out how to make this new independence work for you.
- Start as you mean to go on
This will mean being fully engaged with all of your subjects from the start – there is no longer anyone to hassle you if you fall behind. Now is the time to establish good working habits – set aside extra study time, make to-do lists to help prioritize tasks, and make sure you ask questions if you’re not sure about something. It will be that much more difficult to catch up if you miss something early on, so make life easy for yourself and don’t allow that to happen.
- Get organized
Get yourself a planner, and actually use it. Come up with a system for managing your schedule that works for you, and use your planner to track your progress, noting techniques and tricks that have helped you as you go along. Having it as a reference can even be a useful device for remembering what you have learned – if you have a clear memory of a particular class, it can help to trigger your memory of the material you covered. And it sounds obvious, but write things down – keeping good notes is a real life skill, and a good one to master early.
- Get into a routine
Your timetable will be a little more flexible now, so you can use this time to work out what time of the day you prefer to study. Whether you are an early riser or prefer working into the night, this is a good thing to know about yourself, and it allows you to plan your timetable accordingly. Similarly, you may have a little more freedom of movement, so you can think about where you like to be when you study. Experiment with libraries, coffee shops, or even moving from your desk to the kitchen table – your study space can be crucial to your concentration and focus, so it’s good to have a number of options. However and wherever you do it, be sure to read over your notes each night, and study a little each day. Acquiring knowledge cumulatively will always be more effective than trying to cram at the last minute, so setting aside just a short amount of time daily will really help you in the long run.
- Make use of all available resources
When it comes to A Levels, you can also be more flexible in your study style – you will no longer just be relying on textbooks to get you through your courses, so you have more freedom to choose where your information comes from. You can access a wealth of revision guides and resources online, or you can usually borrow hard copies from your local library. Utilizing several different points of reference really helps to get your head around complex concepts, and approaching your syllabus proactively also makes it easier to absorb information.
- Build good relationships with your teachers
Whether you’re staying on at your secondary school or moving elsewhere for Sixth Form, your relationships with your teachers become less formal and more important at this stage, so it’s important to make a good impression. Often it just takes one great teacher to set you on the path towards your future, whether it’s by inspiring you with a passion for a new subject or by giving you sound advice about university applications, so now is the time to start paying attention. Also remember that your teachers will be writing your references in a year’s time – demonstrating an impressive attitude and a commitment to hard work will stand you in very good stead.
- Remember: everyone learns differently, and everyone socializes differently
Your environment changes a lot at Sixth Form, both in the classroom and outside of it. It’s important to try to find a good balance between academic work and social commitments, and, crucially, to try not to compare yourself to your peers. Now is a good time to work out your own strengths and weaknesses, and to learn how to put them into perspective. There will be times when it feels like you’re barely managing while things seem to come much more easily to others. Try to remember that you are not alone; almost everyone feels this way from time to time, and it can be a steep learning curve. You will do a huge amount of growing up in this short period of time, intellectually, socially and personally, so try to be kind to yourself and focus on your successes rather than obsessing when you feel like you have failed. Think of this time as a dress rehearsal – you are now more responsible for your own education and choices, but help and guidance are also available to assist you along your way. Take advantage of all this time has to offer, and above all try to enjoy it!