We're now a couple of weeks into the new school year, and for many around the country, this is their first year in college/post-16/sixth form. As a Year 13 student, looking back there are a few things I wish I'd know during Year 12, and some things my friends wished they'd known, and so I felt that this would be helpful for anyone in Year 12 wanting to know how to make the most of this year.
KEEP A LIST OF EVERYTHING YOU DO
And I mean EVERYTHING. This will be an invaluable resource for you when it comes to applying for university, apprenticeships, or future jobs. This was something I had done throughout school, but many of my peers had not, and made it difficult for them to remember what they had done when they had to demonstrate how they have gained specific skills or how they have showed an interest in their desired university course. If you don't already have a list, start trying to remember now things you've done in Year 9/10/11 and keep it safe. Anything from extra-curriculars, work experience, your own research, competitions, awards, hobbies etc - and if you can maybe list the skills you have developed next to them. Trust me, it will make your life a LOT easier.
2. TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY
Linking closely with number 1, please take every opportunity you can. Even if you feel like it's 'uncool' or you 'can't be bothered', you're only going to disadvantage yourself by not taking part. I have a little anecdote for you, when I was in Year 11 everyone in Year 10 - 13 was offered the chance to attend a talk at school from two women who had finished their law degrees and were now on their way to becoming qualified solicitors. As someone interested in a legal career, I immediately signed up for this. Many people in these year groups were also interested in law and so I imagined there would be quite a few people attending. I was very wrong. There were 2. Me, and my friend. But this session was so so so so soooo useful, I was able to ask all of my questions, as well as learn more about progressing into this career and what a law career looked like. This was something that a) I am able to mention on different applications to demonstrate an interest in law, and b) only an hour of my time that was extremely beneficial, which a lot of people missed out on. Do anything and everything you can from joining in at school concerts, to signing up to work experience in the holidays or over the weekends. Anything you do will benefit you massively in the future. I have seen a massive distinction between myself and my peers who have never been involved in anything when we have had sessions on writing CV's and personal statements. Don't let yourself be the reason you struggle.
(This goes without saying that doing 'anything and everything you can' will look different for everyone, everyone's situations are different but even if you do one thing, it will set you apart from someone who has done nothing because they just 'can't be bothered').
3. TIME MANAGEMENT & PRIORITISATION
Time management and being able to prioritise are things that you will need to be able to do for your entire life. I am creating a whole post about managing your time during Year 12 which will be available soon. But, if you don't stay on top of your work, it will soon catch up to you and you will find yourself struggling. Everyone's been there and have sometimes left things to the last minute, but try to avoid being that person. It is not fun and means you are without a social life/much free time until you are caught up. Whilst I didn't find there to be a massive jump immediately in subject difficulty (my school eased us into the harder content), I did find there to be a big jump immediately in workload, lesson pace, and the content covered in a lesson in comparison to secondary school. STAY ON TOP OF YOUR TIME.
4. ENJOY THE SOCIAL ASPECT
Whilst it is important to focus on your academics, try to enjoy the social aspect and freedom that comes with college. Unfortunately for me and Year 13's across the country, I spent 4 months of Year 12 in lockdowns (November 2020, and January to March 2021), along with constant restrictions until June/July 2021 which meant we weren't allowed to go to the Post 16 common room before or after school, after our last lesson we had to leave site, no extra-curriculars etc. So enjoy the social aspect while you can because Year 13 will mean a more study-focused approach than Year 12.
5. MAKE RESOURCES AS YOU GO
If you take one thing from this post, let it be this, make your revision resources as you go and keep on top of your notes. If you're studying English Lit, make quote flashcards after each lesson. If you're studying Maths, make resources for formulas and different chapters as you go. This is something I started doing well to begin with, slacked on after a couple of months, and then regretted slacking on during my mock exam prep. Trust me on this one, it will save you so much stress and time, and mean you don't have to spend your half-term doing work that could've already been done.
6. TAKE YOUR MOCKS SERIOUSLY
Now, if the past two years have shown anything, it's that our teachers are right: mocks do matter. Whilst it shouldn't be the case anymore that they determine your actual outcome, they do help you tremendously in emulating the actual A-Level exam experience, just like they did at GCSE. Along with this, they also help with your predicted grade going into Year 13, and for yourself to know where you're at. By really working hard for them you get to know where your strong and weak areas are so you have time to improve between then and the end of Year 13.
Hope this helped!
Speak to you soon...