10 Tips For Anyone Starting College/Sixth Form | Emily Bashforth

10 Tips For Anyone Starting College/Sixth Form


College. The dreaded C word. You've survived your first day at nursery, first day at primary school, first day at high school but your first day of college just seems like the end of the world. A new environment? With new teachers? Having to make new friends? Whilst studying new subjects that are going to be difficult? How could one possibly make it out alive. Well, I'm here to tell you that you can.
I survived A-levels (somehow) and so wanted to pass my pearls of wisdom onto anyone who is about to start college, or even just a new school, in the form of ten top tips. These are things I wish somebody told me before I stepped anxiously through those college doors on the first day back in September 2015.

1) Don't listen to the myths
Prior to me leaving high school, my teachers painted a really toxic image of college inside of my head. I was told that the teachers weren't going to help me, that the work load was going to be overwhelming and I wouldn't have any free time because A-levels were just going to be so difficult. Of course, they tell you these things to prepare you for the worst case scenario and in a bid to make you become more independent and work hard. However, the idea I had of college before I started was the opposite of the reality. In fact, the teachers helped me more than I could've ever wanted, yes the subjects were difficult at times, but that's like anything in life, there was a lot of work but it was manageable and I did have free time because I kept on top of everything. College isn't as big and scary as your teachers, parents or the movies sometimes make out. The experience is what you make it so go in with an open mind, think positively and make your own mind up on college. Don't allow everyone else's bad experiences or out of date myths to consume you. Don't get yourself worked up over college, so much so that you start hating it before the Summer holidays are even over. Honestly, take it from me, college is scary at first but it really isn't that bad. Okay, it isn't exactly like East High in the High School Musical movies, but it's survivable.

2) Don't worry...everyone is in the same boat!
When you're stressing about a test the night before, when you miss a homework deadline, when you're stressing over exams, when you're fretting about what to wear, when you're feeling left out of a friendship group, when you're struggling to understand things in class, when your locker door won't open, when your stomach starts rumbling in lesson because you didn't eat at lunch time...don't worry! These are all normal things which everyone experiences throughout college. When you're feeling isolated and as if your whole future is going to go down the pan because you haven't revised for a mock exam, remind yourself that everyone else probably feels the exact same. Find comfort in the fact that college can be a stressful time for everyone. You are never alone and, at the end of the day, there will always somebody for you to confide in when times get tough. You're all on the same roller coaster together, so carry one another through. Pick each other up and cry with one another when it's necessary.

3) Start revising early
Two years at college may seem like a long time but, in all honesty, it flies by. So, start revising early. Go back over your notes after each lesson to ensure you fully understand what you learnt that day. Make mind maps, revision cards and summary sheets after each topic so that, when it comes to actual exam season, you'll have all the materials you need to just read over the facts and won't have to worry about reading ten textbooks the night before. The information you need to know is more likely to stick in your mind if you keep going over it, slowly, from the beginning than if you attempt to cram a whole two year's worth of revision in the night before the final exam. Exams are worrisome enough so try to take the pressure off a little by putting the work in. Revision doesn't need to consume you and I'm not saying you have to sacrifice your social life to do homework, but do little bursts of studying often from the get go. It may feel laborious but you'll thank yourself for it.

4) Utilise your study periods
A great way to squeeze in that revision is by utilising your study periods. At college, you should have some free time, unlike when you were doing your GCSEs and had to do all of your work at home. These free sessions are the perfect opportunity for you to revisit what you've been taught and soak it all up. Plus, you can get your homework out of the way which results in you having free time at home. Of course, sometimes you'll just feel like socialising with friends, scrolling through social media, having a nap or stuffing your face with food during a study period, and that's okay! It's good to take breaks and you should never feel under constant pressure to be working 24/7, however, don't take free time for granted because, before you know it, exam season will be upon you.

5) Wear what the heck you like
Starting college usually means saying goodbye to a school uniform, which is liberating in a way but it's also terrifying. Wearing your own clothes? Every day? From your own wardrobe? A-levels are stressful enough, surely? But, trust me, what you wear probably only matters for the first day, after that, nobody cares. Same outfit three days in a row? Everyone's doing it. Living in mismatch tracksuits with messy hair and no make-up? Everyone's doing that too. Try not to worry so much about your clothes because, alas, a killer outfit isn't going to get you an A grade. Likewise, if there's something you really want to wear but aren't confident enough to do so, just wear it! College is the perfect time to start stepping outside of your comfort zone so experiment with your style and don't worry about what anyone else thinks of it. Besides, they're all just worrying about themselves and whether anyone has noticed if they're wearing the same ketchup stained t-shirt that they wore yesterday.

6) Low grades are okay! Go easy on yourself
The jump from GCSEs to A-levels is a big one so don't get too upset if you finished high school with 10 A*s but get an E in your first college test. The content is more challenging, you may be studying subjects which you didn't take at GCSE level and you're in a whole new environment. Go easy on yourself and don't put pressure on yourself to get the top  grades each time. Do the work. Try your best. And what will be, will be. Of course, if you're struggling, always ask for help because, despite what the myths tell you, the teachers want you to do well and they want to support you. There's no shame in asking for extra tutoring sessions or a private chat about your grades - they will help you in the long run. But just remember that a low grade isn't the end of the world, whether you get one at the beginning of college or at the end. Ultimately, grades do not define you.

7) All the hard work will be worth it in the end
The sleepless nights, the early morning, the extra revisions sessions, the multiple times you've had to cancel on your friends, the low grades...everything will be worth it in the end. If you put the work in, you will see results. Even if you don't finish college with the highest grades in your A-levels, all the effort you put in will still be worth it! You see, college isn't just about learning new subjects to get good grades, it's also about learning about yourself as a person. It's a chance to explore yourself and your identity. It's a chance to try new things and gain experiences. The whole two years will be worth it, regardless of your grades, because they will have taught you things about yourself, placed you on a path towards self discovery and will have assisted you in being the best version of yourself. High grades are just a bonus.

8) It's only two years of your whole life
If you hate college, just remember it's only two years of your whole life. You will be out of there in no time and free to explore the big adult world. Although, if you love college, also remember that it's only two years of your whole life. It will fly by so make the most of it by talking to new people, pushing yourself to try different things and by simply fully absorbing every aspect of college life. However you feel about college, the bottom line is, it won't last forever, so use that to either motivate you to get out of bed each morning or to really live life to the full.

9) Don't feel pressured to choose a path at such a young age
College lasts between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, usually, which is terribly young. Towards the end of your first year, you'll be asked to think about the future. You'll be asked to place yourself firmly on a path and decide which career you want to pursue. Do you want to go to university? Take a gap year? Stay at college for another year? Take up an apprenticeship? Get a job? There are so many options and it's incredibly daunting, especially when the choice you make may affect your whole future. Don't let anyone rush you into anything and don't feel forced to do something because you feel like that's what you're supposed to do. Weigh up all of your options carefully, take your time, really consider what is going to be best for you, get advice and know that it's okay to change your mind. Whatever you decide to do, ensure it's going to make you happy, both in the present moment and in the long run. If you can't pick a career just now, that's fine. Take some time out to find yourself. Only you will know what's best for your situation. Besides, nobody, even all the big scary grown ups, knows what they want to do with their lives, not really. Honestly, nobody has a clue what they're doing.

10) ENJOY IT!
Tired mornings, heavy work loads, exam stress and friendship dramas aside, try your best to enjoy college. You won't get this opportunity again and many aren't as fortunate to be in your position. Many don't have an education at all so appreciate how lucky you are to be learning something new every day. It will all be over before you know it so try to find some happiness amid the stress and try to let your hair down every once in a while. College is a truly unique experience.

I hope some of this advice helped. What are your top tips for starting college/sixth form? 
If you're starting this year, good luck. You've got this. <3

Love, Emily :) xx

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