12 things I’ve learned in Year 12

I think some apologies are in order.

I haven’t posted in what feels like about a month – it may be more to be honest – because I’ve had one of the busiest months in the history of humankind. Ever. But it’s nearly summer, my hectic few weeks have died down and so I have some time to write at long last!

Since the school year is winding down (finally!! I need a break) bringing my first year of sixth form to a close, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned from it: academia aside, I’ve learned a heck of a lot.

1. Your friendship group will change so much.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that around the end of year 11 I had a few friendship issues so naturally I was apprehensive about starting sixth form with really, only good acquaintances instead of a group of best friends. I was also worried about who would be in all my new classes, and whether I’d be able to fit into a group – I can only speak from my experiences at my school, but there were definitely some very defined cliques in my year, and if you weren’t originally part of them it was kind of hard to be accepted. However, a lot of the silly childish pettiness of year 11 diminishes and actually people are a lot more willing to make friends with each other – I’ve become part of a completely new group of friends and I hardly see or speak to the people I thought I was friends with in Year 11 (wow how snakey does that sound!?)

2. It will go SO quickly.

My teachers kept telling us this at the start of the year and I didn’t believe them to be honest – I thought with the increased workload it would drag! But they were so right; it feels like it should still be about February time!! I’d say to just enjoy every day as it comes because even though some do drag, the first year will fly by.

3. A lot of the pettiness and judginess will have gone.

From my year 11 class of around 250 students, only around 120 have stayed for our sixth form (some went to colleges, some went to other sixth forms etc). You’ll find that it’s mainly the mature and sensible people who’ll stay which makes it a nice environment to be in, and it’s a lot less judgemental than year 11 – people now are more like “hey, whatever, you know, she wants to wear that, let her wear it” if you get me?! Everybody seems to accept each other a little bit more, which is SUCH a relief, let me tell you!

4. Start your uni application early!!!!

Trust me, your teachers will start talking about university on the very first day, but if you actually take some notice of that (I didn’t haha, big mistake) you’ll find the whole UCAS process much easier. Yes, there’s a limit to how much you can do in preparation – it depends on when your school gets the UCAS buzzword sorted, for starters – but start researching early and begin your personal statement ASAP. As well, for some unis (especially for competitive courses or Russell Group unis) you need to have work experience before a uni will even consider your application, so get going! I’m currently in the slightly sticky situation of knowing exactly where and what I’m applying to, but I haven’t even started my personal statement…😅 I’d say try to get a first draft done in May or June time and then you know you’re on the way to getting sorted.

5. Another thing every teacher will tell you – organisation is key!

I have a few quite simple (I think) tricks that’ll hopefully help you to stay organised:

• colour code your folders – I have 2 folders for each subject, one for my notes in school and one for revision and past papers, and each subject has a specific colour. This makes it so easy to grab a folder when I’m late (often) and saves me getting confused.

• Have a completely separate notebook to record all of your homework and other deadlines in – then you know exactly where everything is written down.

• When revising, start early; there’s more to get through than you first realise! Also make plans of exactly what you’re going to revise and when, because then you see the full extent of what you need to do, and you’re able to plan it around your days.

6. Classes are small, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fun!

During the summer after my GCSEs I had this terrifying thought that all of the fun people would have left and so lessons would be really boring. This isn’t the case at all! Class sizes are a lot smaller (or they are at my school, at least), but we still laugh and joke around, it’s not just work, work, work.

7. Revise what you’re learning as you’re learning it

That sounds a little bit paradoxical, even to me as the writer…but as you learn things in class, make your notes, ensure you understand the concepts, make flash cards etc as you go. It will make revising for mocks or the actual exams a lot easier, because you’ll just have to remind yourself of the content instead of learn it for the first time.

8. The academic jump isn’t as terrifying as everyone makes out.

Honestly, it’s not! I’d heard horror stories of people who’d got all A*s at GCSE failing each and every one of their A Levels…it’s not true! There is, admittedly, a jump – but that’s expected! From my own personal experience, I haven’t found that the content itself is much more difficult, the issue is there’s just so much more of it, although I think that’s quite a subject-dependent view: a lot of my friends take maths a level (they’re the complete opposite to me, haha) and it just looks like a foreign language, IMHO. Some subjects (I’m thinking STEM subjects particularly) will have more of a step-up in the academic level, whereas some, like English, will just have pages worth of content (pun intended!). Nevertheless, don’t let that put you off – you have free periods, remember, and teachers know that you have other commitments too.

9. Punch hole reinforces will change your life

I’ve got to give my mum some credit for introducing me to these, because otherwise my folders would have been in a right state! They’re basically small vinyl circles (a little bit like sellotape) that you stick around the holes in refill pads to make them stronger and they’ve saved me and my notes so many times!

10. You become a lot more aware of what you can do.

In Year 11 I definitely thought I’d be the stereotypical head girl next year, volunteering 3 days a week, running the school newspaper, working 8 hours each weekend and doing charity work whilst simultaneously getting all a*s – you know, that girl haha – but sixth form really teaches you how to prioritise and not to bite off more than you can chew (and actually, I don’t do a single one of the things I thought I would!) yes, the social life/fun stuff of sixth form is great, like the opportunity of running clubs for lower years etc, but at the end of the day you go to school to learn and eventually pass exams, and they should be the priority. By no means am I saying ‘do nothing but work’, but you learn pretty quickly that actually, A Levels are time consuming and you need time off too, so you’re not going to be able to fit everything in – don’t aim to be doing every single extra-curricular activity going!!

11. Read around.

This is one of the phrases that teachers will say repeatedly, throughout your entire time at sixth form, so you might as well concede to what they’re saying early as it is quite helpful! For each subject you’ll probably have a textbook that your teacher/school recommends, but maybe also buy another or borrow a different book from the library so that you have multiple resources to reference in your notes. It also really helps if you don’t quite grasp something – often, if you read it written in a different way it’ll just click instantly (lol this has happened loads to me with geography)

12. You will honestly have such a good time.

Enjoy it; I know sometimes it’ll be a bit of a drag, but you’ll look back and think that it’s been amazing. I only have one year left and I’m already dreading leaving.

The book club: March

It’s finally the Easter holidays and my aim is to have read at least 2 books by the end, so hopefully next month’s post will be full with mini book reviews!! This month I’ve really enjoyed The Power, by Naomi Alderman – it was such a gripping storyline, I’d read it within days!

If you’re an astute reader of mine (actually, you don’t even have to be that astute because I say it practically every other sentence), my dream uni is Cambridge to do a degree in Linguistics, so I’ve been fuelling my interest in that this month by finally getting round to finishing Linguistics – A Very Short Introduction, by PH Matthews. I’m entering an essay competition and I’m hoping that reading around the subject a lot will help me with that, and in turn with my UCAS personal statement.

Next week we’re going to Stratford upon Avon so I felt it only right to delve into Hamlet, and I’m also going to start The Picture of Dorian Gray within the next few days which I’m really excited to read!

A little study with me

Hey! I only had one lesson today, and that was period one, so I was able to come home early and do some more of my own studying, and I thought it’d be cool to write it up as a Study with Me – I see a lot of these sorts of videos on YouTube but since writing (at the moment) is more my thing, I decided to just put it on my blog.

So, I had English Language today and that was my first and only lesson. After it had finished, I went to my school’s study centre to do a bit of englang revision (englang = English language) just because we have a test coming up next week, so I thought I’d do some now in case I don’t have time this weekend. I actually had to finish this at home because I underestimated how much content there is in the language and gender topic, I seem to have endless theories to learn!!

When I got home, I put the final touches to the englang revision, ate some lunch and watched a few videos on YouTube, then got straight back into studying. I first finished off an essay I needed to do – a comparison on Frankenstein and The Handmaid’s Tale – for englit, and then I completed a speech I had to write as a mock englang coursework piece.

My next job was to relax for a little while, because that essay had taken it out of me! I felt it was quite an awkward question and my answer was a bit woolly because the only valid points I had all kind of stemmed from each other, so I feel as though I’ve practically written the same point in 3 different paragraphs 😂 hopefully it’ll be ok though!

(Mini shoutout to myself – my instagram is @carascam!)

Next week I have 3 assessments in various subjects, but I’m most apprehensive for geography since it’s so precise and technical, and there’s so much to learn. I decided my time would be spent most wisely revising the Coasts topic of my geography A Level so I did that for a while, and then I just re-read through the englang notes for a second time to make sure I’d fully absorbed them.

I called it a day at that point – my way of gauging when to have breaks is how much my back hurts, because my posture is so bad when I’m concentrating! I just forget to sit up straight so I end up slumping; I decided to go downstairs and watch TV whilst doing some gentle stretches to loosen up. I was going to also put some revision notes onto Quizlet, but as it’s nearly 8 o’clock now and I haven’t done that, I think I’ll give it a miss for today 😉

Let me know if you liked this post and would like to see more similar to it – I’m struggling for ideas again at the moment, and even worse I’m struggling for time to think of ideas!!

Study motivation + the best revision apps

It’s getting to that time of the year where exams suddenly seem terrifyingly close – there’s only 1 full month left now until the A-Level exams start, since today is March 1st!! With that in mind, I figured we’d all need a bit of study motivation…myself included: even though I don’t have actual exams, mock exams are heading my way and I need to do everything I can to prepare properly 🙃

  1. Drink lots of water – maybe this isn’t strictly motivation, but you’ll definitely feel a lot better if you’re hydrated when you’re studying, plus your brain will be more awake so you’ll absorb more information in a shorter space of time.
  2. Don’t panic!! You can do this, I promise! Exams do seem daunting, and they are, but keep reminding yourself that you’re going to ace them and they’ll be over soon enough.
  3. Try lots of styles of revision – some will work for you, some won’t. Weirdly, I’m finding that now, halfway through year 12, a technique is really working for me that last year when I was revising for my GCSEs I wouldn’t have gone near (but I’ll explain that in the apps section in a little while). If you’re bored whilst revising, you’re going to lose concentration so make it fun for yourself! Give yourself regular breaks and treats – I ate a lot of chocolate last summer…😉
  4. Think of why you’re doing this – what’s the bigger picture? I always find thinking of my future uni a somewhat intimidating but definitely motivating mental image to keep referring to.
  5. Strive for the best you can achieve – whilst there are more important things in life than exams (I can’t stress that enough!), they do give you a good grounding and knowledge, and since you only get one go at them, you might as well give them 100%!
  6. Don’t stay up too late thinking about schoolwork – this is ironic, since I’m writing this post at 9.30pm…

When I was revising last year for my GCSEs my favourite technique was to just rewrite my notes and reread them again and again, which, although it worked, was a pain since I was going through notebooks at an astonishing rate! Plus my hand felt like it was constantly about to drop off because I’d written so much, but I felt that physically writing notes down was the only way to properly revise. I stayed right away from online textbooks, ebooks and videos because I just wasn’t comfortable revising through a screen, but this year I’ve actually found using some apps a real bonus to my studies.

  • Forest

Forest is a brilliant app with such a simple concept, yet it’s so effective – you set a timer for how long you want to concentrate for and then can’t leave the app until the time is up, else your tree will die 😦 not only can you grow virtual trees but eventually they translate into real trees being planted in Sub Saharan Africa which is SUCH a great idea.

The other great thing about this app is that you’re rewarded for meeting your target time in coins, which you can spend on prettied trees and ASMR-worthy noises which relax and stimulate your brain in a white-noise effect. I’m currently saving up for the cherry tree which I’m very excited for 😝 the only downside to this app is that it’s £1.99 on the App Store but free on the Play Store, which is a bit of a con – I don’t know if that’s Apple or the app developers who just want to make some more money from it, but I would still definitely recommend paying £1.99 for it because it truly increases your motivation and concentration.

  • Duolingo

Probably the most popular languages app in the world, but Duolingo makes learning languages easy and accessible but also fun – especially for people like me who aren’t studying a language in depth at school. My only negative of Duolingo is the daily pushy reminder system which gets on my nerves a little bit, but sometimes all you need is an extra boost. (Saying that, I’ve lost my streak, so that’s a shame 😂)

  • Quizlet

Quizlet is a relatively new discovery of mine but I can tell this is going to help me so much nearer to my exams! You can input information onto virtual flash cards or use sets already online – and the great thing is, they’re all there stored on the app all the time! You can also change the format so that you’re being tested or you have to match pairs up which is a cool idea, and definitely brings a little excitement to revision.

So – my top tips for motivating yourself to study: make it fun! Try to savour it (yes, I know that sounds crazy, but you do only get one go at exams so make them count) but don’t panic, and remember that you don’t need to study 24/7 to succeed. Take it easy and you’ll be fine 😊 if you use any of these apps (or any others!) let me know because I’d be really interested!

Cara xx

Sixth form or college?

The decision to go to go to sixth form or college is tricky enough, without having to contend with other questions – do you move sixth forms? Which college? Art college? Normal college? Which subjects?! It feels like the decisions are endless so I’m here today to just share my opinion with you! Obviously, the decision I made is not a one-size-fits-all choice but it’s never a bad thing finding out someone else’s opinion, and especially not somebody who’s only recently gone through the experience!

So – me. I was fortunate enough to get the grades needed to go to a sixth form, starting September 2017. In my area there are quite a few – the one joining to the school I was already at, a joint sixth form between two schools in the nearby town which has around 1500 students (!!) and 2 others, although the only ones I really considered were the first two. Similarly, there are three colleges nearby, plus an art college and an art uni. I picked the sixth form adjoined to the school I’d been at since year 7, and I feel very happy here, but I’ll go through the processes of my experience later.

I didn’t really consider college because I felt that a sixth form would be more structured and personal, and the impression I get from my friends who decided to go to a college is that it’s so much more independent and co-existent – whereas I know 95% of everything about 95% of the people in my classes, you’re lucky to get to know 5% of the people there. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing: a fresh start is sometimes exactly what I feel like I need! But I figured that the workload would be tough enough as it is, nevertheless trying to make new friends, getting to know my way around the campus etc – but again, if you feel like a fresh, more liberating start is what you need, college is a perfect way to get this.

I don’t know if this is just my school, but the vibe I got was that’s it’s a *softer* option to go to an art college, and therefore we, as students, were given virtually next-to-no information. The whole application process revolved mainly around attending the sixth form linked to the main school, and every assembly we had about post-16 options was just our sixth form being sold to us. Obviously, I know as a school they need lots of students but I also felt it was quite unfair for people who definitely knew they wouldn’t be going to our sixth form, or any sixth form – although I personally wasn’t considering any option except sixth form, some of my friends were and they felt they weren’t getting the right information. That’s partially the reason I’m writing this post – if this is an occurrence in most schools then I feel compelled to give at least my experience of the system! If you’re not looking at sixth forms, I would definitely, definitely recommend going to as many open days as possible, looking at reviews of colleges/art unis online, getting hold of prospectuses or try and get in touch with current or ex-students to get a feel for the place. Schools try to persuade you to stay at sixth form, particularly their sixth form, but if you don’t feel it’s right for you, don’t be sucked into feeling you have to go there.

Maybe you have an idea of where you’re going to go next year, but you’re stuck for what subjects you’re going to take? I found this to be the biggest problem I had, and I also struggled somewhat in the first few weeks of September. The best advice I can give here is just take the subjects you enjoy, because honestly, it’s so important! Sixth form or college takes up 2 years of your life so you might as well choose subjects that you like.

Saying that, it’s also important to bear your post-18 choices in mind. If you’re like me, you’ll know kiiiinda where you want to end up but not really, so don’t let this completely sway your decision. It’s a good time now to start thinking about what uni you’d like to go to – if you’d like to go to uni, that is – and what subjects you’d need for courses there, or what job or apprenticeship you’d like, but I like to think that you’ll end up doing what you were meant to do by making any choice. My point there is that even if at the time maybe you’re unsure of your subject choices, don’t stress too much about them – yes, they’re important, but you’ll end up where you want to go regardless.

I feel like I’m quite an *experienced* person to talk about A-Level choices, since I’ve dropped 2!! I started in September taking English Lit, Biology, Geography and Art, then really disliked Biology and swapped that for English Language – which quickly became my favourite subject! In about November I think, I also considered dropping Art, which I followed through with at the beginning of January, because I felt it was more important to concentrate on 3 subjects. Whilst I do miss the creative subject, I enjoy the more academic-based subjects more, so I think dropping Art was the right decision. My story shows that even 4 months into a course there’s still leniency – if you’re not happy, there’s no point forcing it, so don’t think your decision is the be-all and end-all.

I hope this post perhaps steers your mindset a little bit closer to a decision: I know it’s tricky – you haven’t even sat your GCSEs yet, never mind got the grades to go to sixth form or college! Whatever you do can be changed so remember that – your final decision might not actually be your final decision!

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