Results Day

I wasn’t going to write anything about Results Day because I’m in a very conflicted state of mind about my grades.  In one sense, I’m ecstatic – I got into my first choice uni on a course that I’m incredibly excited to start – but Results Day just felt so underwhelming after 2 years of hard work.

Throughout Sixth Form I’ve had a lot of problems with teachers; a lot of the staff at my school were very unambitious and really didn’t push us at all.  One of my teachers was absent a lot (I mean, a lot) and in Year 12, I had 4 different teachers for English Language due to maternity leaves/new jobs etc.  So it’s safe to say the actual teaching of my A Levels was unbalanced, at the very least.  Me, and several other students raised concerns – our parents did too, since we were going home so stressed about effectively having to teach ourselves large portions of the syllabus – to the extent of going to see the headteacher and yet…nothing changed.

The reason I’m so disappointed with my grades (one in particular) is purely because of the sheer amount of effort I put into teaching myself effectively half of 3 A Levels (I will admit, some of my teachers were fantastic and so helpful, but others were the binary opposite).  I’m not writing this post as a sob story or as an excuse for why I maybe didn’t do as well as I could have done.  I know full well that there was nothing more I personally could have done to get better grades.  My grades aren’t even bad, they’re just not what I was expecting or hoping for, and they’re really not reflective of the amount of time and effort I put into them.

Anyway.  C’est la vie.  I was one mark off an A in English Literature so I’m trying to get that remarked (although my school is being very unhelpful and so the earliest my papers will actually be sent off to be remarked is 21st August, a full 6 days after Results Day).  I’d really been hoping for an A* in English Literature (and honestly, I kind of expected one – English has always been my strong subject, I’d received full marks in my coursework and I came out of the exams feeling relatively confident – which maybe shows I need to not expect things and not take things for granted!!) and I worked so hard for one, since I’m going to be doing a degree in it, but I just don’t feel like my work paid off.  A B is still a good grade and I’m happy that I got it as it’s still allowed me to get to where I want to go next year; it’s just the perfectionist in me wanted higher.

I got into my favourite uni though, so I’m not really sure how much that annoying little B matters.  Next month I’m going to be studying English Literature at the University of York, and I’m so excited.  I’m so grateful too, because I really thought I wouldn’t get on to the course – they ask for an A minimum in English Literature, so I think I’ve scraped through by the skin of my teeth.  I’m worried I’m going to feel like an impostor because of this, even though I know I’m perfectly capable (I was only a mark off an A, after all) but I think when I meet new people who’ve all got As and A*s, I think I’ll be left feeling a little inferior.

** I want to add a little disclaimer before I end this post.  I’m well aware that the grades I received are good grades and by saying I’m unhappy with what I got, in no way am I trying to diminish their value.  I am a perfectionist, always have been and I’m fairly sure I always will be, and I’ve always set my hopes on being the best and getting the best grades etc.  Additionally, with the struggle of having to self-teach a big chunk of my A Levels, I feel annoyed at myself for not having been able to do a better job at teaching (which is ridiculous because it shouldn’t have been almost completely down to me in the first place) but there we are.  I think essentially, I’m greedy with perfectionism – I knew all along that if I didn’t get 3 a*s I’d be disappointed, but I also can’t really blame myself, because the teaching standards at my school honestly were shambolic.**

I hope this makes sense – I feel like I’ve rambled on a bit.  Whilst I feel like I could have (and maybe should have) done better, there was no way physically or mentally I could have done more revision, so at the very least I’m satisfied that I gave A Levels my best shot despite the numerous hurdles and proud that the grades I got are very good regardless.  I’m going to uni next month and I genuinely can’t wait, so I’m going to just try to forget about the monumental pain in the arse A Levels were and move on to bigger and better things (first class degree, here I come ;)…)

I hope if you got your results they were what you wanted! And even if they weren’t, like me you’ll end up where you’re meant to go anyway.  Maybe the most important thing A Levels have taught me is that education is crucial, but grades aren’t the be-all and end-all – the people around you and your own goals and ambitions are 🙂

 

Dear future me: stress self-care tips

I know that this academic year will undoubtedly be the most stressful and pressured year I’ve ever had so I thought, whilst I’m still relatively calm about exams, I’d write this post to Future Cara, because something tells me I’m going to need a few of these tips.

1. Exams are not the end of the world

Although it certainly feels like it, they’re not! There are other ways to where you want to be and everything will work out in the end so just…calm down.

2. You’re allowed to have a break

I used to feel guilty when I took breaks from revising because I felt like I needed to be revising and wouldn’t do as well as I could if I just carried on, but actually now I think it’s the opposite. Your body needs a break and you’ll feel so much better for letting it have one.

3. Completely switch off for a day

Sort of similar to point 2 but I’m going to plan to take full days off revision when A Levels come round – once a fortnight or something, not like every other night don’t worry! Have a movie marathon, go for a run, blog all day, have a day shopping, just do something that will completely take your mind off everything.

4. Stress is temporary

As soon as exams are over, you’ll have completely forgotten about them – the stress won’t last long in the grand scheme of things. Keep it in perspective!!

5. Have a set sleeping schedule

Because there’s nothing worse than being tired and knowing you have another 20 pages of revision to do. Set a time to finish revision, have 2 hours to yourself then go to bed early and you’ll feel so much more refreshed and ready.

6. Make sure you’re reading for fun as well as for school

If, like me, you read regularly, ensure you keep a book aside that has no relevance to school work. Reading is arguably one of the best forms of escapism.

Q&A: study edition

On my old Instagram account I used to receive a fair amount of questions relating to school, and after reading Hebah’s post (hebahpervaiz.co.uk) I decided to just compile a few of the questions I’ve most frequently been asked.

What GCSEs did you take and how did you do?

I took my GCSEs last summer in English Language, English Literature, Maths, Spanish, Geography, ICT, Art, Core Science and Additional Science. On results day I got 9, 8, 8, a*, a*, a*, a, a, a (in that order). I also got half a GCSE in Preparation for Working Life, literally the most pointless waste of time.

Which A Levels are you doing now?

I take English Language, English Literature and Geography.

Did you stay at your school for sixth form or move elsewhere?

I actually wrote a post about this a while ago (which you can read here) but I stayed at the school I’ve been at since Year 7, which was definitely the right choice! But take into account all the pros and cons of staying and moving, because for some people moving will be a lot more beneficial.

What tips do you have as a current sixth form student?

Stay on top of your work! Keep yourself organised!! Revise as you go!!!

What are your career ambitions?

Ahhh the dreaded question! I honestly wish I knew for definite what I’d like to be – some days it’s a journalist, others I wish I could just blog for a living, I’d also love to work for the UN…I just don’t know.

What is the best way to revise?

This is a tricky one because different methods work for different people. The way I revise best is copying notes and summarising them as well as using flash cards, but other people will find that the least helpful method, so I can’t speak for everyone! The best way to stay motivated to revise, I find, is making to do lists – I wrote a post on how I make them here.

What plans do you have for after school?

University hopefully, provided I get the grades!

So that concludes today’s post, I hope you enjoyed and maybe you found out a little more about me than you knew before. Are you still at school or sixth form? What subjects are you taking, and how are you finding them?

Cara xx

A life update

At the start of the summer holiday I said to myself that I was going to upload a blog post every other day 😂 whilst that hasn’t happened, rest assured I have been doing equally important things.

I’m currently in Spain on holiday and having such a good time, but I just got the urge to write something – a form of procrastination? Yes. I’ve brought some books I want to read for school as well as for my personal statement but ya know, it’s the holiday…I don’t have a lot of motivation right now. Anyway, blogging/writing counts?? I take 2 English a levels, surely it’s at least a relevant form of procrastination!

It’s Saturday as I write this, which means I have one week and 2 days left of the summer holidays, and I still have a lot to do. However, I’m also promising myself (and vowing that I will definitely not break this promise!) that I’m going to write at least 2 posts before the end, as a mini back-to-school series. I’ll definitely do a study-oriented Q&A and I have a few ideas for another post, but is there anything you’d be interested in hearing my opinion about? For context, I’m studying in the UK and about to go into year 13, and I study English lit, English Language and geography and I took my GCSEs last year. Leave me a comment, I’ll answer it regardless of whether I also write a post about it!

I bought my first bullet journal the other day and I’ve got to say, I’m possibly too excited about it. As soon as I get home (I didn’t bring it with me) I’m going to start setting it up because I just can’t wait until 2019! I’m hoping it’ll provide some motivation throughout the year and give me an accurate record of what’s possibly going to be the biggest year of my life – the year I turn 18, sit my A Levels and go to uni!

So…next year. I’m disappointed in myself, to be honest, that I don’t post on my blog more than twice a month or so, and I’m going to change that. Next year is going to be more pressurised but I also need to bear in mind that I’m allowed to switch off from school and indulge in hobbies, and therefore I’m going to be making a really conscious effort to post at least once a week. I think I’ll have a set day where a post will go live and then there may be extras throughout the week, so watch this space 😉

I’ve also set up a new Instagram account which may be a little drastic but I was just feeling a bit trapped with my other – if you’d like to give me a follow, you can find me @avo.cara.

Hope you’re having the best summer!!

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.

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!

Did you know?! You can also follow me on Bloglovin’ now: cara’s camera