Thursday, 31 August 2017

A Level Survival Guide - How to endure two awful years!

It is common knowledge that A Levels are hard. It is also common knowledge that the jump from GCSEs to A Levels is more like a leap of faith. However, what isn't common knowledge is how to land on both feet, after you jump into the abyss.

The Choice
Your choice of A Levels itself will be a huge determining factor to how easily you manage. During these two years, you will see your strengths more explicitly than ever before as well as your weaknesses. By choosing subjects that you love, rather than ones you think you should choose you'll drastically reduce your chance of failure. For example, I always knew that no matter what I would choose English Literature for A Level. Despite the hell that this subject has put me through, it is still a firm favourite of mine. My biggest regret is that I didn't choose my other subjects with the same passion. Selecting a subject you're already not the biggest fan of, is the sure way of ruining your own studies because the chance of you liking it over the next two years is little to none.

Hit the ground running and keep running
The first term of studying A Levels (September - December) is arguably the trickiest in that it may shock you. I found that for me, personally, the GCSE to A Level jump was more of an issue of workload rather than difficulty. The amount of work you're expected to do and retain information from is intense, particularly coming off one of the longest summer breaks you'll have had to this point. Having said this, I would argue that the hardest term in both years is the second. It is easy to start the year with a high level of organisation, motivation and energy, however, it is immensely difficult to keep that work ethic consistent after Christmas. Be prepared to give yourself that kick to ensure you stay on the right path, the second term of your second year will be a killer.

The Balance
One of the trickiest parts of these two years is the balance between your social life, your school life and any extra activities you may do. Although this won't be what you want to hear, I'll say it anyway - prioritise school! I juggled a part time job (12 hours/week), 7 or so hours of volunteering per week and sixth form. The balance is possible but it may be at the sacrifice of your grades. I always wonder if I hadn't tried to do all three in the second year, would the outcomes be any different. But, the truth is I gained valuable experience that I wouldn't change for the world. You have to decide for yourself whether going out every weekend is something you desperately have to do, or can it be more of an occasional treat. You will see people who go out every weekend and still get AAA at the end, but be realistic about your own abilities and be willing to sacrifice the social life every now and again.

When in class, ensure that you write down everything. Don't bother fooling yourself into believing that you'll remember, you won't. Make sure the way in which you are note-taking is clear and that you'd understand it regardless of your attendance to that class, e.g. would a classmate asking you for your notes to catch up on understand? If the answer is no, change it. Every subject requires a slightly different form of note-taking, you'll quickly recognise which technique works best so my biggest advice for organisation would be not to go in with preconceived notions. If you go in with an idea of how you'll organise your work, you'll end up buying 50 folders trying to change the system in October half term.

Have Fun
It is not a sin to enjoy the pleasures of life once in a while. Organise something with your friends when you feel the stress is getting too intense. Any sort of break from A Levels will be a holiday for your mental health. School is important but place your mental health at the foremost of all your actions. Don't let yourself break for the sake of grades.

There is no easy way to say that the next two years of your life will be a struggle. I'd go as far as saying that they were the worst two years of my life. But just remember, that it will pass. This time isn't forever so give it your all so you leave with fewer regrets.

If you've read this far and you still have any concerns give me a shout in the comments and I'd be more than happy to answer any questions regarding the new A Level syllabus, University Applications, University Entrance Exams or even applying for part time work.

Aida x


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