Deciding on your A levels

Thursday 19 December 2019, Applicant

by Charlotte Stevenson

Deciding on your A levels

Charlotte Stevenson

Recently I have discussed the transition from GCSE to A level, and also what to consider when aiming for your degree - what to choose then, so I figured it was only fair to write about the in between stage which is, if anything, one of the more important aspects of the transition. The whole two years of sixth form is intense studying which in the end can be seen for how brief it really is, so it is important to make the most of it in the subjects you choose. When choosing your A levels, remember that they are probably going to affect what it is that you are able to apply for and study at university. When I was choosing my A levels, I knew that I wanted to study music and knew which subjects I needed to do and which others I wanted to choose because I already held an interest in them and had some level of knowledge maintained from GCSE level. Remember this when you are choosing, and choose wisely:

1. Find a college which has a good reputation
If you know your chosen field already, then you can look for a college which can boast a large number and wide range of highly specialised teachers and past students. Of course you will always do well if you work hard, no matter where you study, but it is helpful to be in the right kind of environment to provide motivation through information that will keep you on your toes and teachers who are able to provide you with further material to encourage you to ask the questions you want answers to. Inspiration is one of the biggest things that we can see as a recurrent figure in some of the inventors of the past - everyone from Darwin to Schubert had a good education and because of this was able to build on their thoughts from there, excelling all prior expectation.

2. Don't choose because of others
Don't just copy what your friends are doing, or choose a subject because you liked the teacher who taught you at GCSE - these two are some of the biggest problems. You will be in a new environment at college, and this is the first time you are going to be truly tested to see if you can stand on your own two feet. Choosing because of others will not work because we are all different. You have your own interests, even if you might be confused about some of them at the difficult time of A level - but you can learn more about these over the summer, by researching, reading and so on. You will unlock those interests as long as you look for them and you can always change the  A levels you have chosen in your first or second week if you decide you have made some kind of error in your choosing and would like to re consider. You can give yourself that chance, but don't be too afraid to do it. Independence is a great burden as well as an important responsibility to learn to take on and sixth form/ college is going to help you a lot with that.

3. Consider possibility
As well as choosing subjects you are interested in, and making sure you are choosing what you want to study and aren't just copying what your friends want to do, remember that you are human - it is only possible to do so much work. Being in such an intense work environment, it can at times be difficult to find that balance between your home/social life and your work life, but it is possible. The best approach is having a schedule which you can keep well organised, but also remembering how stressful exam time was and bearing that in mind when you choose your A levels. Find subjects which you feel you have enough time for - this means the number of them too. I only studied 3 A levels, although I initially wanted to choose 4, but this work load wasn't something I could cope with with everything else that was going on in my life, particularly as as well as music activities, my grandfather was very sick and I had to help my grandmother look after him. Not all cases are so extreme, but do consider time and work load when choosing your topics.

4. Taster/ Open days
Your chosen college or sixth form should be open to new prospective students for several different days throughout the academic year, especially nearer to or during summer. Some of these may be invitation days, meaning the college will approach you and extend an invitation, but if not, then you can look up their other open days and try and find one which you can attend. These days are really useful for looking at lots of subjects, as well as just the main few you are interested. On such days, prioritise seeing these subjects first before moving on to have a look around at others. Most high schools will authorise your absence for a few days if you inform them you would like to go to an open day, particularly if the college/university is quite faraway, so consider this by getting in touch with your high school if necessary.

5. Ask Questions
Make sure you use open days, or the offered enquiry email, to ask all the questions you have (or at least the burning ones) before you decide definitely on what subjects you are definitely going to do and where you are going to study them. All of the staff will be more than happy to help you - so try not to be too scared or nervous when asking them. Getting answers is going to help you so much, so keep that in mind when you ask - it shows good initiative to have a little confidence the questions and ideas you have when you present them. And then if you do have questions later, you can ask them via email or even at the college when you begin - there will always be someone to help answer your questions, no matter the stage you are at in your A level studies. Careers teams and head of years can be especially helpful and reliable sources of information, as well as the sixth forms website itself (in terms of subject information)

6. Variety
There isn't going to be as much variety in your subjects at college, as it is about specialising in subjects you are interested in to prepare you for studying and specialising in just one, so don't lose sight of this information. If you want more variety, you can always try choosing an AS level you plan to drop at A2, such as a science or a language - something you are interested in and would work hard in, but which would offer you some variety from the subjects you plan to continue into your second year. It can also make your studies a little more separated, so that you don't feel you are constantly just sat in the library for no reason - your studies should make you happy from time to time, even if that seems impossible nearer to exam time.

7. Specialisation
As mentioned above, specialisation is going to become a big part of your studying, and it can seem pretty scary to go into so much depth about topics you previously knew nothing of. Don't be afraid of embracing this though - your teachers will be really helpful in helping you to separate this information, by splitting classes into 'blocks' of sorts. The information will be spread out across the year, so that you don't have too much information thrown at you too fast. And remember what I said earlier, don't be afraid to ask questions!

8. Are you looking forward to beginning college/sixth form?
Your choices should not just be because of what it is you want to study after your two years at sixth form are over, or what it is that you want to be when you are a 100% grown up. It should be about you and what makes you happy so don't forget that. I hope that, like myself, choosing your sixth form and A levels makes you both relieved and excited, with perhaps a pinch of nerves - but don't be afraid. Remember what Shakespeare once wrote: 'Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon 'em'.

If you enjoy reading content like this and would like to hear more from me, Blogger of the year is coming up and I would really appreciate if you could vote for me - you can do so here and if you do vote, you could also be in with a chance of winning some vouchers! If you have any ideas or suggestions about what you would like to hear more on, please do let me know. Hope the information was useful, and if you have any further questions which you think I might be able to help you with, please don't hesitate to ask. Choose wisely!

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