Sixth Form/College Essentials and Top Ten Tips and Tricks

With GCSEs Results Day looming around the corner, just one week away, it’s never to early to start some preparation for the next step. I’ve been looking up a lot of different advice videos, spoken to some current sixth formers and have generated some of my own ideas about what I need to do to be on top of my game when I go back to school in September. Like me, you may be unsure about exactly where you are going/what you are doing this coming Autumn. I’m stuck between the choice of doing the International Baccalaureate or normal A-Levels. However, I believe it is best to get a few little things out of the way beforehand so that my decision is much easier to cope with once it is made, given the short amount of time between Results Day and school starting again.

So, here are…

Hannah's Top Ten Tips and Tricks for Sixth Form.png

1. The correct mental attitude from the start

Let’s face it – A-Levels and College courses are no walk in the park! You have to put in so much more effort than at GCSE, so ask yourself: “What gets me motivated?” Could it be a good outcome at the end? Could it be some sort of personal incentive? Maybe you will have more social time if you work hard during your free periods? Whatever you have to do to keep motivated and encouraged that your hard work will pay off, do it! I promise it will be worth it! So stick on the motivational music and get to it! You can find my motivation playlist here.

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

You may well be very capable and skilled at many subjects but remember that from this year onward you are not able to drop any subjects from A-Level at the end of Year 12. In most cases, it’s not suggested that you take more than the standard 3 A-Levels. If you really think you can do it then go ahead, but be prepared for a lot of work. The same goes for the International Baccalaureate – don’t do it unless you are prepared to work hard as it is 6 subjects plus a tonne of external work! Better to be the person with 3 subjects they excelled in than the one with 4 who got dragged down by excessive amounts of work! 🙂

3. It’s okay to change your mind sometimes

Don’t like your course or subject in the first few weeks? Change it to something else – you’ll not want to be doing a subject you don’t enjoy for the next 2 years. Grades at GCSE just aren’t quite what you need for sixth form and you don’t feel ready? Prepare for A-Levels with Pre A-Levels for a year before starting your real ones. Hate your sixth form or college once you’ve started and wished you’d picked that other place? Reapply somewhere else. My point is, sometimes we don’t make the right decision the first time around, but that doesn’t mean we should have to sacrifice our happiness. Just pull a teacher or adviser aside if you feel something is not right and I’m sure plenty of people will be there to offer guidance.

4. Organisation is key


How do you like to keep organised? A planner? A diary, maybe? Lists? Timetables? However you choose to keep your life events and assignments organised it is vitally important that you utilize that now. Some schools provide you with a planner for dates and assignments but not all do, so find out in advance and purchase yourself one. Some are very inexpensive from bookshops such as The Works, Waterstones or otherwise you could look online. Keeping on track and organised is the key to success, as I am often told time management is the main tripping hazard in sixth form and college life. Keeping all of your important study information in one space will really help you to feel more in control and thus enable you to be more time effective. Personally, next year I’m going to have a planner which you can add colourful inserts to as I feel that colour and neat stationary is a good incentive to motivate me to use the planner. You can find loads of free printable timetables and other organisation inserts online.


5. Bridge the gap

A teacher of mine once told me that the gap between GCSEs and A-Levels is bigger than the gap between A-Levels and University. Having had some taster sessions of some lessons for next year I can sense the world of difference between the two and I know  Both the schools I have applied for have set me summer work so that I am more able to transfer my GCSE knowledge into A-Level style work. If you get this it is important that you do it thoroughly to ensure you get off on the best foot, but even if you haven’t been set anything I suggest you look into your courses for next year and give yourself a quick introduction. This independent work is very important to the style of working at A-Level so it is best to get used to it! The same goes for college courses – look up what the course entails and do some digging to really get yourself interested and ahead of the game for next year.


Silver Jubilee Bridge (picture sourced from Pixabay)

6. Ensure you’re informed about your chosen Sixth Form/College

Make sure that you know exactly what you’re doing on your first day by checking a few small things about your chosen sixth form or college. Do they have a dress code/uniform? What are the term times? What time do I have to be on campus? Where do I go when I first arrive? What sort of facilities do they provide in terms of food? Do I need to register any accounts? Will I require public transport to get there? If so, do I need a bursary? What is the route name/number? Finding out about little things like that can save you from worries and embarrassment that you really don’t need on the first day. Look on the website of your chosen place as that is bound to have many of the answers to questions you may be too afraid to ask yourself.


Example of a sixth form section of a website

7. Come well equipped 

Before you start sixth form or college you’re going to have to make some important purchases. Being properly equipped ensures that you are always prepared as you can possibly be for any given class. Having a memory stick on hand to back up your work is a really good idea because you never know when something may accidentally get wiped or deleted. In addition to that, you want to know that you have a working pen for writing; something to write on and perhaps a few other things that will help you both learn and retain information, such as highlighters and key cards. Having something to store all of your classwork in is also a good idea – for example, a plastic file with dividers for each subject. This sort of organisation in sixth form or college will ultimately benefit you, as it will save you having to sort everything out later at home.

8. Use your frees wisely 


Maddie and I worked together to match the statements to the equations

For anyone who doesn’t know what a ‘free’ is, it means a free period or a time during a school day when you don’t have any classes. Does that mean you should spend every free gossiping and chatting with your mates? No. Does it mean you should devote every free to working until you collapse from exhaustion? Of course not. You just need a healthy balance between working and resting. One of the main ways I suggest doing this is having a study buddy. If you share a few classes with some of your friends, chances are their frees will match up to yours sometimes. Take this opportunity to test each other on subjects and go over anything that you may be able to help each other out with. This is the perfect way to socialize and make friends without feeling guilty about neglecting your studies. One of the bests things about free periods is that if you use them in the right way, they help to take off some of your workload for home. This allows you to have just a little more downtime which is important as you need to look after yourself in order to look after your grades. Just make use your free periods in the best way possible for a happy and healthy lifestyle! 😀

9. Get serious and grow up

When you start attending a sixth form or a college, you will notice a difference in the way you are treated by your teachers – more like an adult. As a result, you are given more responsibility for how you present yourself and the work you produce. Ultimately, it is your role to keep yourself motivated and learn – the teacher’s task is merely to give you guidance and a baseline upon which you can build. Make sure you ask for extra things to do, such as additional reading, if you want to reach the really high grades. Always apply yourself and familiarise yourself with topics before you learn them. Own up when you make mistakes and take responsibility for getting yourself to places on time. Making sure you arrive early shows organisation and dedication to what you are doing. If you aren’t being seen to be taking your studies seriously enough there is a possibility you could lose your place on a course to someone who is more dedicated and willing to learn. So grow up a little and become serious about dedicating yourself wholeheartedly to your course.

10. Enjoy it!

Whether you choose to attend a Sixth Form or a College this coming school year, both are places where you are spending just two years of your life. Those years will pass in a flash so it is important to enjoy it. Make friends. Get involved in a club or society. Learn about yourself and your passions and interests. Set goals and aspirations and motivate yourself. You want to leave at the end of your Sixth Form/College experience with a sense of accomplishment. Proof that you can juggle a social life and your studies. Some self-discovery and development in character are just as important for adult life as good grades are. Beyond this point in life, there won’t be so many opportunities to just go out and do things. Working life sometimes leaves you feeling as though you are missing out – so make the most of it whilst you still can!

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My Year 11 School Prefect Photo

Now onto my Sixth Form/College Essentials:


  • Pen, pencil, ruler, rubber in clear plastic pencil case (like those used in exam halls)
  • A memory stick (you never know when you need back up)
  • Diary/planner with timetable
  • Notepad
  • Lined paper (in a refill pad, preferably)
  • Highlighters
  • Post-it notes (plain and lined)
  • Calculator for Mathematics and Science students
  • Box-file/plastic folder/binders
  • Purse/wallet (containing bus pass)
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Tissues
  • Compact mirror and hairbrush
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Mobile phone
  • A sturdy bag to carry everything

I couldn’t get everything in the photo as it has not all been purchased yet 🙂

Well, I hope left you feeling more prepared for the next step in education! The very best of luck to anyone getting their results next week, I hope it all works out well for you! 🙂 ❤






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