Being a Sixth Former is the most exciting and dynamic period in a secondary education. There are boundless opportunities and students can truly carve out a bespoke academic and social niche. So, how do those who go on to be most successful and cope with the many changes?
1. Choose subjects you are passionate about, whilst being mindful of future goals
I am frequently asked how best to choose which subjects to study. At King’s we require all students to begin studying four A Levels. Some decide in November to focus on only three, some continue to take four right through to the second year exams. In order to cope with the increase in workload from GCSE, motivation needs to be high. Ensure you choose subjects that genuinely excite you. Wider reading is fundamental to gain a breadth as well of depth of knowledge. It is also important to be mindful of future goals. Want to study Medicine? Chemistry is a prerequisite. A future engineer? Further Maths is not essential to apply to university, but the vast majority of those at university will have studied it. It pays to think ahead and discuss matters with the Careers Department.
2. Be organised
You will now have more tasks and a longer deadlines. Being able to be organised is critical. Use a diary, with due dates and a system for categorising priority goals. The sense of satisfaction of arranging your work into a helpful order and ticking tasks off once complete can be addictive!
3. Consolidate work from the off
Wider reading and consolidation of subject material make a huge difference in the Sixth Form. Completing only set homework tasks might be ticking the box, but it is the ongoing consolidation and revision, especially of those areas you find most difficult, that will truly pay off in the long run. Conduct some honest self-assessment and think about what areas you need to work on. Seek advice from academic staff about the best resources for doing so.
4. Free periods – use them wisely!
At King’s, we have introduced Supervised Private Study – silent work sessions that we mandate those pupils we feel will most benefit from having their non-contact time a little more structured. It has been such a success, that students are optionally signing up to the sessions. Think carefully about the best working environment for you. Can you work in departmental libraries? Are there clinics you can attend? Discover the ‘do not disturb’ mode on your mobile phone…
5. Thinking about the future
Start thinking about the future as soon as possible. For competitive courses such as medicine, it can really pay off to build a repertoire of work experience during your Lower Sixth. Are there academic societies you can join? The King’s Sixth Form Certificate encourages all Lower Sixth to gain a true breadth to their education, encouraging presenting skills, voluntary work a physical challenge and more. That UCAS personal statement will need to be as strong as you can make it.
6. Build a good relationship with your pastoral and academic staff
Communicating with staff is absolutely essential. Pastoral and academic staff love to help students and it is those students that are most pro-active in seeking advice and help who make the most progress. Ask for resource recommendations, inform them if you have a challenging period of time ahead and ask what you can do to work around this.
7. Think very carefully about outside school commitments, especially part-time jobs
A strong Sixth Form will have a plethora of opportunities for co-curricular activities. Choose carefully, commit strongly and enjoy them! It is when outside school commitments become overly onerous that problems can occur. That one shift a week as a local waiter may start off ok, but if hours build or work is expected of you close to academic deadlines, then your hand can be forced.
Sleep underpins all that we do. Whilst it is true that teenagers can have a different circadian rhythm to adults, the basics still apply. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Use ‘night mode’ on your mobile phone to reduce blue light, then avoid all devices an hour before sleep. It is during sleep that your muscles grow, and this includes the brain!
9. Enjoy it!
The Sixth Form will go by incredibly quickly. In years to come you will look fondly back at this incredible point of your life, at the large number of close friends and the amazing opportunities you took up. Such as the King’s’ 1st XV annual match at Sixways, a Rugby Premiership ground. The boys run out to a crowd of 4000 in what will be the biggest match of their lives. What will you do to have a truly memorable Sixth Form?
Head of Sixth Form