Wednesday, 2 September 2015

College Advice.

As many of you will know the academic year is about to recommence. Last year I shared some back to school advice with you, but now that I've been to three different colleges I feel very equipped to give out a little college advice, to those of you who will be starting college or sixth form this year.

For me personally the whole college experience has been a very stressful and confusing time for me. Personally I started at my first college doing A levels that mainly weren't what I thought they were going to be. I then went on to do a BTEC course which made me realise exactly what I want to do with my life, and it isn't IT. Now that I'm about to go into my final year of college I finally feel comfortable with where I'm at with my education, but I've learnt a fair amount along the way to help debrief anyone in the world of level 3 studies and to advise you on how to survive your college experience.

It's ok not knowing exactly what you want to do with your life. College is a time where some people will be dead set on a career goal and others will feel lost. It's hard because there is so much pressure in regards to university applications, to know exactly what you want to do with your future. Booking a meeting with your college's careers adviser is a really useful thing to do, another is to do personality quizzes online and work out why you've chosen the subjects you have, what your strengths are and what other subjects might interest you that you've never thought of. Something you could also try is getting some work experience on your breaks in a job role that interests you. Going out of your way like this will also look great on your personal statement, should you apply to university.

You can't wing A Levels! Remember when you did your GCSEs and you didn't need to revise too much to do ok. Well A Levels aren't like that, if you don't revise (or put effort into your coursework) you won't do well. And this also goes for your AS exams, as if you don't pass them your college will most likely not let you come back to do your second year. 

Study smart... and hard. When you go into a lesson at college or sixth form you need to make sure you're taking notes. And not just brief notes, you need to be writing down everything that's relevant to what you're studying because your teacher will most likely not go over it again and going through A level text books is not fun. Make life easier for yourself by putting your notes into your own words either in lesson or soon after, so that when you go back to them (which could be a few months later) you'll understand what you've written.

One thing I wish I'd committed to and I advise you to, is to type up all of your notes or organise them neatly from your lessons at the end of every week. This will help you organise and summarise your notes, it also means you won't have tonnes of sheets of paper filling up your bag because you'll be able to condense all of the useful information down. I used to do this with my business notes and I'd look through textbooks and online resources to look for other information I could add to topic, this will also help you absorb your notes better for when exam season comes around.

Secondary school friendships don't always last. When you get to your new college/sixth form, your friends from secondary school may or may not be coming to the same place as you, and even if they do they may still make different friends in their classes. This was something I found really hard when I first went to college, the friends that came with me weren't my closest friends and they quickly found their own groups. I found it really upsetting and it really got me down to tell you the truth as my best friends were also off with their own new friends at their colleges. I have social anxiety so I've really struggled with social situations at my colleges and meeting new people. At my first college I genuinely made zero friends and it really affected how stressful I found going to college and just being a part of the college environment. Whereas at my second college I made friends, and now at my third college (I know, I know it's so strange) I have one solid friend and honestly I'm fine with that. 

It's just one of those things you'll have to deal with as it happens because if you can't make any effort because you're two scared or whatever on the first few days, you might not find yourself fitting into any kind of social group at your college. Just remember you still have your old friends and they will still want to talk to you if you make the effort, and honestly if you make the most out of your situation it could be quite handy to not have all that distraction during your studies. I really wish I'd not let it affect me so much at my first college, but now I'm at my third college I love being able to spend more time focusing on my studies (yes I'm such a nerd).

The teachers/teaching at college is going to be a lot different to what you're used to. If you're going to a sixth form then it may just be like secondary school (I don't really know), but at college the whole teaching styles and attitudes are going to shock you a little. Yes college is about being independent and looking after yourself as far as time management and commitment to your studies is concerned, but don't be surprised if you feel a lack of empathy from your teachers. Like I said it's not like secondary school where you have a form tutor who holds your hand through your experience right until you leave, form tutors at college nag you more than anything. I'm not saying this because I was a bad student because I'm not, but other than a mandatory one to one session every few months your tutor may only talk to you one on one to moan about your attendance, or discuss your slightly lower than expected grade. 

That being said, if you have any problems do talk to your teachers. There is nothing worse then bottling up your stresses especially about the way your teachers are teaching you because you'll only be annoyed you didn't say anything sooner. For example I had a horrific graphics design teacher last year who put my class with a fine art class, we ended up doing art for ages before we switched back to graphics and I knew within the first week that I wasn't going to like being taught by this woman. But for some reason I was too anxious to ask my form tutor to switch subjects and by December I decided to quit graphics because my teacher was refusing to teach us (you'll be happy to know she's recently been fired). It frustrates me because I would have loved to have switched to film studies, but I missed my chance. 

But if you do have any problems, don't let teachers try to ignore them when you tell them or patronise you for asking them about anything. It's your education and if you have a problem it is their job to deal with it because the money they get for you being there is to accommodate you and give you a decent and fulfilling education. I remember a form tutor at my first college who kept trying to talk me out of dropping geography, he kept trying to convince me that I was just getting stressed because I wasn't getting "top grades" and I ended up being miserable for months about doing a subject my teacher was making me hate. I always wish I'd stood up to that teacher straight away and had been assertive about dropping that subject, because eventually my Dad had to go into college and get it sorted for me.

I hope this advice helped any of you who are going back to or starting college this year. If there's anything you're worried about or you have any burning questions be sure to comment below and I'll be happy to help you. Thanks for reading x