Monday, 12 January 2015

College Vs. Sixth Form: My Experience

Hey Everyone!
Since it's officially my first week back to college after being ill I thought this would be the perfect time to do my comparison between sixth form and college as I've had the privilege of experiencing both environments.
Image not mine, from Google
This month it will have been five months since I and thousands of A-Level students received their final set of A-Level results. For many it will have been extremely daunting, it know it was for me! I've never excelled when it comes to exams, I get that pre-exam nervousness that then tends to linger until the end of the exam and then post-exam panic begins to rear its ugly head. I can't win.
I was utterly convinced that I would be running out of my sixth form centre with tears spilling down my face after my horrendous results had been exposed to me (and the little hoard of friends I had with me at the time) but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had done rather well; better than I had expected. I say I had done better than expected because after finding out what it was really like to be an A-Level student at a sixth form centre, I was not expecting anything good at all to come from my A levels.
After surviving years 7 and 8 at my lower school and achieving good results in most of my exams I was determined to continue my education after year 11... that was until I hit year 9 and the 'Gateway exams' arrived. I'm sure all of the people who read this that are currently around the age of 17 or 18 will remember the moment your teachers told you about picking your GCSE's and having to take the 'gateway exams', I personally was very excited about taking Music and Business Studies, music didn't turn out too well but one can't complain when the rest of the GCSE results we're, for me, fantastic. My GCSE results made the decision to continue education concrete. So, I chose to attend a sixth form college and chose my subjects, Health and Social Care, Religious Studies, Sociology and Psychology. That was when my journey as an A-Level student began. My first day of sixth form was SO exciting, I was looking forward to many more free lessons, more independence and being treated like and adult with respect by teachers. After the compulsory 3 day orientation I was really motivated that I would do well that year, I would focus more, revise more, I would get good grades and most importantly it would be easy! No. No. No.
Oh my was I wrong. Yes, despite the 6 or 7 free lessons I had per week and freedom to wander out of school in those lessons I still spent most messing about or revising for exams. Sixth Form is, excuse the language but it's bloody well difficult! If you think it's going to be just like your GCSE's you'd be wrong, the jump from GCSE standard and A-Level standard is absolutely huge! We weren't informed this before choosing out A-Levels as a group of potential students; when I discovered a C at GCSE is an E at A-Level I'm pretty sure my heart stopped and I lost the ability think for a moment... Me, an average student who barely scraped a C in maths and Science at GCSE taking heavy workload subjects such as Sociology and Psychology. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! Never the less I pushed through the first few months of sixth form preparing myself for the January exams which came and went with all of the usual exam stress, panic and hours and hours of endless revision. The results were more than disappointing, I was disheartened more than I have ever been (which is saying something for me because I'm easily disheartened, or was I should say) but I am thankful for those dreadful results. Why? Well I shall elaborate. Those results shocked me, panicked me and scared the living daylights out of me! If I didn't get my head down, spend more time revising, keeping on top of the enormous amounts of work I was, and you will be, given as an A-Level  student I would fail, I wouldn't have the bright future I'd always dreamed of; so, that's what I did. I concentrated, gave up a big part of my social life, spent my time keeping focused and grounded and it did pay off. When you are able to get your head around the immense changes in the work standard, load and quality you will be given and must understand and feedback to your tutors you will be fine at A-Level. A few reasons that sixth form isn't for everybody:

  • There's a huge amount of pressure put on you.
  • Lots of essays and assignments due.
  • Many exams and mocks the can become stressful.
  • You don't get as much freedom as you'd expect.
  • Often you may need to drop a lesson you enjoy in the second year. 

Image not mine, from Google
With the right attitude A-Levels will be much easier to deal with; personally I absolutely loved the free lessons I had in my final year of sixth form. However, I chose not to attend university for my own personal reasons and opted to take two years out and take up a place at a local College, now after experiencing sixth form and, to be quite honest, the very little freedom you do actually get, I was shocked as the whole dynamics of what I thought education was like, completely changed. Everything went from, teachers being on your back constantly to having your own independence at college, it was a wonderful feeling, the facilities on my current course are far more advanced than any facility in my previous sixth form centre; the opportunities offered will provide many a fantastic experience, more opportunities to gain extra qualifications. Now my current course is BETEC and admittedly this is a better type of course for myself given exam stress and such but I simply can't fault my college experience, the variety of people I've met is wonderful, I've been given opportunities for course representative positions, LGBT officer positions, board member positions and so many more chances to take positions that are never offered to you in a sixth form environment. Personally, and many of my classmates I've spoken to agree that their experience at college has been wonderful and has given me the opportunity to gain a whole new level of individuality, independence and qualifications, so I have to say if you're planning on continuing your education, don't bypass the thought of college, it may not be in your comfort zone or you may want to stay in a place where you have friends, you know the teachers and such but take some time to think about what you really want to gain from your educational experiences and what you really want to do. Yes, Sixth Form provides a good foundation for independence and opportunities but often college goes above and beyond the chances for personal and professional development. Consider college and sixth form, I have to say my experiences of both have been positive however College is a wonderful place to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and others around you. 
Thanks very much for taking the time to read my blog and putting up with my opinions.

Love Katherine. X

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