Coping in sixth form

I received a tweet the other day about how to cope in sixth form. I've gathered some general tips and also ones which can help if you suffer with anxiety whilst in sixth form. Of course this can be applied to other areas of education and work too.

Sixth form is quite a big jump away from traditional school life. Many sixth forms including mine didn't have a uniform, you have more free hours, you have to do a lot of private study and the biggest change is the amount of work. The work definitely increases in difficulty and the amount that has to be completed, but within a few months you can get used to it.

My top tips:

1. Be organised - this is important for people from all walks of life. Being organised is the key to success. I used to have a folder for each subject with sub dividers. I made an extra study timetable and made sure I had my diary to make a note of any assignments. I tried to do any extra work I was set as soon as I got it to make sure I didn't get stressed trying to complete it the night before. If you feel you need extra time to complete a piece of work, don't forget to ask your teachers. Secondly, if you miss any school make sure to catch up. Teachers are usually more than happy to help you, along with getting work from your friends. This is what I did for the majority of a year!

2. Talk - Going into sixth form is a whole new experience, which can be exciting if not a little daunting, especially if you're going somewhere new. Always make sure you talk and have someone to talk to, whether that be your friends, family or teachers. If you feel you are struggling with your mental health, make sure to tell your teachers. They may be able to put a range of things in place to make your school life just that little bit easier. I understand that talking to teachers can be something that you'd rather avoid, but the more they know the better they can help you.

3. Extra study - my school always said to do an extra hour of independent study per subject per day. I know for AS level that can seem impossible. Even some of my teachers argued that it was impossible and that you needed a life too! This is true, but I promise you if  you try to stick to a routine of doing extra study from the very beginning; whether that be making revision notes, revising or doing homework, you will reap the benefits and your grades will soar. It's true to say that if you don't do the work you won't get the grades at the end. A levels are hard work! But make sure to have a break, to look after your mental health.

4. Take a break - I focused a lot on my school work with extra study and although it may have paid off, you do need to take a break to look after yourself. At GCSE I worked way too hard and I completely burnt out. It's so important to keep stress levels at a minimum and have fun! That way, you'll be keeping your mental health on an even keel. You can retake exams, but you can't retake your mental health.

5. Precautions - Remembering that sixth form is a lot more causal than traditional school, is important. The school tends to treat you more as adults now and thus you have more freedom in what you do. Of course there are limits, but I found that not being as restrained helped my anxiety. If you feel your anxiety is going to play a part in your school life, then it's important to think about any precautions to take if it does occur, such as breathing techniques, asking to leave, triggers of panic attacks and if possible to let your teachers know. This is the same if you find yourself getting stressed too and so forth. You have more freedom now to do what is best for you.

Remember mental health matters. Over my years of schooling, I've learnt how the pressure of the education system can really damage you. Although grades are important, they aren't the be all and end all. I too often have been buried under the stress and although it's hard not to be, you need to look after yourself first. You must focus on your goals and not on that of the educational system; everyone's different. As time goes on, I'm trying to learn to ease the pressure on myself by caring for myself more than the exams; that's something I never used to do. Do your best, work hard, look after yourself and try to enjoy what you're studying; after all education is supposed to be fun and about finding passions to broaden your world. That's all anyone can ask of you. Go for it!

Best Wishes,
Amy Xx