Saturday, 15 August 2015

Making Choices: What I learnt from A-Levels

On Thursday morning I was amongst the thousands of people up and down the country opening my envelope containing those few letters which could change your life. Thankfully I got the results I need to go to UCA Epsom to do an Art and Design Foundation degree before hopefully progressing to a degree in Fashion Design. However, there were some tough decisions which I made on the way, and if I had chosen differently, I might have been able to achieve even better grades.

So whether you're starting A-levels in September, progressing from AS to A2, or even perhaps reading this in a few years time, here are some tips I learnt for choosing the right options for you.

I cannot stress the need and importance of researching ALL of your areas of interest before applying for sixth form/college. Search course guides, make lists, go to open days. There are so many resources out there explaining the content and structure of courses as well people and teachers who are available to answer all of your questions. Don't be too narrow minded. I made the mistake of only researching the four courses that I thought I was certain I wanted to study, resulting in me choosing three out of four subjects which were very similar content to each other (English Language, Literature and Journalism) which was frankly just too much English.

Fast tracking
After a year of textiles being my only break from too much English, I decided I'd rather pick up another art and design subject as this is where my interest lies, helping me to build my portfolio further. We came to the option of dropping Literature and Journalism for fast tracking Photography. Not many people are actually aware that you can fast track subjects, but it's where you sit both AS and A2 in the same year. It means twice the amount of work, meaning that you must ensure you're willing to put 110% effort into the course. It also means that in your early A2 sessions, you'll feel behind as the only student who has not yet learnt the AS syllabus. But as long as you use your lecturer and their knowledge as much as possible you'll catch up in no time.

If you live a journey away from your preferred college/sixth form, ensure that you are going to strive to attend every lesson. Living in a small seaside town, it took an hour and a half bus journey to get to college every day - and that's not including the hour and a half home! I have to admit, the dark winter mornings are a struggle, especially when it's dark when you leave in the morning and dark when you return at night. A levels are so fast moving, it's important you have to be sure you can commit to your lessons.

BTECs are as good as A levels
Day-in day-out I see tweets and memes and overhear comments about BTECs not meaning as much as A levels. This is totally wrong. If you're more suited to coursework or practical work in comparison to exams, you'll probably be more suited to a BTEC course. There's not much point doing exam based subjects if you panic in exams or find more "academic" subjects more challenging, resulting in you succeeding so much more if you choose the course that's suitable for you. If you'd rather a mixture of the two, some BTECs can be sat alongside A level options. They can also provide you with enough UCAS points to get into university too.

The most important thing is that you enjoy your time studying at college/sixth form. The only way you can be certain to enjoy those couple of years is by doing what YOU want to do. No one else. Teachers, friends and parents can all be pushy, attempting to persuade you into choosing their subjects or what they want you to do. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN! The only way you can enjoy your subjects and succeed in them is if they're solely what you want to learn about.

I hope that everyone who received results this week is happy and good luck to anyone taking A-levels soon. I'll be happy if this post helps even just one of you!

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