You’ve smashed your Year 11 exams: now what?

Feeling you aced these exams and now it is party time? Moving from school to university (or, later, a job) can be really daunting. At school, your routine is laid out for you: your teachers give you homework and tell you off when you don’t do it. Your home life and vacations are organised by your parents and you will have little responsibility for anything really.

But when you get to university this all changes. It’s a big leap: no longer can you rely on adults to sort your life out for you. You have to do it yourself.

So what does any of this have to do with VIth Form? Because the first step to university is VIth Form, where the first big change in most schools is the fact you no longer have to wear a school uniform, but – more importantly – where you are expected to start working much more independently and hence will spend a lot of time on your own diving into a few subjects. One of which you will likely read at university.

Once in VIth Form, you are catapulted into a higher level of seriousness. You may study subjects that might differ from those of your close friends and hence you may see less of each other at school. On top of this, you will be asked to start forming an idea about which universities you may wish to attend and you should make time in your schedule to start exploring them (real and virtual Open Days are a good start and keep an eye open). Besides, if you consider studying abroad, you will have to start preparing for your SATs separately (and this takes a good amount of time too). So VIth Form is busy, very, very busy. Ask anyone in lower VIth and they will say that they wished they had spent part of their (long) post GCSE summer doing something to alleviate the stress that arrives very quickly a few weeks into VIth Form.

But… that lovely post-GCSE feeling: you’ve walked, head high, out of your last exam (possibly that one you’ve been dreading all year) and you experience a euphoric wave of relief wash over you. All this prep and stress and work is behind you. And the joy of not having to study all these unwanted subjects anymore, ever again. Liberating! It’s a heady feeling, and this feeling continues into a fun summer of partying, festivals and trips.

And before you know it will be August, you will get your results and it will be almost time to get back to school. Time flies.

Is it now time to party?

What can you do before, oops, summer is over..?

Bask in this post-exam glory, you deserve it. But consider that, once your bones are heavy and you’re bored of socializing and maybe partied out, it would stand you in really good stead to begin considering your options after school, whether they be studying at university, starting an apprenticeship or just entering the job world and whether you can do something already to prepare for these.

Whatever your direction is, all options take a lot of effort and trial-and-error and bravery (and a bit of luck on the side). But fear not- everyone is in the same boat in this regard and starting early will actually make the process much easier. Your school will probably give you good support, but doing the research yourself is really important.

You might firstly want to make the decision whether university is the right place for you: there are plenty of other options, not least getting your foot in the metaphorical door of the job world. University can be wonderful: you meet great, like-minded people and study with extraordinary academics, but maybe it is not for you and you want to explore other possibilities.

If university is the direction you want to go in, then what subject is right? Really do your homework and look online at what a particular course entails (that psychology course may actually be more science-based than you thought or the Economics course may be too mathematical).

Thankfully, the internet is our friend in this instance. There are loads of great online websites that give you step-by-step factors when considering which university to apply to and ways to apply. These factors include things like: distance from home, whether or not you like the city (always a good idea to visit before), which societies there are, and, of course, what the course entails.

Other things to do and prepare and research are your SAT prep, if relevant, and the early start of a personal statement. The latter will not need to be ready for a while, but thinking about what you would write about yourself and what your ‘story’ is will help you streamline your activities and give you a head start.

Lastly, doing some work experience, volunteering and/or a summer course in your chosen subject, will help you form better ideas of what it is you may want to do next.

Recommended links: