You’ve produced a killer application, nailed the interview and secured a place at college - good stuff! Here’s what you can do to make sure you hit the ground running in September.
First, the practical stuff...
This may seem like an obvious one, but it does catch people out! Answer these questions to make sure you arrive at the right place at the right time:
- How are you getting to college/sixth form? How far is it and how long will it take you to get there? What time should you set off in the morning? Allow extra time in case of bad traffic.
- Is there a bus? How much will it cost? Can you afford it?
- If you own a car, will you be driving to college? Is there a car park? Do you need a permit? Where do you get one from and how much are they? Use this website to estimate your petrol costs and budget accordingly.
Your college/sixth form may provide you with a diary, but it's worthwhile being prepared from day one. You'll be given a timetable, it might be hard to remember, and you might have other commitments (such as a part-time employment) to work around your studies. If paper diaries are too last century for you, set one up your phone or tablet. Class Timetable is a pretty cool app that’ll tell where you should be and when, and MyStudyLife is more of an all-encompassing website to help you keep on top of classes, assignments, revision and exams. Evernote is super handy for taking notes and will even let you add lecture slides and photos of text books.
Folders and stationery
Paperwork - it's inevitable! And you’ll have lots of it coming your way. If you’re studying on an A-level course, where you’ll have multiple subjects to get to grips with, have folders for each subject so you can separate them properly. If you're studying on a course that focuses on one discipline, make sure you have folder dividers to split up the different modules. Whilst you’re at the stationary shop, grab some pens, highlighters, pencils, rulers and coloured pencils – you’ll need those too!
Do you require specific equipment for your course? If so, you should be able to get a list from the college/sixth form. Sometimes the equipment can be costly, so it’s worth finding out early on so you can start saving or enquire about funding (see our article ‘Financial support for college’ for more info).
And now for the tricky bit...
Many students find the move from school to college tricky. The teaching methods are different, with many teachers delivering lectures rather than teaching classes, and you’ll be expected to take notes – lots of them. In addition, you’ll be given more independence and will be largely responsible for your own time management. With this in mind, here are a few skills you should work on before starting college to make the transition as easy as possible.
Whatever course you’ll be studying, it’ll involve a lot of note taking, and it’ll be in your best interest to make them clear, concise and useful.
To practise, try watching a lecture on YouTube or TedTalks – on whatever subject interests you! – and take notes without stopping to pause the video. This will get you used to writing quickly, as well as deciding what to take down and what to leave out. Look back on the notes a few days later – are you able to understand them? Do they include everything they should? If so, you’ve done well!
A great way to record your notes is with the Cornell System – it works for both lectures and revision and it’s scientifically proven to be super effective. Click here to find out more.
Good research involves four steps:
- Finding information – in libraries and online
- Evaluating information – deciding whether or not it’s suitable for your project, and reading that information with a critical eye
- Presenting information – in a way that is well-structured and easy to follow
- Referencing information – listing your sources, often using a recognised system such as the Harvard method.
It’s likely that you’ve already had to do a bit of this at school, but if you can it’s definitely worth choosing a subject related to your new course and doing a ‘mini project’ on it over the summer. If you’re stuck for ideas, get in touch with a teacher at school (or your new college) for ideas. In addition to helping you develop research skills, the extra knowledge you’ll gain will almost certainly come in useful at college.
Time management and organisation skills
Once at college, you’ll be juggling classes, homework, long-term assignments, extra-curricular activities and possibly a part-time job – not to mention a social life! To get the most out of it, and avoid any unnecessary stress, it’s essential to schedule your time realistically and use it effectively. To help you do this, the diary and apps we mentioned above will certainly be your biggest aid, but here are a few extra tips, because we’re just that kind!
- Eliminate distractions – whilst working, get rid of anything that distracts you. Put your phone on silent, place it in a drawer or a different room, and only allow yourself to check it once per hour. Browser add-ons such as Block and Focus will help you to avoid social media.
- Stay focused – research suggests that we’re at our most focused when we work in sets of 20-25 minutes, separated by short breaks. You can use a timer such as this one to help you do just that.
- Use checklists – the good old-fashioned list is a great way to make sure you stay on track by listing your tasks and checking them off one-by-one once completed. Your new college life may be exciting and so on, but we challenge you to find anything more thrilling than a fully-checked list!