How To Survive Your First Year of College - Back to School 2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Most people my age will be going back to school or college over the next couple of weeks, which can be a nerve-wracking time especially after a long, relaxing summer holiday. It can be particularly daunting for anyone who's transitioning from high school to college or sixth form, which is the position I was in last year. The first year of college can appear to be very daunting and much harder than studying for your GCSE's, but having just completed my first year and thoroughly enjoying it, I wanted to assure you that it's not as bad as it seems. In this post, I'll be sharing my top tips for getting through your first year of college and making the most of the time, so hopefully it's useful for you!

Balance your free periods between working and socialising 

When you start college, you'll suddenly have an abundance of free periods throughout the day, and it's very tempting to spend these chatting with friends and eating food in the refectory. However, with the hefty workload that A Levels promise, it's important to dedicate some of your frees to working, whether that's in the library, social space or just in the canteen. You'll definitely feel the benefit of this, especially when you have less work to do in the evenings, and I'd highly recommend having this organised, proactive approach to studying.

Despite this, it's important not to burn out and overwork yourself, especially at the start of the year when the workload won't be as heavy. To stay healthy and happy during college, it's important to balance your time and prevent yourself from using every spare minute for studying. Allow yourself a break every now and then, so perhaps choose some of your free periods that you will leave empty to relax and spend time with friends rather than working in.

Don't be afraid of the jump from GCSE to A Level 

Although it'll be different for every subject, the jump up to A Level isn't as huge or daunting as people make it out to seem. If your GCSE grades for that subject are high, then you've proved that you're intelligent and capable of succeeding with the progressing difficulty of A Levels, so don't think you'll never cope with how intense your new lessons are.

Additionally, your tutors are aware of the ability level you're entering in and will ease you into the new course, making the transition as smooth as possible. In a couple of my classes, we didn't actually start the course for the first few weeks and instead did induction content that covered the basics, so that when it finally became time to start the A Level specification everyone felt ready for it.

Write your notes throughout the year 

This is a useful habit to get into at the start of the year, and you'll be incredibly thankful that you did it when it comes to exam season. A Level is renowned for being extremely in-depth and there's a lot of content to cover, so don't think you can write some brief notes and study them a couple of weeks before your mock exam. If you dedicate an hour or so after every lesson for transferring all of your work from the day into study resources, whether that's notes, flashcards or mind maps, then it'll all be done when exams come around and you can focus on ensuring you know all of the content and doing practice papers. Try and get into this habit as much as possible, as it'll be a lot harder to catch up all of your notes later on in the year.

Pick subjects that you enjoy

A Levels are notoriously difficult and it can feel like a laborious two years at some points, so it's important that you're spending the time wisely and doing subjects you love. College is going to be 10 times more unbearable if you're studying subjects you hate, so think hard about your decisions and pick subjects that you have a genuine interest and passion for, opposed to what your friends or doing or the subjects you think will sound fancy and academic.

Also, it's worth remembering that most colleges and sixth forms will let you switch subjects at the start of the year, so if you're having a really hard time and regret your choices, you'll still have the option to change. However, it's worth sticking it out for a few weeks and seeing how you progress, as it's completely normal for you to dislike your subjects when you're first starting, but after a while when you're over the stress of starting A Levels, they will become more enjoyable.

Get involved where possible 

College isn't just about intensive studying: it also provides many opportunities to try new activities and get involved in clubs, organisations and groups that you weren't able to in high school. Your first year is the ideal time to experiment with these and try out a variety of extra activities, as you'll be much too busy and stressed in your second year. It's also a great way to meet new people, which may be helpful if you're starting a different college from all of your friends in high school, or just want to broaden your horizons.

To get involved within college this year, I did an EPQ, volunteered at open evenings and joined the ambassador program to help out with induction days and other college events. I personally really enjoyed all of these opportunities, but if none of these are to your tastes then there will be many other options, including sports, art, charity groups and many others. Taking part in activities will also help to relieve your stress and take your mind off studying for a couple of hours a week, which is a well-earned break.

Take advantage of the greater freedoms 

In most colleges, you will have greater freedoms than you did in high school, so I'd definitely advise making the most of these. My college allows us to use phones and laptops on the campus, although phones are still prohibited in lessons unless the teacher says otherwise. This means that you can use your technology for studying on-the-go, working in your free time and listening to music when you're not in lessons, all of which high school didn't allow.

My college also allows you to leave the campus when you have a free period, which means you can come in late or finish early on the days when you don't have as many lessons. I'd definitely recommend making the most of this, whether you want to study independently from home before lessons, leave college early when possible to go out with friends, or to have a well-earned lie-in of a morning.

Surround yourself with supportive, like-minded friends 

A Levels are undoubtedly very stressful, and so it's important to have people around you that'll help you get through the difficult times. When it comes to exams, you'll need all of the support and advice you can get, and it's also helpful to have friends that do similar subjects so that you can revise together and assist one another when learning. Your first year of college is also a time of making memories and enjoying yourself, and a like-minded group of friends are the perfect people to do this with.

If you don't understand something, ask your teacher 

It's important to realise that there will be things that you don't understand at A Level, whether it's a specific question or an entire topic. College is renowned to be tough for a reason, but that doesn't mean that there'll be no help. You can ask subject teachers if they'll hold tutorials on anything you don't understand, as well as drop-in sessions for revision or catching up on work, which most teachers will be compliant with. It's also worth emailing them if you don't understand something, asking for additional work on a topic you don't get for extra practice, and look for any online resources that might be useful.

Don't stress and enjoy it 

Although a small amount of nerves and stress is healthy, it's not worth getting overly worked up in your first year, particularly if you don't have any exams to sit. College will hopefully be some of the best years yet, filled with freedoms and exciting new opportunities, so don't waste it, take advantage of every moment and most of all enjoy yourself.

I hope that this post was useful for any of you starting college this year, and I also wish you good luck for the next chapter of your life! Remember that I'm always available to talk to on my Twitter (which is @DaisiesDelights) for any advice or help if you're struggling with college.

Thank you very much for reading this post and I'll be back again next Sunday with another one targeted towards those of you going back to school or college in the upcoming weeks!

Love from Daisy x


  1. This was such a helpful post thank you! I'm starting sixth form in a few weeks so these are things I will definitely be taking on board


  2. Thankyou for this post- it was incredibly helpful! I'll definitely be keeping this in mind for when I head to sixth form in September- I would love if you checked out my blog: