I’m writing this post as I know those of you in Sixth Form or College are going through your final exams before you leave school forever and embark on your journey into the real world. Whether that means you’ll be taking a gap year, starting Uni soon or going straight into the world of careers, I hope these tips can help any of you who might be feeling a little lost, stressed or confused.
I’m writing this to you as a 20-year-old Uni student who has gone through some ups and downs over the last few years since finishing my A-Levels. I’m gonna say what I always say in my posts, which is, all of my tips and experiences are things that help me or would have helped me, and I hope can help you too; but everyone is different and we all experience life in different ways. As someone who did go from A-Level to Uni, my tips might be more focused on those things as I have first hand experience, but I hope they can be of help to anyone finishing school at the moment.
So without further ado, my 5 tips for school leavers…
1. The decisions you make this year aren’t set in stone (if you don’t want them to be)
This is for me the most important point I’m gonna make here, and it’s something I wish I had known two years ago. I wish I could scream it from the rooftops and tell everyone because it’s just so important. When you’re at school they tend to make a huge deal about going to university and picking the right degree. No-one tells you that it really doesn’t matter if you need to change it down the line, or find yourself enjoying something else later on. This goes for any decision really, but it’s something I think is incredibly important for Year 13s who are afraid they’ve made the wrong choice. Jump in, try it, you might love it. But know that it’s okay if you don’t. It’s not always easy, and you should never go into a decision thinking ‘i’m not gonna like it’, but changing your mind isn’t a bad thing. It’s all part of the process of growing and learning, and it’s okay. With that being said, I am aware that i’m lucky to live in a place where my choice to change degrees is something I am able to do, and that I can even choose to study a degree in the first place.
2. Enjoy this summer
Whatever your plans are for after school, make sure you enjoy this last summer holidays. You’ll likely have many school summers to come, but they’ll be different. Right now you’re probably still living at home, surrounded by your school friends with no school work in sight. Enjoy it, breathe it in, remember it! And I don’t mean “enjoy it while it lasts! *evil laugh*” I mean, enjoy it because you can! Your last summer after finishing school is one you’ll probably remember for a long time. It’s not often you have a summer break this long with absolutely no responsibilities. This time next year you’ll have possibly moved away from home, have a whole new bunch of friends, and a whole load of new life experience. It’ll be amazing, but it’ll be different!
3. Exams aren’t a measure of intelligence
This is a really important one. Throughout our entire school lives we are constantly graded. We have to memorize information and spit it out on paper in order to receive a certificate. Don’t get me wrong, I think learning is so important and we are lucky to have the opportunity to go to school, but exams are sold to use like the be-all and end-all, like the most important things we’ll ever do in our lives. And it might feel like they are. But they’re really not. Nobody ever really tells you that exams don’t reflect your intelligence at all. They test how much you can memorise in one go. And if you get good grades? Well done! And if you don’t? Well done! You finished school! It’s over and you can focus on the things you’re amazing at! Standardised tests assume that everyone can excel in the same things, but like I’ve said a million times before – we are all different!
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (This quote is often associated with Einstein but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. Either way the point still stands.)
4. Be prepared!
This again goes for whatever your future plans are!
If you’re taking a Gap Year
Make sure you have a plan of action. If you need a job to save money, then start looking! If you’ve got a whole trip in mind make sure you’re organised and have everything sorted out that needs to be done. Try to do everything in advance so that when it comes along you can just enjoy it and make the most of it without stressing about plane tickets or running out of funds! Another thing I would recommend is that if you’re planning to go to university after, then make sure you’ve applied on time and don’t leave that to the last-minute, because it comes around a lot quicker than you’d think!
If you’re going to Uni
Get familiar with your new home! It’s possible it’ll still be a month or so until you get your results and know for sure which uni you’ll be going to, but do your research. It’s likely you’ll be moving away from home for the first time next September so you’ll want to be as prepared as possible. Over the summer try to get to know the area, find your new course-mates and flat-mates online, and read your course handbook! You’d be surprised at how much easier everything is when you get there and already know where the supermarket is, who you’re living with and what to expect of your course!
If you’re starting an Internship/Apprenticeship or new job
I’m not gonna lie and make up some tips about something I don’t know anything about, so I’ll talk from the experience I do have. Make friends, try to get to know your environment early on, get organised and don’t be afraid to ask for help! Everyone was new somewhere once. I’m gonna leave a link here to a great post called Top Five Tips for a New Apprentice. It’s from a website called All About School Leavers that I’d really recommend anyone have a read through if they’re just finishing up school and aren’t sure what to do next.
5. Be flexible with your expectations
This one definitely comes from personal experience. Chances are that your next few years will be awesome, but remember that it’s still a huge life change. Definitely be excited! That’s great! But be prepared to adapt your expectations. I mean this in two ways.
Firstly, like I said, don’t expect everything to be how you’re envisioning it now, the reality of university, for example, is that you have a lot more responsibilities than you do now. You don’t have someone there to make sure you’re out of bed in the morning or having enough to eat, or doing your laundry. For a lot of you these are all a part of a new reality that you’ll have to get used to.
But secondly, I mean that uni or whatever you’re going to be doing next is an opportunity for you to be whoever you want to be, so don’t limit yourself to what you only think you can do. You might think you’d never in a million years try sports but after doing the Badminton taster session in Freshers week you might fall in love with it and become a national champion. You never know if you don’t try.
Thanks so much if you made it to the end of this post and good luck with any exams you’ve got coming up!