The journey into Sixth Form
While starting Sixth Form can be an exciting time for some, filled with new and exciting opportunities, it can also be daunting for both parents and students. Making decisions such as whether to change schools, which subjects to take, and considering university and career options can be overwhelming. It’s important to make sure that the Sixth Form you choose to study at is equipped to help you explore your future options and support you on your journey.
Isabella Mech, Head of Sixth Form at Cheltenham College, shares her tips for the transition into Sixth Form and what to look for if your son or daughter is changing schools.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SUBJECTS
Deciding which A Levels to take should ideally be made in line with career or degree aspirations, and this is one of the most crucial areas to investigate when deciding where to study for Sixth Form. Highly competitive universities and degree courses will always have specific A Level subject requirements but if your son or daughter hasn’t decided what to study yet, encourage them to choose A Levels that keep the doors open and that they enjoy. Some schools will block certain subjects together, so it is important to check that they are able to take all of the subjects they want when considering a Sixth Form.
It is also worth checking if the school offers any additional qualifications like the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). This is worth half an A Level and is highly valued by universities as it shows students can undertake a piece of independent work, guided by a mentor. It is much more similar to the way that undergraduates will work at university and so it is seen as excellent preparation.
SUPPORTING HIGHER EDUCATION AND CAREERS
Whether they know what they want to do after Sixth Form or not, a Higher Education and Careers department is an invaluable resource for students. Talking to the Head of Sixth Form and Head of Higher Education and Careers is vital to find out how much importance is placed on this area over the next two years – this can vary from school to school. Not all students will want to go to university and questions about degree apprenticeships and apprenticeships as alternatives to university are important.
Another area to consider is work experience – does the school have links with universities or industries? Will students be able to experience different careers while they are undertaking Sixth Form? Is there support available to students once they have left the school? Cheltenham College’s Higher Education and Careers department is available to support alumni as well as current students as it has a strong alumni network.
Sixth Form study is about so much more than just A Levels. Not only do students need to have an in-depth knowledge of their chosen subjects, they also need to be stretched and challenged out of their comfort zones. Having knowledge of current issues and taking part in activities unrelated to A Levels will broaden their horizons. See if there is a programme of electives that students can choose from. Cheltenham College offers a mini-mba programme, music technology, life drawing and liberal arts, among others, which stretch and challenge students to become more rounded individuals. Involvement in extra-curricular activities such as sports or drama can’t be over emphasised. They can help to relieve stress and allow for easier integration into university life.
GAINING GREATER INDEPENDENCE
Young people move from a relatively sheltered environment to completely independent living at university. It is really important that when looking at Sixth Forms you consider this preparation process. A great Sixth Form will arm students with strategies to cope with the new challenges of university life: managing their time and workload effectively, the ability to budget, basic first aid skills and, importantly, recognising important issues and when to ask for help.
DEVELOPING LIFE SKILLS
The job market today is highly competitive, however, many employers still complain that young people lack some of the basic skills needed for the workplace. The ability to speak in public, prepare a presentation and communicate effectively are important skills that can give a first-time jobseeker an edge over their peers. Find out what plans are in place to develop these skills. Building them into lessons is a good start but community placements and volunteering opportunities are also great ways for students to develop these soft skills, while getting a more realistic experience of the professional world.
Choosing a school for Sixth Form is an extremely important decision that needs to be made collaboratively between the parent and student, once you’ve done your research. If you’d like to find out more about all that Cheltenham College has to offer, join us for our Sixth Form Open Morning on Saturday 29 September at 10.00am.