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We caught up with soon-to-be Bristol Undergraduate Olivia. Olivia is at home during lockdown and awaiting her A-level results later this summer. She will be the first in her family to go to university and understands the challenging aspects of moving on from GCSEs to A-level study. If you’re about to start 6th form or college, read on to find out more about Olivia’s experience and what pearls of wisdom she has to share about the new and exciting challenges ahead.

Was it difficult stepping into A Level from GCSE?

Yes, it felt like a big a jump! There was a lot more writing than I had expected at A-level, and it does take time to adjust to the new pace of work. I also needed to retake four of my GCSE’s (English, Math’s, Psychology and Sociology) before I could join the A-level courses. Retaking GCSES at college was actually a helpful introduction into college environment, which I really enjoyed! The college tutors were also really knowledgeable about A-level study so that helped me when moving from GCSE to A-Level.

What is the BEST tip to give to current Y11’s entering Key Stage 5/Sixth Form?

Believe in yourself that you can do more than you think and even when you question yourself, you will get through it. Try to immerse yourself in college life as much as possible, meeting new people and speaking to teachers – find out what else your college has to offer as there are lots of opportunities.

Pick subjects you love and you won’t find the work a chore! If you find yourself on a route to studying something you don’t enjoy you’ll be more likely to feel unmotivated and find yourself struggling to keep up, if you find yourself in this position then seek advice.  Getting the grades you want and deserve doesn’t mean studying from 8am to 1am every day, it's so important to still do fun things with the friends and family as sometimes I think you can get a bit carried away with revision when actually sometimes all you need is a good catch up with friends over a Wagamamas!

What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

You will get there, it doesn’t matter if the route doesn’t follow exactly as you expect it too and it might be harder than you thought, but you will get there.

If you could change one thing about your experience at A Level what would it be and why?

Put more effort into the first year, if you put the leg work in early you’ll feel more confident going into your second year. This doesn’t have to be sitting at your computer for hours on end but may be as simple as just some additional reading.

What was the best thing about KS5/Sixth Fom and why do you feel this way?

It’s hard to say just one thing! Making new friends and meeting new people, this opens up more opportunities. I also loved the subjects I was learning about and this helped me to feel fully engaged and ready to learn.

Who was the most helpful person in supporting your application to university?

The Progression Team in the college were really helpful, they read my UCAS application and gave advice. It was really easy to drop in or book an appointment to speak to them, they’re also trained to provide advice so you can feel confident with what you hear. I knew I wanted to study Psychology at university so I found my tutors were also able to help with advice on what would work best in my application.

What have you done in lockdown to keep you smiling?

I still carried on with some college work for a short time and that was a good distraction to keep busy. I love craft and painting so I’ve been keeping busy with small projects at home, along with watching lots of Netflix!

When you move to university - what will be the first thing you pack and why?

I’m a real home person so I am thinking I’ll try to head home when I can, but when I do go I will absolutely take my MacBook! As well as some photos, some nice cushions and my dressing gown! Lots of stationary too of course!

Name three things you MUST do to successfully apply to university!

1. Make sure you have a good personal statement. I’m due to start Bristol Uni and they gave me really good feedback. Take your time with it and make use of the expert advice out there. It’s also really helpful way of spending time thinking about what you enjoy and what experience you have.

2. Start your UCAS application as early as possible. This also means you can tap into the experts who may have more availability earlier on than they do closer to the deadline time.

3. Student finance. My parents didn’t go to university so it was a real learning curve for all of us. I’m also dyslexic and hadn’t realised that I could also access some additional funding. It feels like a lot of paperwork to get together but planning to spend time on it and seek advice gives you the best chance.

What piece of advice would you give to Y12 students?

Be prepared with the final year pressure, independent study is very different than GCSE study and a real skill you can only learn as you go. I suffer with anxiety and this felt like a real shift, however it wasn’t long before I realised that it was all going to be worth the extra effort. Lastly, enjoy it! It’s your last year and I would say my A-levels have been the most enjoyable part of education so far!

How do you feel about starting Uni in October?

In terms of starting Uni in October I don’t have the details on what the schedule will look like yet and I do worry about how different it will be. A few friends have deferred until next year but I am keen to stick to my plan and get on with it!

What or who has been your biggest influence in going to Uni?

I really love the subject I’ll be studying! When I finished my GCSE’s I didn’t think Uni would be an option for me but the more I learnt about the career paths available to me I knew that going to Uni was going to give me the best chance.