As pressure mounts for younger students to know what they want to do and where they want to go upon finishing sixth form or college, I often hear comments from students saying they aren’t sure what they want to do, the pressure they feel to know and whether they are even ready to head out into the big wide world.
Over the past few years it has become more apparent that the pressure on younger students is increasing and with the rise of universities fees and government discussions and news surrounding student finance, support and loan re-payment. I personally am not surprised that 16-18 year olds do not know which is the right route to take.
Coming to the end of my final year in university at the age of 24, I’ve had plenty of time to discover different career options as well as decide what I want to do in the future, but I also find myself looking back at my younger years. What would I have done differently? What would I tell my younger sixth form student self with the experience and knowledge I now have?
1. Do not worry
Looking back at my time in sixth form, I think I worried quite a bit. What if I didn’t achieve the grades I wanted? What if I didn’t get into a good university? What if I couldn’t manage the work load? Now as an older student, I am aware that time spent worrying is time spent not doing something to help yourself. Young students have a wealth of support; from staff, to parents to fellow students, there are always people there to talk to and always others going through the same situation and same thoughts. My best advice? Talk to someone and share your worries. By doing this you’ll find you relieve a lot of pressure from yourself.
2. It is okay to be unsure
When I was 16 I thought I 100% had to know exactly what I wanted to do at university and this in turn put a great deal of pressure on my shoulders. I would love to be able to go back and tell my younger self that it is okay to be unsure and to not know exactly what you want to do in life. Even now with a degree on the horizon I cannot say for sure exactly what I’ll do when I graduate, but now, as I get older, I realise I am not the only person in this situation and actually, It is perfectly okay!
3. Wait until the time feels right for you
With the pressure on my shoulders to know exactly what I wanted to do in life, I ended up doing a year of a university course that I did not enjoy after I’d finished sixth form. After leaving, I took a year out before starting my current course, a course I would have loved to have done when I was younger. But instead, because of what I thought was expected of me at the age, I dived in and applied to do a course I thought I would enjoy, instead of waiting to be completely sure. In hindsight, this has given me more experience than some may have.
4. Enjoy yourself
With education and the worries of what is coming next, it is easy to forget to actually enjoy yourself whilst you are young. Looking back, there were definitely times where I would put education first and forget to have fun and enjoy myself with my friends. For this reason, I would go back and tell myself to enjoy my time and ensure that there is a balance between education and down time.
5. Focus on your current studies
With everything that you have to think about as a young student, from friends and family, to part time jobs and sixth form course, work and exams, it can be easy to be easily distracted. If I could turn back the time and give myself one last piece of advice, I would tell myself to focus on my current studies, and not worry so much about everything that is yet to come.
Written by Rebekah Litherland