With secondary schools around the country beginning a new school year this week, I am reminded of my own ‘last first day’ at school when I began sixth year in August 2012. The apprehension and worry I felt are common to every incoming Leaving Cert student, but I promise that this final year in secondary school can be enjoyable and successful when done right! You are taking the first steps of a long journey, and the tips below can help you to ease into sixth year and continue with confidence.
1. Get organised
Preparing for the start of a new school year can be daunting for many students, particularly those going into sixth year. Make organising yourself easier by listing the tasks that need to be done and ticking them off as you complete them. Check that you have the required books, exam papers, and stationery for each class and ensure that your desk is clean and free of clutter. Keeping your locker tidy can prevent unnecessary stress throughout the year, as can making several copies of your timetable and keeping them within easy reach.
2. Work with your teachers
Remembering that your teachers want you to succeed is vital to surviving sixth year. Many teachers have taught Leaving Cert students for years, and as such they can provide valuable advice and support over the coming year. Don’t hesitate to ask questions before, during, or after class – your teachers are here to help! Most teachers will be happy to provide feedback on extra work or hold mock oral and practical exams throughout the year. Working with your teachers to tackle the Leaving Cert will increase your confidence and help you to reach your potential.
3. Keep on top of your work
Procrastinating at the start of sixth year will lead to increased stress closer to the exams, and as such now is the time to get working. Simple habits such as paying attention in class, completing your homework every night, and studying for class tests will provide an excellent foundation for more intense study later in the year. Brush up on fifth year topics and learn new material as it’s covered in class, and ask a teacher to clarify anything you don’t understand. Sixth year is a marathon, not a sprint, and working consistently from the beginning will benefit you in the end.
4. Pace yourself
It’s important to clarify that ‘keep on top of your work’ shouldn’t be interpreted as ‘start the intense study in September and burn out by Christmas’! Some students feel that starting sixth year means that they have to spend hours studying every night, but this mindset can lead to too much pressure and cause students to peak too early. At this stage you should focus on understanding the material and studying smarter, not harder. Leaving the serious study until the mocks or later will allow you to reach the top of your game when it matters in June and prevent stress from building to dangerous levels early on.
5. Stay healthy
The importance of maintaining your physical health throughout sixth year cannot be overstated. Getting enough sleep increases performance, so writing until 2am or getting up at the crack of dawn to study tends to backfire. Fuel your body with plenty of water and healthy snacks and ditch the caffeine and sugar. Make time to eat end enjoy full meals at home and relax at lunchtime in school – everybody needs a break! Take the time to exercise and make sure to treat yourself occasionally, but avoid overindulging in alcohol and fast food at the weekends. Feeling healthy and energetic will allow you to do your best every day.
6. Look after yourself
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and looking after yourself in sixth year should be a priority. Keeping things in perspective can reduce stress and anxiety, so remember that the Leaving Cert is a point in your life, not the point of your life. Make time for activities that you enjoy and spend time with your friends and family. Exercising regularly can make a huge difference to your mindset, even if it’s just a quick walk between study sessions. Try to switch off at night and at the weekends, and enjoy study breaks and lunchtime in school. Understanding that your wellbeing is more important than any academic achievement is vital to enjoying sixth year and reaching your full potential.
Armed with the above advice, every incoming Leaving Cert student can have an enjoyable and successful year. Tweet us @adaptemy and let us know your tips for sixth year!