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Uni applicant diaries: transitioning from S5 to S6

Scottish student Rebecca has just begun sixth year but already has some words of wisdom when it comes to the jump to Advanced Highers, as well as applying to uni.

1. Fifth year is (really) difficult

In general, fifth year was the most stressful year of my life so far!

Nobody tells you how many deadlines, assessments and assignments are going to be thrown at you, and how exhausting it is to keep up with five different, fast-paced subjects. Plus, every teacher thinks their subject is your number one priority.

Making a study plan – and sticking to it – gave a structure to my days, especially when I was on study leave and wanted nothing more than stay in bed and sleep all day. While a few “do-nothing” days are definitely essential to your mental wellbeing, planning out my days in advance really helped me balance my time well.

Doing a few past papers each night in the months leading to exams really paid off too.

Also, online groups like Studyblr – the corner of Tumblr which romanticises studying – definitely motivated me... 

2. Learn from your Higher results 

In the end, I achieved AAAAB in my Highers, with my four As in English, maths, geography and physics and my B in art. 

This came as quite a surprise since I'm not really scientifically minded and I struggled throughout the year with physics and maths. On the other hand, I thought I could breeze through art because I was good at drawing. 

My results made me really take a look at my academic performance. Since I had put in so much effort with physics and maths, I'd reaped the benefits. Meanwhile, I pushed art aside because I assumed I was good enough at it, only for my grade to suffer here. 

This made me take a long think about my priorities for this year. I want to make sure I don't push the “easy subjects” aside just because I think I have it covered. 

3. Advanced Highers: a taste of what’s to come

I chose to study Advanced Higher English since I've always been interested in writing, both creatively and discursively. 

I'm considering studying English literature at university so the course – which is equivalent to a first year uni class – gives me a good insight to what English might be like this time next year if I decide to pursue it further. 

Advanced Highers may also help you stand out from other applicants, which is pretty important.

4. Choosing the right Highers in sixth year

Depending on how well you did in your fifth year Higher results, sixth year can either be a breeze; or the year where you have to pull up your socks and change your work ethic. 

Thankfully I did well, which meant this year I could pick Higher subjects for interest's sake, rather than because I needed them for the university course I wanted to apply to. 

So I've chosen to study Highers in history, human biology, and design and manufacture too this year. I feel like these are broad enough to keep me busy while still being subjects I'll enjoy.

As a result, I'm not dreading my last year of school, something I've seen happen all too much with friends and siblings in the past. I'm so thankful that I can relax a bit now that I have the grades to get into the universities I'm interested in.

5. Advanced Highers aren't a complete walk in the park

So far, Advanced Higher English has required at least twice the amount of time that the same Higher course did. In fact, the jump from National 5 English to Higher English seems like nothing in hindsight now. 

Since Advanced Higher English is at the same level as a first year English degree class, it's to be expected that the subject gets harder as you take it further.

6. Direct entry into second year: think carefully

Since Advanced Highers are comparable to the first year of a degree, some universities let you begin a course in second year if you've studied the subject at Advanced Higher level.

Personally, I wouldn't choose to go straight into second year from high school, though I know people who have and have greatly enjoyed the experience. 

For me, the first year of university is when I want to get a feel for my uni and its campus, as well as join unions and societies. I worry that starting straight into second year would mean I'd miss out on all the learning and growing experiences that undergraduates get to have in first year. 

7. Applying to a Scottish uni? Stand out!

The vast majority of Scottish undergraduates stay in the country to study because of the free tuition, plus many foreign students come to study here. Therefore it can be daunting when you see how many candidates are applying to the same courses as you, and that you have to stand out from them in your application. 

Things like work experience and detailed research can help you rise above other applicants. Given this competition, I'm trying to take part in as many activities as I can so I can demonstrate my interest for the courses I'm applying to later.

About Rebecca

Rebecca is a current sixth year student in Scotland. Her hobbies include writing, painting and playing guitar. She's currently applying to university to study either English or geography.

Want to share your uni journey like Rebecca and get some experience with a well known brand under your belt for that personal statement or CV? We're always looking for student contributors to write blogs, film quick videos or snap some pics. Drop us a quick message at whichuniversity@which.co.uk if you're interested.

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