Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Building an Adult: Going from BDDE to AAB

I’ve always been a good student as I work hard and do every assignment on time and (normally) to the best of my ability. I used to not really focus in class (gossip was far more important to me) and use my free time to catch up on work. This lazy method still let me get very good GCSE grades (5 A*, 5 A and a Distinction star) so I assumed that it would be okay for me to do the same during my A Level years. I was wrong. 

I started a new school for my 6th Form and struggled to settle down. I found the atmosphere and demands very different from my previous comprehensive and this affected me greatly. I was very depressed and payed very little attention to any of my school work. I just didn’t care about it and assumed that I could get by with little work - just like I had during my GCSEs. Obviously this didn’t work and I failed my Year 12 finishing with a B in Geography, Ds in Maths and Biology and an E in Chemistry. Shocking.

So my final year started badly with very little confidence instilled in my ability from my teachers. Much to the disappointment of my biology teacher in particular, I dropped maths as I hated almost every aspect of it and as a result sat through endless meetings with my Chemistry and Biology teachers on why I had made the wrong choice and that I should have dropped their subject. I do not know if you have ever had a teacher that has no belief in you but it is so disheartening as you begin constantly doubting your ability.

It would only get worse when I got my predicted grades of an A in Geography, a B in Biology and a C in Chemistry which were not enough for me to apply to any of the universities that I wanted to attend - I had to convince my teachers to increase my grades otherwise I was facing a year out. My Chemistry teacher sighed and reluctantly put my grade up to a B but the challenge was my Biology teacher who sent me an abrupt, catty email stating that he would put my grade up to an A but there was little chance of me getting this so I should only apply to one University asking for the higher grade. He said that at the moment it would be a struggle for me to get a B let alone an A and he didn’t want to get my hopes up about it.

However disheartening this email was I had my A prediction and so I could apply to almost every University that I wanted to and I received an offer from every one. That email had upset me but also stirred something as it made me realise how low people’s expectations were for me and made me determined to prove everyone wrong. So I started to work my arse off and ended the year with AAB - not just getting into my first choice University but proving almost everyone wrong. 

I have a few tips for anyone who desperately wants to change their grades or just wants to do better than they think they are capable of.

Tip number one: Believe in your ability 

I ignored what everyone was saying about me. When my Biology teacher told me that under no circumstances should I continue with Biology I just tuned him out. Our relationship was always turbulent with other people pointing out to me how much he hated me so I was quite used to ignoring him but if I had listened to how useless he thought I was then I wouldn’t have got my grade. If you just accept expectations then you are unlikely to be working to a higher level. Had listened to his ‘I’d be lucky to get a B’ remark then I would have just been doing B grade questions or focusing on B level past essays; however as I knew that I was able to achieve higher I was reading A grade work and doing stretch questions. Master believing in yourself and then turn your attention to your work.

So if your teacher is telling you that you aren't going to get higher than a C but you know that you can then prove them wrong and get those books out and just block them out.

Tip number two: Plan, plan, plan

Start your work now - start your A level revision tonight! 

I know it is only September but you need to plan ahead - I started properly at Christmas and if I had had an extra 10 weeks I think that I would have been able to get three As or more. So start tonight and print out (or buy) a weekly planner with each day broken down hour by hour. Then chose a topic that you are going to revise but be SPECIFIC! It is no good writing Chemistry Topic 15 because it covers a huge amount. PRINT OFF THAT SPECIFICATION and chose some points - not loads, keep it concise so you can focus properly. For example, instead of writing Topic 15 write Chemistry Topic 15: Reasons for changes of colour of transition metal ions. And once you have revised this tick off that specification point and date that mofo so when you are revisiting it later you can see how long it has been since you properly revised it. 

Allow for flexibility, especially in these early days as you may have a test sprung on you that you need to revise for but you have no room for it. Leave spaces and name it ‘flexible’ because then if nothing comes up you can either use that for free time or do something more useful such as flashcards or essay planning.

Tip number three: Time management

Some people can literally spend four hours straight revising but when you get to study leave and you are revising every single day I wouldn't advise this as you are likely to just crash. What I think works quite well is to revise solidly for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break and make yourself a drink or something then get right back to work. I would time these sessions using my Forest app which is just brilliant - seriously download is as you are then unable use your phone which is a massive distraction. Also you can keep a record of how long you have been revising for each day. At this point in the school year (September) I would aim for 4-6 hours maximum a day as you probably have a lot of school work to do as well but as you get closer to exam season the aim should be 6-8 hours every single day. 

Don’t forget you are allowed days off as you do not need to revise every day for 8 hours to achieve good grades. It is a waste of your time and will stress you out unnecessarily.

Tip number four: Revise effectively

I am going to go into more detail about this in another post but for now here are some good starting points. Make flashcards - Quizlet is my favourite revision site for GCSE and A Level as you can use it everywhere and you don’t have to carry around a box of flashcards - also you can see your progress which is so important. These flashcards shouldn’t have loads of text on - focus on key points and slowly cut them down over time until you just need some figures. Also if you are writing them out try and use some colour as it is scientifically proven to help you remember key points.

Do not waste time spending hours making notes of revision. You can get away with this initially but as you get closer to your exams it just becomes futile - copying out of a textbook is never a good idea and takes hours. Utilise your time to maximise your potential - although it looks pretty for those Instagram pictures it will not get you your A!

Past paper questions are your friend. I know that (in the UK at least) there have been massive changes to exams so you may think that it is pointless using old questions; however for a lot of subjects such as Chemistry or Biology the majority of the topics covered are similar so are completely useable. By the end of the year I was using Chemistry questions from 2003 and THEY WERE STILL RELEVANT. 

For more essay based subjects you may find it harder to find useable questions; however I would have a look at other exam boards as they probably don’t differ too much. Use specification questions and their revision guides (do them in pencil or on separate paper so you can retest yourself and maybe sell on later). 

I totally ran out of useful questions in my Geography so I asked for my teachers to write me some and mark them - they may make a fuss about this but you shouldn’t care too much. Both my parents are teachers and A Level students are their highest priority so milk that kindness. And if for some reason they aren’t helping you, find another fucking teacher and use them! Make them make you questions and mark these questions as this is literally what they are being paid for and they would much rather focus on you than Year 7s. Get them to print off past examples of work - schools tend to have years of recalled scripts that are marked with official grades on. Get these, study them and master the exam technique. For some parts of A Level courses it is almost like copy and paste so figure those sections out so you can master them before the exams are imminent. 

Tip number five: Stay focused

This can be hard, especially if you feel like you aren’t making progress. I understand this feeling so badly. We had Christmas mocks (joy) and I managed to scrape a D in my Chemistry exam even though I had revised so hard for it (spoiler: I cried a lot). It felt like my teachers were winning and that no matter what I did I wasn't doing to get into University. But I used this to push myself and work even harder. I used my mistakes in the papers to highlight areas of concern and I made sure that my poor grades weren't just going to be ignored. 

Still, sometimes you need something else to help you keep going and get over the bad grades. You may use this blog post but I, obviously, didn’t have access to this. Instead I found inspiration from the wonderful Ibz. I was an OG subscriber and have watched him grow from 400 odd subscribers to thousands and I am so proud. I have lost count of the number of times that I have rewatched his videos to remind me that success was possible and my hard work would eventually be rewarded. If you are ever feeling like it just isn’t possible you have to watch them - I used to watch them in between my revision sessions just so I could keep the motivation ticking over and he continues to inspire me to this day.

If (somehow) you still need inspiration to keep you motivated I advise to take a day off work. Do nothing. Sit on your arse and watch TV all day or see your friends or Netflix and Chill - I don't care just don’t think about work. This motivational lull is probably because you have over worked yourself and you are in the process of crashing. After your day off start again the following day but ease into it with a topic you like so you don’t instantly become overwhelmed. Try not to take more than a day or two off though as it will become harder to get back into the zone.

If you are losing focus whilst revising go outside and take a walk or go to the gym - just don’t stay in one place a you will just feel bad about being unable to work. If you take a half an hour walk and listen to a good podcast (I recomend My Dad Wrote a Porno but that is another blog post) or some good music (get that BeyoncĂ© on) you will feel so much better. Trust me. 

The next year (or years) may seem so daunting to you but achieving good grades is possible for everyone. I had some of the worst grades in A2 this time last year but I finished with some of the best (not the best but within the top 20). Nothing will beat the relief I felt from getting my grades and proving all my crap teachers wrong - I believe in you and know that if I can do it then girl/boy, you can ace them. So now after reading this I want you to take out that homework you’ve ignored or find that chapter in Chemistry you hate and fucking revise it because otherwise you are going not be achieving the grades that you and I know you can.

Monday, 11 September 2017

A New Blog Title

It has taken me a very long time to sit down and think about what I want to do with this blog that I have set up - do I want to keep the posts that I have made? Shall I focus on beauty bits or shall I mainly work on my Building an Adult series. My most popular posts tend to be the beauty focused pieces as everyone can connect with them; whereas only a handful may want to read about my opinions of self harm etc. so in terms of success I should have stuck with the current theme.

But I couldn't. My heart doesn't want to pretend that I am the kind of girl who spends hours thinking about makeup - I just buy whatever works and whatever is cheapest - I no longer have enough money to spend £60 in Lush but also I think that I have more to offer than pretty pictures of my bath.

So I want to change the main theme of this to something that feels more person so I plan on focusing almost entirely on my Building an Adult series. I hope that this will give me the freedom to express myself and opinions but also maybe help someone out a bit more that a post about a bath bomb. 

So here is to a new chapter for this blog and hopefully I will have a new post for you all soon.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

YouTube: Contentless. Soulless.

If you use the internet there is probably no doubt that you use or at some point have used YouTube - it is arguably the biggest employer in the world and has completely changed the way people watch and create. YouTube is no longer the site for cat videos and 3 minute long videos by 20-something year olds in their living rooms. Everyone seems to have a lighting set up, people have ‘offices’ bigger than a lot of peoples own homes just to make a few YouTube videos. It’s a glossy, full-of-promise business with a lot of seemingly squeaky clean professionals in the limelight.

Now I am not old - I’m 18 - but compared to a lot of the viewers and the target audience for these professionals that is 6-8 years older. It also means that I’ve been through my YouTube mad phase, the 2010-2013 period where the front page of YouTube was mainly the VlogBrothers or Alex Day or someone like that. I went to Summer in the City 2013 and stood awkwardly with other teenagers waiting for these idols that we had created for ourselves to emerge from a back room and pose for hundreds of photographs before being hushed away by a group of bodyguards. I ate cold £6 chips whilst waiting for Jason (VeeOneEye), got trampled on by Alfie Deye’s fans and on the train on the way back I listened to Alex Day as I dreamt of being back in the sweaty mess of teenagers.

Today this is my worst nightmare and some of the people I saw that day are a distant memory in terms of their YouTube career. They’ve been through the YouTube mess and have barely made it out on the other side because life has got in the way and either fucked their mental health over or left them without a career and no way of paying the bills. YouTube and the people who regularly interact with it are powerful - it is the most power 13 year old should have, and it is potentially too much. 

Take Alex Day - he was at the height of his game 2013/2014 in terms of YouTube (whether he felt personally that everything was going great is something I will never know and don’t need to know). He had a book deal, singles out and he was back together with his girlfriend, and then the accusations happened. He was accused of everything - rape, sexual assault, cheating etc. and he lost everything for quite a long time. He didn't use his YouTube, he broke up with his girlfriend and he lost his book deal. Now whether or not he did what he was accused of is something that I can not talk about because I do not know. Nothing was ever proven and no charges were ever brought against him. He lost so much over a short period of time because the power of YouTube was used against him.

By ‘the power of YouTube’ I mean the audience, the links with social media, the ease at which a video or a comment can be spread. The wrong thing said at the wrong time will be scrutinised ten times over and, if for whatever reason, you are not the YouTube perfect person it is likely to hurt you at least and in the most extreme cases ruin your life. If Alex Day (for example) applies for a job in the future and his employer Googles him the first thing that comes up is his Wikipedia page and the second section is listed ‘Sexual manipulation allegations’. Is this the best thing to have stuck to you for the rest of your life? Probably not.

Now content creators have to be so careful about what they say and who they interact with - this is their job and if something slips that people disagree with it can be next to impossible to ever rebuild that community and earn the same as they were before. So it became safe. YouTubers began making videos for their audience and not even the majority of their audience but its most active members. These are professionals who need to sell their content as ad revenue is not enough to build a career on - if a YouTuber knows that the vast majority of their audience is 18-25 year olds; however the majority of comments and products sold are to 14 year olds who are they going to aim their videos towards - the people they aren't making any money from or the group that are providing them a big enough income for their flat in London?

This in turn attracts a bigger and even younger audience making it even harder for a YouTuber to create original content that can not offend anyone. If they swear too much then they are in trouble because they have a young audience, if they talk about sex they become the subject to a DaiyMail article because they shouldn’t be taking about a natural thing as a nine year old may get a bit confused. The worst part of all is it only needs to take one person to lie about the YouTuber for their life to come crashing down - if they are telling the truth and charges are brought against that person or there is sufficient evidence then so be it - they shouldn't be in such an influential profession. But if the YouTuber can not defend themselves - no matter if it is a lie or not, the audience and the consumers will always outnumber that person and their online career is pretty much over.

SITC was a disaster in my books - I try to avoid the majority of teenagers who scream and cry and only talk about why they think certain people should get together; however I would say that it was the turning point. Before then YouTube had a limited number of creators and a limited audience - the creators could make content for whom they pleased because sponsorship was only just beginning to emerge and their audience was generally the same age as them. The reason that YouTube is getting so big is killing slowly - in 10 years time a lot of the people that people currently worship will have left either on their own accord or forced out. As every day passes it becomes less content based and more money focused until one day it will literally be like watching 30 minutes of adverts one after another. Contentless. Soulless. 

Saturday, 31 December 2016

My 2016

My 2016

What have I learnt about my self this year? Probably not a lot. I’ve learnt Biology, Organic Chemistry and how the volcanic neck that Edinburgh Castle stands upon was formed but very little about myself. It has been a tough year with more downs than up until the start of this school year where I finally found my footing in my school, settled down with my work and focused on what I want to achieve. I want to do my best and show all the (many) people who do not believe that I can achieve my goals that they are wrong.

This year I fell in love with a city. Like millions of other people New York stole my heart but it did more than that. As I sat in a restaurant watching the workers who live in New York go out for office drinks after work it made me realise that I need to study what I want rather than what other people want me to study. I am an intelligent girl and had always strived for the best - I wanted to go to the best university and do the hardest course that I could. I chose A Levels - not because I particularly enjoyed the subject but because they were ‘hard’ A Levels. They would get me far. I never factored in how they would make me feel though, the stress of drawing out organic molecule after organic molecule. So I stopped telling people that I was going to try and go to Oxford to study Geography and instead set my sights on Manchester or Leeds to study Criminology. It is a degree that people look at you funny when you say it but I know that it is something that I will love to do. I’m doing something for myself for once.

I had my heart broken again in 2016 by the same person. That was hard, especially when everyone told me it was a stupid idea to go back to him, but it isn’t something I regret. I know that we have ended in a better way that we did last time which is something that I am happy about. I lost contact with some of my old friends as we drifted apart over time but became fast friends with new people. I realised that I shouldn’t hesitate to meet new people because I already had good friends and that I should try and meet as many new people as possible without judging them. I am now friends with people that I would have never thought I would have been this time last year (or even 6 months ago).

School work is demanding and social life is tempting but in a boarding school your school work is your social life (sort of) and I would like to think that over the last few weeks that I have managed to find some sort of a balance between the two. In September I directed a school version of Macbeth which is something that I am very proud of as it was completely out of my comfort zone and was a successful play (after one or two breakdowns). It showed me that I should go out of my comfort zone more frequently which is why I have become an active member of my debate team and vocal in my house. I would like to think that people are proud of how well I have managed to fit in. 

Now I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions because I think that changing yourself comes over time but I do have aims for 2017 - things that I don’t need to change about myself but what I want to achieve. 
1. I want at least ABB in my A Levels (preferably AAB or maybe even AAA to surprise everyone!)
2. I want to have an offer from every university that I applied to (not something that is particularly in my control but we will see - I’m just waiting for you Bristol).
3. Get an award at the end of the year. It is given to leaving students - I only have 6 months of school left. That’s terrifying.
4. Go to University and not hold myself back like I did when I moved schools for 6th Form. Have fun. It’ll be good.
5. Make time for myself in the summer - it’s all about me and my friends and family this year, not just about myself.

What are your goals/ resolutions? Did you have a good 2016 or a bad one?

Friday, 30 December 2016

What I Got For Christmas: Beauty

What I got for Christmas: Beauty

I got a lot of stuff for Christmas and I thought I would share it with you! I would like to say sorry about the warmth of the lighting - the weather isn't great here in Dorset at the moment so it is quite artificial! Firstly I got the Soap and Glory Beauty Box (it was half price in Boots) which contains some great things (some I personally feel are a bit over rated - I'm looking at you The Righteous Butter). Also I don't use the Scrub of Your Life scrub as it contains microbeads that I am personally against - as does the face wash I believe so I will probably be regifting these; however the rest I love and would recomend. Soap and Glory is one of my favourite brands. 

Lush! Finally I have some more Lush stuff which I will be doing reviews and stuff as I use them. I have already used two items - the Father Christmas one (hence the different background and better lighting) and Satsuma - which I do not have a photo of (sadly). I am very excited to use these bath bombs - this gift set is no longer available in stores as it is a Christmas gift but it will probably return next year so keep an eye out then!

Miscellaneous items are often the best and some of these I have never heard of before so I am buzzed to use them. The Palmers is my favourite body moisturizer and the Origins body lotion is my favourite smells. The Soaper Duper body wash is a knew one (I think its only found in Liberty) and although it is lemon scented it smells more like banana and that diffuser smells fantastic (I can not explain how nice it smells or what it smell like but it is lovely and you can find it in Waitrose).

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas 2016

Christmas 2016

I thought that I would share some of the stuff that I got for Christmas just because I love to see what others have, I am not going to write in detail about them just yet - I will probably do this at a late date for each section. I hope you had a great Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) and ate loads of crappy food! Enjoy!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Building An Adult: How I revise

Revision, Revision, Revision!

A slightly different Building An Adult today but this is something that is probably very important to help you get on the path of become an adult. Revision. Its boring, tedious at the best of times but it is very rewarding in the long run and is so important if you want to achieve highly in exams!

Unless you are a genius and one of those students that seem to be gifted at everything, revision is crucial if you want to achieve anywhere near your best in your exams. I am not incredibly intelligent; however I work and revise hard - this lead me to achieve 5 A*s, 5 As and a Distinction at GCSE and, due to the ranking of the state school that I attended, this placed me well into the top 1% of students in the country. But it was far from easy! I was revising hard every day and night and started months before the exams started - don't wait for your course to have finished to start revising. You can always revise something! I am now going to go through some of my revision tips and strategies to try and help you achieve your best grades - if this post helps you and motivates you to work I might do another one with my other revision strategies.

  1. Forest - the brilliant app. Forest is a simple app, with no levels and not even fancy graphics but it is brilliant if you want to focus hard on something without the distractions of you phone (Instagram is killer for procrastination). All you need to do is set a time, you have a choice between 10 and 120 minutes and then you 'plant' a tree. If you then go on and use your phone in your plants 'growing' period then the tree dies and you're left with a horrible dead tree in your field. I can't bring myself to give up and kill my tree so I have completed every growing period. It tracks how well you've done and adds up your total number of minutes/hours growing per week so it is also motivating - you can do that 20 minutes more! It is available for free on every know app store (as far as I am aware!) and I can't imagine revising without it now!

2.  Highlight the key parts. This seems stupid and simple but just reading a piece of text is going to get you no where. Highlight the key parts and even annotate them if you need to simplify something for yourself and link it to another page. It may feel a bit odd to write in your textbook, especially as so many people will have paid an arm and a leg for them and want them in good condition so they can resell them but you shouldn't be thinking about that! Are you grades less important that getting that £30 back? If you have borrowed the textbook/book and are not allowed to write in then sticky notes and arrows are your best friend.

3. Another simple but so effective way of making sure that you are working to the best of your ability is to have a pencil case. For many people this is just obvious but I now so many people who just turn up to lessons with a chewed Bic pen and a few pieces of crumpled paper. How are you ever supposed to achieve grades if you aren't even organised enough to have a pencil case? My pencil case is just the most simple one - it is covered in the names of previously banned books but any one will do (even a plastic wallet if you really can't get one. Pen wise take great care with you stationery - think that they are the pens that will carry you to victory. Personally my favourite pens are the black V Ball roller balls or the papermate ones for all my colourful notes. Personally I find that writing in pencil doesn't improve your notes as it is not bold enough. The key points just point stand out. 

4. Write your notes down. It is all well and good reading a textbook and highlighting some important sentences but what if you aren't then using that information then you will have forgotten it within minutes. Make a poster or buy a pukka pad for each subject and write down all the notes you want to. Make sure that you aren't just copying entire pages from the textbook - try and take a paragraph (or some of your highlighted sections) and rewrite them in your own words, using highlights and different colours to emphasise the hardest bits and the most important bits. Then make sure that you have a pack of page markers to hand. I use these to point to entire sections or key parts that I still haven't quite got the hang of so that when I am going back through my notes I can focus on these harder areas. Once learnt and understood I simply remove the page tag. It is so satisfying to watch the numbers fall.

5. Questions! Consolidate your learning with textbook questions or ones that you have found online. My school has access to Exampro so all questions are online with markschemes and examiners reports. I find these especially helpfully but I know that a lot of schools don't have it so just use the questions provided for you or find some online. If you don't get the question try and find the answer in the textbook before giving up and looking at the answers - only when you can't find it then look and see if you understand where this has come from.