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Claudia Macaluso

“I genuinely think that if I could, I would do A levels all over again.”


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How A levels helped me be prepared for university

As I am approaching the end of my time at university and embarking on important projects such as my final year dissertation, I cannot help but look back at my academic career up to this point.

I still remember the day my classmates and I were invited into school before the beginning of year 12 to officially communicate our final A level choices. To be completely honest, at the time, sixteen year old me was just happy to wave goodbye to any subject remotely related to numbers. With hindsight, however, I can now see how pivotal that moment was for my academic career. I am firmly convinced that my A levels have not only helped me prepare for university, but have been essentially the building blocks of my professional career.

I think that focusing on only 3 or 4 subjects at a time really allows you to delve deeply into the fine details of every topic you cover. This has been invaluable preparation for university, as most of my exams and assignments have required me to analyse material in extreme depth. Some students and parents may be worried about the pressure of having to make a considerably big choice at such a young age, however, being someone extremely indecisive myself, I am really glad I started thinking early on about what subject area I wanted to turn my focus towards. I found it to be the perfect stepping stone before having to face the choice of what degree I wanted to study two years later, and ultimately what field of work to pursue. Moreover, in addition to the detailed, factual knowledge that I acquired from studying History, English, French and Italian, I think my A levels have given me a multitude of vital transferable skills without which I would have struggled immensely these past three years. These include time management, critical thinking, problem solving, research, communication, self-discipline… I could go on for a good while. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that even if you don’t end up studying a degree directly related to the specific A levels you took (like quite a lot of my classmates did), you are still going to come out of two years of academic and personal growth, equipped with vital skills you will definitely require for your further studies.

Another aspect of my A levels that I am exceptionally pleased with, is the amount of guidance I was given throughout my studies at the New School. The classes I took part in ranged between 4 and 10 students, and some of my classmates chose subjects in which they ended up being the only pupils for that year!

I think that this level of support is unmatched, and never again will I experience such close assistance from dedicated, qualified experts in the field.

Other than pushing us to achieve work that reflected the very best of our abilities, the teachers have always transmitted a real passion for their subjects to the whole class, that I now carry with me at university. I am now also able to appreciate their dedication towards preparing us for university, for example by getting us to start doing the kind of ‘pre-readings’ that I am now required to complete on a daily basis for my lectures, or by assigning us group and independent projects such as presentations and past papers. I am absolutely certain that I would not be able to produce first class essays in comparative literature without having been taught the principles of essay writing in my English and History classes. The same goes for exams; my A levels were the most challenging written exam task I had ever sat before university, and I found the ‘step up’ to be extremely feasible, as it came with great ease thanks to all the prior preparation I had undergone.

One last, invaluable benefit of the A level system that I want to mention is the amount of practice I got with speaking the English language. I am now proud to say that I am completely fluent, and I am able to perform work to the same standard as native English people here in the UK. This kind of preparation is unmatched in a foreign country like Italy. These last two years of school in particular gave me the opportunity to completely immerse myself in the language from 8:30am to 3:30pm, at an extremely advanced and technical level, despite not being in an English speaking country. I genuinely think that if I could, I would do A levels all over again, simply to learn the language as well as I did.

To conclude I just wanted to reiterate once again that without the incredible luck I have had to be able to get my A level diploma, I would not be where I am now, and I could not be more grateful for this.

Claudia Macaluso