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Tears - First Day at College

(25 Posts)
bigmumma73 Mon 09-Sep-13 17:12:32

My 16 year old DD left Year 11 with excellent results but opted to go to college to study Art BTEC Level 3, she didn't have a brilliant time at school so we hoped this was a new beginning. I picked her up today and she says she wished she had gone back to school for Year 12, doesn't know anyone, it all feels strange, she doesn't like it.

She cried for ages, I cried, she is chilling on the sofa now. They were only in for 4 hours plus an hour for lunch today, she had lunch with some of the other girls and said they talked alot.

I have explained that it will all feel odd for a while and that it will take some time to get used to it. She is a very sensible, level headed dd and is very studious. She said that there are alot of older guys on her course 18/19 and some in their 20s, stupidly I didn't expect that, neither did she and I think it's unnerved her, even though she can have a good conversation at adult level.

I feel panic for her, am trying to stay calm but worried she will have a major wobbler tomorrow.

Any advice for me people?

lastone Mon 09-Sep-13 18:06:15

I work in an FE college. This is very normal, and not unusual for such a big change. If she hangs in there, she will be fine. Most colleges now also offer a mentoring programme for young people who are struggling with the change and other things.
You could, on the quiet, ring the 6th form and see if they still have places - they might. In my experience tho, colleges are often better at the BTECs, esp Art and Design, school 6th forms are sometimes too small to be good at these, although good at A levels.
At the end of the day the subject is the most important. The novelty of college/6thform/new teachers etc wears off and then they are left with the subject itself. If she really loves art and is good at it, try and encourage her to stay.
Hope that helps and that she is okay.

bigmumma73 Mon 09-Sep-13 18:52:43

Thanks lastone, I appreciate this. She is good, although I am biased, the 6th form don't offer alot of creative A Levels, so she was stuck doing 2 out of 4 that she didn't really want to do. It broke my heart as we were so optomistic that this was a great new start for her and I could tell as soon as I picked her up that she was 'wobbling'. She said she felt like crying at college. She has only just turned 16 so is still very young compared to her peers.

I appreciate your guidance.

headlesslambrini Mon 09-Sep-13 18:55:34

ring her personal tutor at the college and explain that she is finding it a bit tough, they will be able to put some support or a mentor in place for her.

bigmumma73 Mon 09-Sep-13 19:06:42

I so wanted to avoid being that Mother at College though! sad I felt like a pain in the ass all the way through her secondary education, although at times she needed me fighting her corner. I just know (think!) that going back to 6th Form, although the easy option, is wrong for her!

Why does it never seem to get easier! I feel so sad for her.

HangingGardenofBabbysBum Mon 09-Sep-13 19:32:33

No practical advice at all, just wanted to lend support and hope that all works out for you and your brave girl.

Gilbertus Mon 09-Sep-13 19:33:12

Why would 6th form be wrong? It sounds from your description of her that she'd do very well at a levels?

bigmumma73 Mon 09-Sep-13 20:20:52

Thanks HangingGarden, bless you.

Gilbertus, she had an awful year 10 & 11 at her Secondary, she struggled with her GCSEs but did very well, all A's, B's and 1 C. She wasn't particularly interested in the academic subjects, and we felt that allowing her to focus on her passion (art) would help matters. We hoped this was her 'time to shine'!

mumslife Mon 09-Sep-13 21:10:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sashh Tue 10-Sep-13 08:44:27

She needs to give it some time.

BTEC is very different to A Levels but for art is far superior.

Is she intending to go to uni for Art/an art subject? If so the college years are about getting her portfolio together to get into uni.

It is a huge step up from school sometimes and the teachers are trained in a different way to school teachers, she will be treated as an adult, teachers will be on first name terms and it is very different.

Ask her to keep a diary, just some notes she can scribble in the toilet with no one looking over her shoulder and then look at what is actually bothering her.

Has she gone into the 1st or 2nd year? She may well be overwhelmed by the others' work, she shouldn't be, she is there to learn and one of the things the lecturers will want her to do is tap into her emotions.

She will have some sort of personal tutor/mentor and she should approach them, they can probably pair her up with someone who 'knows the ropes' and is willing to spend breaks showing someone round.

As an FE teacher that is what I would do, pair her up with another student or a small group - not the ultra confident and not the ultra quiet but someone who has either gone through the same feelings or perhaps has a sister/brother who has.

IMHO college is a half way between school and uni, it can feel as if all support has been pulled from you but it hasn't, you just need to ask for it.

Also you get a mixture of age groups - you get this at uni too. I was in my 30s when I went to uni.

Just because it is different does not mean it is worse.

She has been in a similar environment from age 5 (school) and here it is all new, who wouldn't feel unnerved?

bigmumma73 Tue 10-Sep-13 21:15:08

Mumslife, stupidly we didn't explore other 6th forms, but she was totally uninterested in A Levels other than her passion, art! We could have pushed her into something she didn't want to do, but we want her to be happy and follow her dreams (even if they don't come to anything). Today was better, she is more upbeat, but I don't think we are out of the woods. Am waiting for another 'wobble'. She was more chatty and relaxed about the day. Apparently not looking forward to life drawing! blush

Sashh, thanks for your advice too this too is helpful. I think as parents we were very unprepared as to what to expect. Maybe we care too much (but I can't help it), dh told me off last night for getting upset for her, afraid I wear my heart on my sleeve. She seems happier today, still says it feels strange, but she is def. more relaxed. This is the 1st year, so she is doing a Level 3, says she has forgotten how to draw! She wants to go to Uni, I appreciate your advice re: portfolio, I will let her know this and suggest the journal.

I will keep in mind approaching her tutor. I desperately want to avoid getting too involved, but neither do I want to stand back too much. Kids eh wink

ll31 Tue 10-Sep-13 21:22:07

Hope she is happier tomorrow. Maybe, and I mean this kindly, you do need to step back a bit,purely in that I can't see how your crying is helying her...

ll31 Tue 10-Sep-13 21:22:39

Helping her

bigmumma73 Tue 10-Sep-13 21:26:09

Yeah no it was fine, she was in the shower! Dh just can't cope with emotion! Thanks, I hope every day is a little better than the last.

mumslife Tue 10-Sep-13 21:28:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bigmumma73 Tue 10-Sep-13 21:31:23

Ah ok thanks mumslife, I will keep that in mind. Fingers crossed she settles. Thank you.

LickleLemon Tue 10-Sep-13 21:38:13

College is a huge change from school. They go from being top of their school (pretty much) with everything and everyone so familiar to whole new surroundings etc.

It will be odd for her for a little while but it will get better.

I am 41 and in college on a course with 25 others. About half of them are 16yo school leavers. A few 17yo who did the lower level course last year and now doing the next level. A few late teens early 20s. 2 or 3 others in their 30's and a man the same age as me.

Today was my proper first day and as I pulled up in the car outside my house this afternoon I felt close to tears too. I didnt cry but felt the lump in my throat and could have cried if I had dared let myself.

I am the "old lady" on my course and although I expected this - wonder if the others will ever accept me and suddenly feel terrified of having to do activities and work and projects with these strange people. I would imagine for a 16yo its even more terrifying because I know from life experience - we will all soon relax around each other and get to know other people better.

The 16yo on my course are varied. One or 2 a bit too mouthy for their own good but most of them sat there trying desperately to look confident and relaxed but I could tell they were tense and totally out of their comfort zone (like me).

She needs to give it time. A few weeks to be honest. I am sure she will be fine a couple of weeks. There is fab support in colleges. So please do make sure gets it and dont be afraid to contact her tutor if you feel the need.

bigmumma73 Tue 10-Sep-13 22:00:16

Oh LickleLemon, I feel for you too! I guess this experience is the same whatever your age. You are right, they do go from 'ruling the school' back to the start. I suppose because she is older I expected a smooth transition, but tbh it is a big upheaval. I hope that you start to enjoy your course, getting used to new situations is so tough!

nickstmoritz Wed 11-Sep-13 11:00:07


Your DD sounds exactly like mine and is doing the same art course after being at an academic school which she did not really enjoy. Her GCSE results were good but her passion is art and she chose college over 6th form. She does not know anyone else going. My DD is shy and was in quite an anxious state about starting college with terrible nerves on her first day. I think given that you say your DD loves art and is not passionate about other A level options that she is in the right place and should stick it out. I am sure it will get easier and the enjoyment will come as she gets used to it and the nerves wear off.

For now I wouldn't get in touch with tutors as it will flag your DD up (obviously please do this if you feel she definitely needs it but I sometimes feel I have probably made things worse by intervening for my DD because like you I really feel for her and want to help) but if after 2 or 3 weeks she is still unhappy then phone or arrange a meeting with her personal tutor.

Remember her sensitivity and tears are probably part of what makes her an artistic person, my DD can definitely be like this. I have made a point of trying to be more cheerful and matter of fact/encouraging when DD is wobbling as it seems to work better than showing I am anxious for her or upset when she is. Ask her what she especially enjoyed or felt went well with the day (all the positives) and cook her some favourite meals/make evenings as stress free as possible. Make sure she gets enough sleep and eats/ drinks enough water during the day as this can effect emotions/ability to cope & enjoy her new challenges. My DD has to get up at 6am to catch the bus so I am aware that she needs to go to bed a bit earlier (i'm hoping this will sink in!).

I feel the art & design level 3 is a very credible route into an art based degree. With A levels, an art foundation would probably be necessary afterwards to experience a range of media and techniques not offered on an A level art course. The BTEC offers a more specialised experience. Good luck. You are not alone!
Let us know how it is going.

mumslife Wed 11-Sep-13 14:39:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dottygamekeeper Wed 11-Sep-13 14:53:19

My DS has just started at a new 6th form (as his school didn't have one) to do Art, Textiles, French & Economics, he wants to have a career in design. He got A* in Art & Textiles at GCSE, but is having a real wobble over the art at his new school - the school, and the class are much bigger than his old school, he has 3 different art teachers and he says he feels like he doesn't know what he is doing, can't draw, isn't being given guidance as to how they work and seems really subdued and down about it. I am just trying to keep encouraging him as it is still really early days and he probably just needs to get to grips with the new situation, people etc. but it is hard watching them struggle with what you thought would be their really enjoyable subject.

mumslife Wed 11-Sep-13 15:02:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bigmumma73 Thu 12-Sep-13 11:57:35

Thanks all. nickstmoritz we are keeping an eye on her, there have been no more tears, this week has been a little disjointed, half day yesterday when there shouldn't have been one, but one of the older girls dropped her off. She had planned day off today (no college) so has had a long lay in. Wants to go to see her friends after school, I have pointed out this may be best left for a few weeks. It's nice to know I am not alone, although obviously I wish none of us/our kids were feeling this upheaval with the transition!

mumslife our Dd's sound similar! Our Dd's art is also being remoderated (the whole class!) She also gave up her Grammar school place for college. As you can see she wants to go back this afternoon to meet the others outside..... I have offered shoe shopping as a distraction!

dottygamekeeper I hope your Ds starts to settle, bless him. It's such a difficult transition. I was totally unprepared for this.

Gilbertus Thu 12-Sep-13 13:33:16

She sounds like she lacks confidence. Are you SURE she wouldn't have rather gone into the 6th form? Although I hear what you are saying about the suitability of BTEC art.

bigmumma73 Thu 12-Sep-13 13:50:52

Never quite sure about anything in the 'parenting world', or the real world tbh wink we had a chat this morning and I can tell she is frustrated about the situation, but is adamant that she has made the right choice, I think if she could be there, with her old friends, she would be fine but life isn't like that! It was totally her choice, she only had an interest in art and drama A levels, the others were like millstones round her neck before she even started. I think she had made the right choice, and I think she thinks she has made the right choice, its just the difficult early days I think/hope.

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