Juggling A Levels with acting: Lessons on getting through exams from the Heartstopper cast

heartstopper cast
Some of the young Heartstopper cast are balancing their A Levels with other commitments. Here's how. Source: @Heartstopper_TV/ Twitter

From the new season of “Stranger Things” to the second instalment of “Bridgerton”, Netflix is putting out some of its most successful productions to date. A smaller — but no less impactful — one is “Heartstopper”, the heartwarming love story of two teenage boys who fall in love over the course of their school year. There are many factors that make the show appealing: the joy of teenage love across all genders and sexualities is one. Another huge driver of the show’s success is the Heartstopper cast — most of whom are fresh out of Sixth Form.

Some, like William Gao, who plays Tao, and Kizzy Edgell, who plays Darcy, have already completed their studies. The two leads — Joe Locke and Kit Connor — are still completing their A Levels while navigating their newfound fame and promoting the new Netflix series.

Locke is taking Politics, History and English, while Connor is preparing for his exams in Drama, English Literature and History. 

@slytherinhouseforeverx Mine are a lot like Joe’s ♡ [@joelocke03 @kitsconnor1] #joelocke #kitconnor #heartstopper #netflix #charliespring #nicknelson #alevels #britishschool #ukeducation #bafta #bafta2022 #fyp #foryou #foryoupage ♬ original sound – ᴠᴇʟᴏᴄɪᴛʏ

The two Heartstopper cast members have admitted that they find it difficult to manage their studies with work. “It’s not the most clean, easy Sixth Form experience you could have,” Connor told The Times. “But it’s about finding the balance and making sure that when I’m not doing press I can still be productive.”

This might prompt a question from every fan still completing their exams: how exactly do Locke and Connor balance their A Levels with life, work and other commitments, and what can students learn from this? 

How the Heartstopper cast balance school with work

Know what to prioritise

It’s no secret: A Levels are one of the most important exams you’ll complete as a student. Your results can determine your university admissions, how any future employers perceive you, and more. 

However, completing your exams doesn’t mean that you have to give up your life outside of class. Instead, you should start thinking about the most important things to prioritise now, and schedule other activities around that. This is especially important if you’re involved in many extra-curricular activities or have a part-time job

For example, a student who’s president of the Model UN club but needs an A*AA to meet their conditional offer may need to think about delegating their responsibilities to other society members. This way, they’ll have more time to allocate to their A Levels.

Connor is going through a similar predicament. As important as acting is to him, he’s determined to pass his A Levels — which means putting his studies above obligations like press calls. In his interview with The Times, he admitted to “calling from a little classroom on a free period, so I’m not missing any lessons”. 

The key to balancing your studies and other activities is through effective time management. Source: mangpor2004/Shutterstock

Equally important is to manage your time effectively rather than try to squeeze everything — from exam preparations to your extracurriculars — in. 

While you shouldn’t have to give up other parts of your life for your A Levels, it’s important to avoid taking up too many things at once or risk burnout, which will negatively affect your exam preparations.

Gao was close to experiencing burnout due to his incredibly busy schedule. He told Attitude about how, before meeting the magazine’s representatives for a set visit, he’d been taking a three-hour Chinese writing exam. 

“It was absolute chaos,” he told them. “Looking back, it was a really crazy, intense time.”

You could think about visualising how you’ll divide your time by creating a timetable, for instance. Look through your study materials and write down how many hours you think you’ll need to cover each topic. Give yourself some time to unwind and relax; dedicate the remaining hours of your day to other activities. 

Learning to manage his time certainly helped Gao with his studies. “I think I dealt with it OK,” he said. “And I was happy with my results.”

@joelocke03 Gonna get 3 f’s and it’s @netflix ♬ Why Am I Like This? – Orla Gartland

Forgive yourself if you slip up

Sticking to a timetable may seem like the most effective way to move forward — and for many students, it is. However, if you’re new to the concept, you might find yourself slipping up every once in a while. 

For example, you might have blocked out a certain amount of time to study a particular topic, only to find that you need more time to cover it. This will inadvertently push you behind schedule for your other plans. 

First of all, keep in mind that this is normal. You can’t predict when things might up and affect your study plan and schedule. This is certainly something the Heartstopper cast has had to deal with, what with their busy filming schedules, press tours, and academic commitments. 

The key is to know when to be flexible. Accept that you will slip up once in a while, and when that happens, learn to accommodate.

So, if you find that you need more time to complete a topic, rearrange your schedule. This might mean spending less time on other activities or omitting them altogether.