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Things to do instead of college when you leave school

If you’re leaving school this year, you may be thinking you don’t want to go on to sixth-form or college to study for your A-levels.

Perhaps you’ve had enough of education or want to get straight into work or training, or maybe you’re feeling a bit directionless and unsure of what you want next.

This guide is here to help you decide whether college is the right option for you, and suggest some things to do instead of college.

'Not convinced college is for you? Check out this guide to things to do instead of college - plus the lowdown on what college is really all about'

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1. Understand what the law says

Students in stairwell

Full-time study is one of your options, although the others

involve an element of education or training as well

So the law has one or two things to say about what you have to do between now and when you turn 18. You have three options after you leave school:

  1. Continue in education – that means studying for an academic qualification like A-levels or the International Baccalaureate, undertaking an applied qualification like the BTEC, retaking your GCSEs, or various other things.
  2. Get a job – you can get a job or volunteer for up to 20 hours per week when you reach 16, but you must attend some form of education or training as well.
  3. Begin training – you can train for a job through an apprenticeship or traineeship.

The obligation to be in some form of education or training might sound quite restrictive if you really don’t want to go to college, but actually there’s quite a lot of scope – and you should remember that training is essential if you want to do a fulfilling and skilled job.

2. Be clear about what college means

So you may not be keen on college, but if you think it’s just about A-levels, think again. There are many types of qualifications you can study at college:

  • Academic qualifications: A-levels, International Baccalaureate, etc, which give you a strong academic grounding in the subjects studied.
  • Applied qualifications: BTEC etc, qualifications which mix theory with practical, skills-based education in readiness to apply what you have learnt in the workplace.
  • Vocational qualifications: NVQ etc, which train you for particular job roles.
  • Basic skills: You can do GCSE resits or functional skills qualifications through college.
  • Higher education: Further education colleges (FECs) often offer higher qualifications such as foundation degrees, diplomas and even bachelor’s degrees today.

3. Know the alternatives and what they entail

Young woman in job interview

If you're not keen on college, it may be time to find your first

job, although you'll have to spend part of the week in education

or training

These are the main things to do instead of college:

Get a job – You can apply for a job straight away, and work up to 20 hours a week. You will still need to study or train for the remaining part of the week, so this option won’t get you out of college entirely.

Volunteer – Instead of getting a job, you could volunteer. This is a good way to gain any work experience and skills you need to apply for your ideal job. You can only do this for 20 hours a week, and will need to study or train for the rest of the time.

Start an apprenticeship – This is a good option if you know what you’d like to do, as you will train for a specific role in the workplace, and work towards relevant qualifications. You may need to study at home, at work or in college depending on your course. At 16, the most likely options will be an intermediate or an advanced apprenticeship, as you need A-levels/equivalent to apply for a higher or degree apprenticeship. You may be able to apply for a higher or degree apprenticeship once you have completed your first apprenticeship.

Complete a traineeship – A short, 6-month placement designed for those without C+/4+ GCSEs in English and maths, or the necessary skills and experience for the apprenticeship they’d like to apply to. This makes a good stepping stone and is worth investigating if you missed the marks you need to apply for the apprenticeship you want.

4. Figure out your long-term plan

Knowing where you’d like to get to in your career will help you plan the steps you need to take to arrive there. You will feel much more motivated if you know that each step in your career is taking you to where you want to be. You may even feel differently about attending college or even sitting A-levels if they are part of your career journey.

If you need figuring out your dream job, take a look at our post “What job should I do?” to start planning.

Hopefully you’ve got a clearer picture of what college is about and whether it’s for you, as well as some idea of things to do instead of college. Take a look at our post on the difference between college and university if you’re still puzzled.

Image credits

Lead image via Thomas Tallis School Flickr account, Students in stairwell via NEC Corporation of America Flickr account, Interview by Amtec via Amtec Staffing Flickr account