It’s coming up to decision time for students across the country, as you have to decide which route to take when it comes to applying for further education. Whether you’re planning on studying A Levels, going to college to take NVQs or a BTEC, trying to get an apprenticeship or considering full-time work, there are a huge number possible routes for you to take.
The Hotcourses team know how difficult that choice can be (we’ve all been there ourselves, some more recently than others) and although we can’t make your decision for you, here are our top tips on what you should and shouldn’t do when applying for further education:
DO keep your options open - There is absolutely nothing wrong with applying at your further education at your current school if there is the opportunity to do so, but don’t rule out other places just yet. Even if you’re 99% sure that you plan to stay on at your high school beyond GCSEs, it’s still worth visiting other potential sixth forms and colleges on open days so you’re certain the decision you’ve made is the right one.
DON’T pick a course too far from home – As exciting as it may sound to enrol on a course in a different town or county, it is decision that should be made with caution. A long commute to sixth form or college every day will not only require an early start and potentially expensive travel costs, but could impact your grades as you struggle with tiredness. The longer academic day will limit the time available for self-study, plus leave fewer opportunities to spend socialising with friends.
DO look at more than just the course – You are likely to be spending the next two or three years at this sixth form or college, so it’s worth checking what extra-curricular activities that they offer. If you’re a sporty type or a good musician, the facilities that the place has for you to keep doing what you love will be important. Many further education places will offer an array of extra classes and sessions, so you can make the most of your time there, both in and out of the classroom.
DON’T let friends affect your decision - It’s always important to have a good circle of friends, but that doesn’t mean you should apply for a college or sixth form simply on the basis of where your best mates are going. The qualities the institution has that are going to help your long-term career should be considered far more important than if ‘Dave’ or ‘Sarah’ (or whatever your close friend is called) is taking their A Levels there. You’ll quickly make new friends as you meet more people (plus you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to see your high school mates).
DO ask about funding – With course materials and daily travel costs, the total spend by applying for further education can quickly add up. However, there are various sources of funding available which can limit your spending, with institutions having a bursary fund through the government to help their students. These bursaries are often means tested based on your family household income, but there are cases where the centre may pay for equipment or your travel, so it could still help you.
DON’T overwork yourself – When it comes to looking at how or where to apply for further education, it’s important to manage your time wisely. Ensuring you’re setting yourself plenty of time to pick your college or sixth form course will help you make a decision on where to go. Your extra-curricular activities and any part-time work you’re doing to earn some cash may be crucial to you, but focusing on making sure you actually select the further education route best for you is more important.
DO think long term – If you have a career plan already mapped out in your head, it’s worth looking ahead at potential university courses or higher education programmes you may wish to enrol on in the future. Many undergraduate degrees look for specific A level or BTEC entry qualifications, so it’s worth knowing about those first to ensure you pick the subjects and courses to help you along your way.
DON’T rush your application – Getting something done straight away is usually a good thing, but when it comes to these applications, waiting a little while until you’ve fully researched the possible options is the best idea. There are often lengthy deadlines to get the forms completed and sent back, so there isn’t a major rush (just make sure you get them in before the actual deadline!).
DO get advice – To assist you with applying for further education, seek guidance from teachers and parents, as they know your qualities best and will have your best interests at heart. For an independent view of what to do next, our careers guide has more information and support about potential employment options you could take. If you’ve shortlisted your career path down to a few options, the compare careers page can help make you make your final decision.
DON’T panic! – Although there is a lot to think about, there’s no reason to get stressed out by the application process. By following our dos and don’ts and not leaving it until the last minute to apply, you’ll hopefully be in the position to make a clear choice about how to apply for futher education.
With a BA in Journalism, Alistair has a passion for writing, especially if it's got anything to do with football or other sports. In his spare time, he's big on exercise and he once completed the London Marathon.