There are many things you can do after sixth form depending on your preferences and your grades. Researching different options can be a time-consuming business, so it’s a good idea to start thinking about your choices early. Making the right choice involves combining your preferences and ideas about the future to form realistic plans.
Going to university is a popular choice for many sixth form students. The benefits of higher education include becoming an expert in something, greater job opportunities and (statistically) better pay. It’s important to remember that full-time uni is not the only route into higher education. Universities offer a wide range of different subjects and courses including ‘regular’ degrees (e.g. BSc, BA etc.), foundation degrees and other higher education qualifications. Your grades will have a big impact on your options, so careful research is required. Go to university open days to test out this option and develop your ideas about what and where to study.
Work-based higher education
There are various options to combine work with higher education qualifications. These include university study-work schemes (where you complete your degree alongside extended work placements), higher apprenticeships (a paid job with integral higher education qualifications) and sponsored degree programmes (where you are sponsored through your degree and work for your sponsor during the holidays/placements). These options allow immediate entry into the workplace, whilst gaining higher level qualifications alongside your job can help you progress in your occupation. These school leaver schemes can be highly competitive, so be sure to develop your employability skills in advance.
Part-time, distance learning and local higher education
This option includes foundation degrees, HNCs, HNDs or regular degrees studied either part-time (at a local college or university) or online (distance learning – offered by many universities). It is also possible to study a full-time higher education qualification at a local provider (normally a college), although choice is restricted compared to moving away to university. Studying part-time or online can allow sufficient time for part-time work. Certain vocational (job-related) courses may be offered on a part-time basis with the understanding that you are working in a relevant field during your qualification (i.e. you have to be working in a relevant job in order to do these qualifications).
Gap years can be an excellent way to gain further experience and fulfil some life ambitions. You can take a gap year before university or before work-based higher education. Be aware that it can be challenging to combine certain gap year experiences (such as travelling) with university applications and job hunting, so careful planning is needed. It’s very important to have a well thought out plan for your gap year so you can justify it to universities and employers. Varied activities are best, but you must be able to evidence growth. Certain university courses (such as Maths) strongly prefer you not to take a year out, so check to make sure you won’t be at a disadvantage if you take a gap year.
Other options could involve retraining for a particular job via college or an (intermediate or advanced) apprenticeship, getting a regular job without gaining further qualifications, becoming self-employed or completing further qualifications prior to higher education (such as an art foundation course). Continuing in further education after you finish sixth form is only recommended in certain circumstances. Getting a regular job can be a good outcome after sixth form, but it is very important to think about where each opportunity could take you moving forward, so that you don’t become stuck without progression options.
This is a really good time to start doing some career research to make sure you are making good decisions. Three things help you when you are planning your career:
- Self awareness: it’s important to understand yourself; your likes and dislikes, your skills, your motivations and your values. If you don’t truly understand who you are and what you want out of life, you will find it difficult to work out what you want to do in your future.
- Occupation research: understanding what different jobs are actually like (not just what we assume they are like!) is vital to deciding whether or not we’d like to do them. People make a lot of assumptions about different occupations based on what other people have said, how the media portrays them and how we think we’d do at them. Sometimes these assumptions are completely wrong! Good research helps correct false assumptions.
- Experiences: it’s difficult to know whether or not we’d like something until we’ve tried it (or something like it). This is why work shadowing and getting a part-time job are such useful things to do. You can also gain experience in the skills you’d be using in a particularly occupation (such as people skills or ICT skills), in or out of school, to test out if you might like to use those skills in your job.
Use these websites to get started with your research: