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Deciding about college

Deciding about collegeIf you want to stay on in full-time education after 16, how do you make the right choice about what and where to study? Read this guide to find out.

What do you want to study?

To get the most out of studying after 16 (sometimes known as 'further education'), it’s important to take time to choose the right courses and qualifications. Ask yourself:

  • What am I good at? What do I enjoy?
    Most people do better when they study a subject they like
  • Do I want to learn something new?
    For many courses, you may not need any previous experience
  • What course structure will suit me?
    Do you prefer end-of-year exams, continual assessment, or a mixture of both?
  • What learning style will suit you?
    Do you prefer lectures, classroom discussions, or practical workshops?
  • Where will this course lead to?
    Does it fit in with your long term plans?

Once you’ve answered the questions posed above you can see if the courses available match what works for you.

Find out what courses and qualifications are available at schools and colleges in your area with your local 14-19 prospectus.

Qualifications: what’s on offer?

You could study for academic qualifications such as AS or A-levels, or go for work-related qualifications such as BTECs, City and Guilds and OCR Nationals. Selected colleges also offer diplomas for 14 to 19 year olds.

In addition, you can take qualifications in key skills courses which focus on developing the essential skills that employers look for.

Many of these qualifications can also help you get into university or higher education. For more information on the different types qualifications you could study for, read the online guide qualifications explained.

Also read our guide What’s next after Year 11? for more information on your study options.

Where do you want to study?

Once you’ve thought about what you’re going to study, use the Directgov course search to find a local college or sixth form that offers the courses you want.

When it comes to colleges you can choose from:

  • a school sixth form
  • a sixth form college
  • a further education college
  • a specialist college

Each type of institution has its own structure and atmosphere, and will offer a different range of subjects and courses.

Find out more about these different colleges in our guide Types of colleges explained.

Applying to colleges and sixth forms

You can apply to more than one sixth form or college. Many colleges let you apply online through their website, or you can contact them for an application form.

You should start applying for popular or specialist courses in the autumn term of Year 11. For other courses, you normally apply in the spring.

You do not normally need to apply if you want to stay on at your school’s own sixth form.

Get a taste of college life

One of the best ways to find out what a school or college is really like is to go to an open day/evening. You will get to see the facilities, and meet the staff and some of the students.

Many further education colleges also have stands at careers fairs.

Money to learn

Whatever you study, remember that you could qualify for help with study costs through the 16-19 bursary scheme. For more information read our guide Need money for college? 16-19 bursaries explained.

(Information taken from DirectGov)

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