What to do after GCSEs: Your options explained

Nowadays, there’s no longer the one-size-fits-all prescription of going off to A-levels then uni after GCSEs. There are loads of options, from further study and qualifications to the world of work and work experience. Read on to learn about your options so you can figure out what to do after GCSEs.

A group of young people are at a table. They are going through their post-GCSE options. This is a wide-angle image.

Before we start we should make the disclaimer that if you were born after September 1997, you’re legally required to continue full-time studying or start training courses at school or college until you’re 18. So it’s worth giving a lot of thought to what you want to do next.

Talk to your form tutor about your GCSE results

Whatever your results, it’s always worth chatting to the one person (other than your parent/s or carer) who has kept a professional eye on your educational progress. Your form tutor has seen you day in day out (unless you somehow missed every form time) so they’re probably in the best position  to help you to go through the options available. But if you feel more comfortable talking to someone else, then go for it! Just make sure they have a good idea of what your academic career has been like thus far.

Consult a careers advisor about what to do after GCSEs

It’s important that you get a chance to consider every option available once you finish your GCSEs. It keeps regret to a minimum, and helps you develop your skills and life experience in a way that suits you. Before your GCSE has even been calculated, your school careers advisor can go through your options after GCSE. This will help you to make an informed decision about whether to continue at school or college or consider a different path.

Depending on where you live, these are some other people you can talk to:

  • In England you can get in contact with the National Careers Service. They provide telephone, online, or face to face advice.
  • In Scotland you can contact the Young Scot helpline on 0808 801 0338.
  • If you live in Wales you can talk to someone at Careers Wales.

Continue studying at your school’s sixth form

This is your chance to continue in education. You would take this option if you want to qualify for higher education (i.e. a degree course) at 18, or pursue vocational qualifications. A range of subjects are available, so make sure to check out what’s on offer.

Your school may continue to Sixth Form, in which case it’s pretty much a question of heading back through the gates for the autumn term. You’ll know how to find your way around and what to expect from the teaching staff. Plus, you’ll usually find that, as a member of the sixth form, you’re treated as more of an adult, too.

Alternatively, you could apply to different schools if you want a change of pace. Although, it’s worth flagging that this will take a lot of dedication since you’ll have to consider everything from entry requirements to the subjects on offer.

Studying at your local college

Another option is enrolling at your local college of Further Education (FE). The courses on offer may be similar, but in general FE colleges offer a more relaxed learning environment. The dress code is practically non-existent and timetables usually factor in a lot of ‘home study’ time.

This may sound appealing, but keep in mind that the work you do will mostly depend on your drive, since you’ll be left to your own devices the majority of the time. If you do opt for college and learn how to motivate yourself, however, it is a great test run for the big leagues of independent study that is university.

Choosing the right qualifications

So, you’ve decided where you want to study, now it’s time to decide what to study. If you already have a game plan for your future degree or getting a specific job, it’s important to find out what A-level qualifications, or others such as Cambridge Pre-U or International Baccalaureate (IB), you need to get there and any other entry requirements.

Otherwise, think about what you enjoyed studying at GCSE and whether further study in that area sounds interesting. Your next step doesn’t just have to be academic, though. Vocational qualifications are a great way of learning a particular trade and can be just as useful and rewarding as doing the whole university thing. Especially if you find studying facts and figures difficult because of learning difficulties such as dyslexia or ADHD. Find out more in our article about apprenticeships here

For more detailed information about your qualification options after GCSEs, here’s our breakdown of the main post-GCSE qualifications on offer. And if you want more support with qualifications, check out the rest of our ‘what qualification’ resources here.

Don’t know what to do after your GCSEs? Why not chat about it with the community on our discussion boards.

Next Steps

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By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 23-Mar-2022