Leaving School This Year? Your Options, Explained

When you first started school, most decisions would have been made for you, from where to sit to what to wear and what to study. But now that you are finally getting into your last year at school and taking your GCSEs, it’s time to start thinking about entering the adult world and deciding on the next steps that you want to take. This phase can be very exciting, but also very daunting – and it comes with the need to develop a new skill that’s going to be crucial for you in the future; making decisions. 

The decision of what to do after school shouldn’t be taken lightly; after all, it’s going to help shape the rest of your career. But don’t worry too much if you’re not entirely sure what you want to do with your life right now; most people your age don’t! The key is to pursue a path that you are comfortable with and opt for a route that you are going to enjoy above all else. Don’t forget that the entire experience is going to be a learning curve for you, and it’s okay if you change your mind later. But with that in mind, here are some of the options that you’re going to be faced with as a school leaver.

We’ve put together some more information about each route so that you can determine which is most suited to you.

#1. A Levels:

Studying for A Levels is a hugely popular option for school leavers, and is usually the best option to take if you are hoping to attend university and study for a degree in the future. A Levels are also a great idea if you are still not yet sure which subject you’d like to pursue or the type of career that you’d like to have in the future, as they allow you to pick several subjects that you already enjoy and explore them in further depth, giving you a better idea of the ones that you gel the most with and are the best at in time for applying to university. 

And, don’t worry – most colleges and sixth forms give you the option to change your A-Level subjects a few weeks into the first year if you’ve found that actually, that one wasn’t for you – and there’s a huge range to choose from. You can study for A-Levels at a separate college or attend the sixth form at your school. If you’re not sure which is right for you, then attend some open days and evenings and speak to current students to get a better idea of what’s on offer. 

#2. BTEC:

If you learn better through practical work and have a clear idea of the subject that you would like to focus on, then studying for a BTEC could be a great option for you. BTECs tend to be equivalent to A Levels in terms of qualification value and you should have no problem getting into university with one if you decide to pursue your education further in the future. Or if you can’t choose, then bear in mind that a BTEC doesn’t have to be an alternative to A Levels – if you want to challenge yourself, then you can study for one alongside your A Level subjects too. 

Since BTEC courses are vocational, they are focused more on coursework and preparing you for the workplace, compared with A Levels which tend to be more geared towards preparation for university. You can study for a BTEC at a college or sixth form, or if you prefer to self-learn or want to work whilst you’re learning you can check out online options. Get started by looking through these BTEC course options at findcourses.co.uk, which include a range of subjects such as business, marketing, education and engineering to name a few. 

#3. Apprenticeships:

If you’re itching to get out of the classroom, into the workplace and start earning money, then an apprenticeship could be the perfect option for you. Generally, apprenticeships will be done as part of a college course, but rather than studying full-time, you’ll be spending most of your week working with an employer who’ll be mentoring you and helping you learn on the job. You can do an apprenticeship in almost any industry that you can work in, from sales and retail customer service to engineering, business administration, marketing, programming and software development, accounting and so much more. 

One of the best things about an apprenticeship is that you don’t have to worry about working part-time to earn money, like many students. As you’ll be paid an apprenticeship wage for the work that you do whilst learning, you can focus more of your time into studying and improving your skills. And, whether you decide to pursue the career that you’ve chosen for your apprenticeship or move into something else entirely in the future, you’ll gain valuable skills and experience in the workplace that will help you find future work. 

#4. Get a Job:

Is studying just not for you? Then don’t worry – plenty start working right out of school and are able to work their way up into a more senior position. You can get a full-time job and get your first taste of working life from 16 years old. Look on online job advertisement boards such as LinkedIn, Indeed, CV Library and Monster to see what’s out there and find a job that you would be interested in doing. Don’t worry too much if your first job isn’t an amazing one – whether you’re waiting tables, working in a shop or a beauty salon, telemarketing, or cleaning, there are plenty of jobs you can do as a teenager that will provide you with valuable work experience for the future and give you a platform on which you can grow your career. 

Bear in mind, however, that working your way up will require a lot of hard work, dedication and maturity. But if you have a good work ethic, high ambitions and are passionate about the work that you do, then it shouldn’t be a problem for you. In fact, many companies today will prefer to train their employees in-house and help them progress through the company over time, rather than hiring graduates for senior positions. Working your way up from the bottom means that you’ll really get to know and learn everything there is about a company whilst showing the bosses exactly what you’re made of. 

#5. How to Decide:

Now you’ve got the options available, how do you decide what’s best for you? First of all, consider your gut feeling – what are you the most drawn to right now? And, do some research – consider all the pros and cons of each option and use them to determine which you are happy with. Visit college open days or get some work experience to help you get a better idea of what to expect. Finally, talk to others! Your parents, older siblings and cousins, teachers, and even your friends can be valuable sources of advice for you when it comes to choosing what to do after school. And finally, don’t worry. You can always revisit your choices later on if you change your mind. 

Brenda Berg

Brenda Berg is a professional writer with over 15 years experience in business management, marketing and entrepreneurship. Consultant and tutor for college students and entrepreneurs. She is passionate about covering topics on career, self-development, writing, blogging and others.