Arthur Mellows Village College

Delivering learning for life within an aspirational culture

Options Post 18

In 2013, the participation age was raised to 18 years of age. This means all young people are required to continue to participate in education, training or employment with training until at least their 18th birthday.

There are lots of things a student should think about when deciding their next steps after school:

Alternatives to going straight to university

Gap Year

A gap year can be useful to aid career planning, when it has been planned for a particular purpose.

Students can gain a wide range of benefits from undertaking voluntary work, either during their studies or as part of a gap year. Such work enables students to gain practical experience and helps them to stand out from other applicants when applying for jobs and/or university courses.

There are a number of organisations that can support students with voluntary work:


Some students choose to start work as soon as they have completed their Level 3 qualifications. However, they need to be mindful of the training that may or may not be available for long-term career development.

School Leavers Programmes

School Leavers Programmes


The chart below may assist with understanding the varying qualifications available and how they compare:


Intermediate Level, Advanced Level and Higher Apprenticeships enable you to ‘earn as you learn’.

Higher Education

This includes degrees, foundation degrees, Diplomas of Higher Education and Higher National Diplomas.

Some people benefit greatly from higher education:

  • Some careers are only accessible to students who have a degree e.g. doctor, dentist, librarian;
  • Universities have superb resources to help you in your subject
  • Students can develop personally and socially from the experience, for instance by getting involved in a new activity such as sailing, walking, coaching etc.
  • Some courses involve travel or study abroad.
  • Graduates are less likely to be unemployed over their lifetime than non-graduates.

However, university is not for everyone. It may be better to develop specific skills that are useful in a particular career as opposed to studying for an extra three years that will have financial implications. In addition, a graduate’s chance of getting a job depends upon factors such as their degree subject and their personal qualities and skills; and employers generally look beyond the degree, focusing on ‘soft skills’ and personal qualities such as ability to communicate, reliability, self-motivation and dependability.

There is a wide pool of staff to support students with their applications to Higher Education Institutions. Form Tutors are the first port of call for students; however, Heads of Year, the school Careers Advisor and Subject Teachers are all on hand to offer advice and support throughout the process.

Every course and every university is different and each student wants different things. Therefore, students must undertake research in order to select the right courses and universities for them. The more research that is done the more likely a student will make the right decision.  A variety of courses are offered by universities

Diploma of Higher Education courses

These courses are equivalent to the first two years of a degree, and some guarantee that successful students can go on to join the third year of a degree course. A DipHE can be one of the requirements for entering a career.

Foundation degrees

Foundation degrees are employment-related higher education courses that can improve access to a degree related course. They are available at some universities and higher education colleges and can be studied full-time or part-time, depending upon the institution. Foundation degrees can also be studies at some further education colleges.

Higher National Diplomas (HNDs)

HNDs are vocational qualifications. They are usually full-time courses, taking two years to complete. Having completed an HND, students may be able to join the second year of a degree course, or the third year in some cases.


A degree can involve any of the following:

  • Studying subjects singly or in combination. Some universities offer modular degrees that allow the freedom and flexibility to design a large part of your course.
  • Studying a subject for its own sake or because it has work-related relevance.
  • Applying for a sandwich degree. This is a degree combined with a year’s work experience. An employer, for example, in an engineering or science-related industry, might sponsor you.
  • Studying abroad for part of the time.

Applying to Study at University

Step 1 – Research Courses & Higher Education Institutes via their websites and career software in school

Step 2 – Attend Higher Education Institute Open Days

Step 3 – Personal Statement

Step 4 – Personal Statement Review with Subject or Form Tutor

Step 5 – Complete your UCAS Form completely – ask for help if required

Step 6 – Reference completed by Form Tutor with input from subject teachers

It is important that students keep a record of their personal achievements, enrichment activities undertaken, work experience, voluntary work, work for the student body, etc. as this will create a positive image and therefore make you an appealing candidate.

Step 7 – Final Checks

Ensure all sections of the UCAS forms are checked, amended and re-checked as necessary.

Step 8 – Submit Form

Forms to be submitted via UCAS Apply. Students are urged to submit their choices as early as possible as some Universities offer their places on a first come, first served basis.

Step 9 – Choices

Once you have received all replies and offers from their universities, you will need to make a final selection of two choices – a firm selection and an insurance selection. The insurance option should have a lower entry off than the firm choice.

More detailed information can be found in the Future Festival Booklet and on the UCAS website. However, parents and students may find the following websites useful:

In addition, many universities can be followed using professional social media (Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook) if you have a professional profile.