Facing Your Future I Oxford Open Learning


    Facing Your Future

    Future Routes Open to You

    “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
    That’s a question we’ve all been asked more than once in our lives, and the answer often changes as we get older. But as you near the end of your education, you’re older and wiser, it comes down to either of two answers:
    “I know exactly what I want to be!”
    “I have no idea what I want to be!”

    It’s important to stress that both of these answers are perfectly normal. There are plenty of people who don’t figure out what kind of career they want until they’re into their 30s—some even later than that. What you have right now is time. And so much of it. Right now, you may feel a lot of pressure to make a decision, like there is some unseen and foreboding clock counting down to a decision you feel massively unprepared to make. It’s not. Whether you know exactly where you want to go, haven’t given it much thought, or are currently panicked into choice paralysis, here are a few of your options explained to help you decide which one is best for you. The best for you right now, not necessarily forever.


    You’ve gotten through your GCSEs, but there’s still learning to do. Fortunately, you have a lot more choice in what you want to learn about and can shift your focus to the subjects or skills that you enjoy.

    A-Levels are the most traditional route for pupils after their GCSEs. Each course is two years long and you’ll need to pick three of them to study. There is some wiggle room, as you can combine them with other qualifications too, depending on what you’re looking to study. A-levels are the next step for those looking to go to University.

    T-Levels were brought about in 2020, with more and more subjects becoming available in colleges year on year. A T-Level is a two-year course that focuses on technical skills instead of academics. A T-Level pupil will spend most of their time in college, learning skills and developing their knowledge, and then spending a small part of their time on placement within their industry, getting valuable experience. After your T-levels, you can either choose to continue your employment or seek out further qualifications with technical courses or a degree. This is an option for those who prefer to be more hands-on in what they do.

    Apprenticeships are on-the-job training. You’ll be paid while you learn and spend most of your time at work with a small amount of your time spent in an educational setting developing your knowledge and earning a qualification. These qualifications come in levels, with Level 2 being the same as a GCSE, and Level 3 equal to A- and T-Levels. You can find information about firms looking for apprentices locally, but your education provider should be able to support you in your search as well. This is perfect for those who never really felt like an academic environment was for them or just feel ready to get out into the working world.


    Congratulations, you’re free! You are no longer required by law to stay in education or training and as a result, your options are much broader. That can be a blessing or a curse, depending on which way you look at it. So let’s take a look at what you can do now:

    Higher Education

    Higher Education comes in the form of bachelor’s degrees and higher technical qualifications like Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas. In most cases, these are offered by Universities on 3+ year courses. The delivery of these courses varies depending on what you choose. Some are purely lecture/seminar-based while others will have placements. What’s great about universities or further education colleges is that the courses they offer are often very flexible in their delivery. From full-time to part-time and even combined with a job in some cases. Yes, Higher Education can be expensive, but student loans are available and there is plenty of financial support available for those who need it. It’s well worth visiting these places when they have open days so that you can speak to students and staff and get a feel for the environment. It’s also a great opportunity to ask questions about the course (and any advice on getting financial support such as bursaries etc.).

    Entry-Level Work

    With your A-Levels, you’re set to apply for entry-level jobs and start your career. There’s a lot to choose from, but it’s important to note that what’s available to you will vary depending on where you live. Don’t let that limit you though. If you’re willing to brave a commute, you can save on rail fares with a 16-25 Rail Card. Take a look at this explore careers section on the National Careers Service website. It has a pretty extensive list of categories of work and the jobs they entail. It’s always good to know just how many options there are out there.

    Gap Year

    Find yourself. Travel a bit. Volunteer. Shadow people in areas you are interested in. These are all things you can do in a gap year. It’s a choice that is becoming more popular as young people are seeing the value in taking a gap year. It provides a unique opportunity for personal growth and allows young people to gain a bit more ‘real-world’ experience, get a bit of independence, and develop some resilience. Plus, it can be a nice break after 13 years in education, so why rush straight into a few more?

    The Choice Is Yours

    Hopefully, this has helped clear away a bit of the fog surrounding what you can do next. But remember, regardless of how sure you are of where you want to go or what you want to do, there’s no need to rush. Take the time you need to be as prepared as you can for whatever is to come—and don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate what you’ve already achieved. If you’re looking for more information, head over to Talking Futures, a great website with plenty of information and resources for young adults (and their parents too) looking at their next steps.

    Good luck!


    If you are taking your GCSE exams this year and wondering about doing an A level afterwards, Oxford Home Schooling offer the opportunity to attain one in a number of subjects. You can see which by following the link here. You can also speak to a student adviser for ,ore information, in which case you can do so via the following web page: Contact Us.

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