Apply for College

Applying for College can seem a little overwhelming but here you'll find some tips to help you nail the whole process!

First things first.

It’s time to start thinking about what you want to do after you leave school. Let’s have a look at some of the things you can do next. What you can do after Year 11 depends on things like where you live, what kind of grades you’re likely to get, what you’re interested in and what kind of environment you want to learn in. Often, the choice is between sixth form, college or an apprenticeship.

First things first, your options will depend on your grades. Sometimes teachers don’t want to give you target or predicted grades too early in the year (because it’s too soon to tell how well you might do) and some teachers will want you to stay motivated and to aim for higher grades. The trouble is, the colleges, sixth forms or jobs you apply to will definitely want to know what level you are working at.

Where do I start?

Do your research.

There are a number of different colleges across Portsmouth and the surrounding areas, not to mention the ones all across the UK!

Find out which courses interest you the most and then select the colleges that offer the best courses for your preferred subject area.

Sit with family and friends and compare the different colleges, which one suits you the best? Are you an active person who likes to take part in clubs and activities? Look for the college that offers this as well as your chosen course. Maybe you like social areas where you can meet new people and socialise? why not choose a college that has a great student hub and refectory that offers social spaces (and in some cases even an on site Starbucks!) .

Make sure its perfect for YOU!

College or an Apprenticeship?

Which is best for me?

Colleges are separate from schools, so everyone turns up on their first day as a new student. Colleges tend to offer A levels, NVQs, Diplomas and Foundation Learning. Sometimes colleges specialise; for example you might have an agricultural college that does farming and animal care related courses, or a catering college that specialises in cookery courses.

With an apprenticeship, you would be working for an employer, earning a wage (at least £4.15 per hour as of 1 April 2020), and studying for a qualification (often an NVQ) at the same time. You would be linked with a college or training provider to make sure you get all of your work done for your qualification.

What types of courses are there?

A levels
A levels tend to be similar to traditional lessons at school. Often you will do some coursework in the year, with exams at the end of the year. A levels are more ‘academic’ than GCSEs, which means they normally involve a fair bit of written work and research. You normally have to take at least three subjects, sometimes four.

Diplomas are often more practical, and tend to use coursework and assessments throughout the year, instead of exams at the end of the course. Diplomas can take one year or two years, depending on the level (Level 1 and Level 2 diplomas tend to be one year, Level 3 tends to be two).

NVQs are also often quite practical, and can be assessed in lots of different ways such as observed assessments, discussions and written work. Many apprenticeships involve working in a paid job while also studying a relevant NVQ subject.

What grades do I need?

Below you can see the different qualification levels. Often, to get onto a course at a particular level, you will need to have already achieved the level below the one you’re applying for. For example, to get onto a Level 2 National Diploma you will often be asked to have some GCSEs at grades D-F. This is why teachers and parents nag you to work hard and get the highest grades you can! The higher the GCSE grades, the higher the level of course you can start on.

There are some courses where, even if you get A*s, you will still need to start on Level 1 or Level 2. This is often the case for courses teaching practical skills that you don’t learn in your GCSE lessons, like hairdressing, construction, catering and animal care.

Qualification Level Examples
4 and above HNC, Foundation Degrees, Degrees, Masters.
3 A Levels, Level 3 Diplomas/NVQs, Advanced Apprenticeships
2 Level 2 Diplomas/NVQs, GCSEs grades A* - C
1 Level 1 Diplomas/NVQs, GCSEs grades D - F
Entry Level Grades below F at GCSE, Entry Level 1, 2 and 3


Making the decision

When it comes down to it, you have to make your own decisions about what you want to do after you leave school. It’s good to listen to advice from parents, teachers, careers advisers and friends, but it’s even more important that whatever choice you make is one you’re happy with. And don’t forget – you can apply to several different places if you want to, and wait until you get your results to make your final decision. Good luck!

Still not sure? Check out this video from Havant & South Downs College on how to apply to study at HSDC.
Remember if you need help with anything Careers or College related, or would like to book a careers meeting you can pop and see Miss Passmore in the Library.