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!

College application deadlines 

Applications to apply to the college of your choice are open now - to avoid disappointment, if applying to a local college, we would encourage you to submit your application in the Autumn term which runs up until the 16th December. Once submitted, you will be invited to an informal interview to discuss your study programme. 

We are planning an ‘application workshop’ from the week beginning 21st November. Havant and Southdowns college, Portsmouth and Highbury College, The UTC and Fareham college will be on site in the library to answer any questions about courses and assist students who are yet to submit an application. 

 If you feel you would benefit from further assistance with an application, please Contact Miss Passmore on who will arrange a time slot with your preferred college to complete this. 

Students in year 11 can also access an independent interview with our Careers advisor, Nancy Austwick, who will be on site every Tuesday and Friday to discuss careers options and apply for colleges. If you are uncertain on what to do next, an appointment with Nancy will be a great start to get you thinking about your future. Students can arrange an interview via Miss Passmore, or parents, if you feel you would like to discuss this on behalf of your child, can email Nancy Austwick on 


First things first...

It’s time to start thinking about what you want to do after you leave school. What you can do after Year 11 depends on lots of things including, 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 the grades you achieve. Colleges, sixth forms or apprenticeships you apply for will definitely want to know what level you are working at and what you could achieve if you worked even harder.

Where do I start?

Do your research! There are a number of different colleges across Portsmouth and in 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 which offer the best courses for your preferred subject area.

Sit with family and friends and compare the different colleges to decide 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 the idea of meeting new people and socialising... 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 it's 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 offer a mixtures of A levels, T levels, NVQs, Diplomas and Foundation Learning. Sometimes colleges specialise, for example you might have an agricultural college which 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 complete all the work required for your qualification.

What types of courses are there?

A levels tend to be similar to traditional lessons at school. Often you will do coursework throughout the year, with exams at the end of each 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.

T-Levels are an alternative to A levels, apprenticeships and other 16 to 19 courses. Equivalent in size to 3 A levels, a T Level focuses on vocational skills and can help students into skilled employment, higher study or apprenticeships. Each T Level includes an in-depth industry placement which lasts at least 45 days. Students get valuable experience in the workplace; employers get early sight of the new talent in their industry. T Level students spend 80% of the course in their learning environment, gaining the skills that employers need. The other 20% is a meaningful industry placement, where they put these skills into action.

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:


These are just a few of the Colleges or Sixth Form Colleges you may wish to look at for post 16 options. We recommend you attend open evenings at these establishments in Years 10 and Year 11 to get a really good insight as to what is on offer. Prospectus and application forms are available from the Learning Resource Centre.

If you need any help with completing these please speak to our Head of Student Enrichment Miss Passmore, located in the Learning Resource Centre.