6 Things You Can Do Instead of Going to University

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Amy studied at the University of Bristol and is our revision blog guru. She only graduated recently so understands the pressures of being a student better than most, and is here to share her wisdom so that you revise effectively, smash your exams, succeed at school and write cracking university and job applications.

For many students coming to the end of their A Levels, the next stop on their journey will be heading to university. But it’s not for everyone and it’s important to know that, while having a degree has lots of benefits, it’s far from the only route available to you.

There are plenty of other things you can do that may suit you better than remaining in academia – and these routes have all kinds of benefits in terms of job prospects, learning new skills and self-development. Read on to learn more about your options.

1. Apprenticeships and vocational qualifications

Apprenticeships and vocational courses are ideal if you know what you want to do, and that uni isn’t the way to get there. They’re available for a wide range of industries including nursing, engineering and media; and as they allow you to work alongside studying, they are the perfect way to gain both knowledge and practical experience. Not all apprenticeships culminate in official qualifications, but even without them, they let you build up ability and confidence as you learn the ropes of the trade.

Apprenticeships are paid jobs right from the start. Plus there are no fees of your own to pay, as the cost of your studies is usually covered by your employer and the government. If you get your A Levels first, you may start an apprenticeship at a higher level than you would as a school leaver, though this is totally dependent on the industry.

Vocational courses will require you to spend some more time in college; but once finished you’ll have a tangible, valuable qualification to your name, and a clear path into the industry of your choice.

2. Degree apprenticeships

Degree Apprenticeships are fairly new to the scene, but are gaining popularity as a route for college (or sixth form) leavers. Studied over the course of one to six years, they include both paid work and part time study, with the end result being a wealth of job experience and a full Bachelor’s or Master’s degree to go with it.

Degree Apprentices are considered workers rather than students, with highly flexible arrangements that allow them to balance both work and studies.

Even better: the costs of university tuition and work training don’t fall on the apprentice, as they’re covered by institutions and employers.

3. Internships

Internships can be a great way to get started in an industry, particularly if you’re not sure what you want to do longer term. They tend to feature heavily in the competive creative and media industries, where the specific practical skills gained through apprenticeships are not strictly necessary. Although a great many are still unpaid, an internship can provide invaluable experience in a new field and allows you try out new things, including getting an early understanding of the nature of working life.

You’ll learn a lot very quickly during an internship, which can last anything from two weeks to 6 months depending on the company. If you excel, an internship could lead directly to a full time job at the end. Otherwise, an internship looks great on your CV as it shows that you’re keen and proactive. It also allows you to sample a role or industry before deciding whether or not it’s for you.

4. Foundation courses

Foundation courses are something of a halfway house between school and uni. If you want a softer step from one to the other, or aren’t quite finished studying but aren’t too keen on uni, a foundation course can be the best of both worlds.

Usually lasting two years (or more if taken part-time) a completed foundation degree is another great qualification that can make you stand out as an applicant when job searching. It’s considered around two-thirds of an honours degree, so after completing a foundation course you can choose to ‘top up’ the qualification with some extra study, and come away with a full degree.

5. Gap years

Maybe you don’t fancy uni, maybe you just don’t fancy uni yet, or perhaps you just haven’t found what course you want to study. Or, after so long in school, you might want to try something entirely different before you make a career decision. If this is you, taking a gap year offers a rare opportunity to take on the world whilst you’re young and relatively free of responsibilities. 

A gap year can take many forms, but most people spend some time working in cafes, shops and pubs to save enough money to travel, and then board a flight to a far-flung destination for a few months as soon as they can afford it. You could spend the whole year working, you could even spend the whole year asleep, but a gap year can break up your time in between studies (or between school and starting work), and offers a rare opportunity for you to see and experience the world for a prolonged period of time before deciding what to do next.

6. Going straight into the workforce

Of course, you could skip all of the above and jump directly into a job after finishing your GCSEs or A Levels: another perfectly valid option. As clichéd as it sounds, there’s really no substitute for experience, especially if you’re ready for the challenge. Employers from all industries offer college leavers training programmes, which are designed specifically to guide you into work without having done a degree.

The shift from school to work may be something of a culture shock at first; but if you’re adaptable and determined, everything is possible. Not to mention, the option of going to university later down the line as a mature student is always there. It’s never too late!

Want to explore your options further?

For more information on the huge range of options available if you’re not planning to go to university, we’d recommend taking a look at the following sites:



UCAS’ section on university alternatives



This week’s riddle

Forward I am heavy, but backward I am not. What am I?

Answer: The word ‘ton’

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