Alternatives to going to university this year

You’ve finished sixth form or college and you’re not sure about your next steps.

Maybe you’ve got a university place already but have changed your mind. Maybe you’re unsure whether you’ve met the grades required so you need to come up with your plan B. Have a look at some of the alternatives to going straight to uni this year.

Retake your qualifications

It might be that you’ve missed the grade you need in one subject or think you could do a lot better if you had another year to retake your A levels or other level 3 qualifications. Check with your current college or sixth form as well as other local providers to see whether this is possible and if there are any costs.


Defer your place

If you hold a university place for this September but have changed your mind about starting university this year, you can ask for a deferral from your university or college. This means that you would start your course a year later. Deferring your place gives you the opportunity to take a gap year to develop skills and gain new experiences before starting your university course.

It’s important to know that not every university or college will agree to your deferral and they may ask you to reapply instead. It’s best to get in touch with your university as soon as possible to explain your reasons for wanting to defer.

Find out more about deferral here.


Take a gap year

Gap years are usually the term used to describe a year out between studying at sixth form or college and going to university. Some people feel they would benefit from a year’s break from education to travel, to develop new skills or to gain new experiences from work or volunteering. It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of taking a gap year, including thinking about how you are going to fund your time out and how it could be beneficial to your longer term education or career plans. Use the web links below to find out more.


Become an apprentice

Maybe you are still considering what other options there are for you to gain a qualification but whilst gaining employment experience. Apprenticeships allow you to gain experience in the career path you are interested in (80% on-the-job training) whilst studying towards a qualification (20% studying). One of the huge benefits is that the government or your employer will pay for the costs of your study, unlike the traditional university route. This can make them very competitive, especially at higher and degree level, and you will need to be proactive in researching and applying for apprenticeship vacancies.

Find out more in our Make Happen guide on apprenticeships or watch our video comparing apprenticeships with the traditional degree route.


Get started in employment

You might feel ready to start working your way up the career ladder and want to go straight into full-time employment. Even if you’re not sure what you want to do long-term, a job will give you an insight into new areas of work, help you build your skills and make new professional contacts. It gives you time to consider your options and might even help you discover a new interest that you want to pursue at higher education level later down the line.

Take a look at these web links below for further support.


Study a higher education course at a nearby college

Some colleges also offer higher level courses (level 4 upwards) or full degree courses without you having to move away or commute to a university.

Explore what local college providers in Essex have to offer below:


Study online or distance-learning

Studying online or on distance-learning courses allow you to stay living at home and can be flexible around your work. Open University is the most well-known provider but lots of universities are now offering these directly themselves. Click here to find out more from Jen, who found that studying through the Open University suited her much better than the traditional route.


Study part-time

Part time courses are another flexible option but means you can still access face-to-face teaching, unlike courses that are solely online and you can spread your study out over a longer period of time. You can filter the UCAS search tool by part time courses or enquire with universities directly.


Change your course or university through Clearing

If you’re still thinking about going to university but not sure if the course or university you chose is right for you, then Clearing is a great option for you! Clearing is the process where universities fill any leftover spaces they have on their courses. Find out more about Clearing on the UCAS website.


No matter whether you’ve changed your mind about university or things just haven’t gone to plan, you will find an alternative path that is right for you. Try to embrace the change and find the positives; you could discover something that really suits you that you would have never otherwise considered! You might just need to take a different journey to get to the same destination.