What are you aiming for?
A lot of people aren't sure – some even when they're starting to apply – but there's plenty you can do to get a better idea.
- Think about things you enjoy – maybe they could be part of a job you'd enjoy.
- Explore jobsites and graduate careers – you might find ideas to work towards.
- Check icould videos – see people describing how they got into their career.
Deciding what's right for you
It might take you a while to know what's right for you, but keep thinking about it. If you don't find anything you like the sound of right away, at least you'll be narrowing down your ideas.
Once you know what subject or career you'd like to aim for, you can check out which type of study is right for you and how to choose a course. There are also other ways to prepare for higher education (see below), and alternatives in case you'd rather not apply for a course at the moment.
Activities you can do before applying
You don't need to do any of these, but if you do they're handy things to mention on your application, as they're a good demonstration of skills.
For example something sporting, creative or musical, or anything involving key skills like teamwork – whether paid work or volunteering – and it could be something with grades, certificates or accreditation. See if you like the sound of any of the options below, including opportunities often available to anyone from any background.
- Gain skills for your future studies, work and life with ASDAN, National Citizen Service or young enterprise programmes.
- Get ASDAN accreditation in personal effectiveness for activities preparing you for higher education.
- Do science, technology, engineering and maths activities with the Crest Awards.
- Volunteer with the vInspired Awards / WorldWide Volunteering Certificate.
- Experience a mix of everything with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.
- Get a taste of higher education at a summer school like Villiers Park.
Alternatives to higher education
If you're still not sure what to do yet, or you'd just like a different option, here are some things to consider:
Take a gap year
You can gain lots of skills and amazing experiences with a gap year.
- Plan a project – check Year Out Group to see the kinds of things you could do.
- Volunteer – on top of the accredited options above, Volunteering England, Volunteer Now for Northern Ireland, Volunteer Scotland, Volunteering Wales or the Real Gap Year Experience for volunteering abroad.
Do something work based
- Get some experience – whether paid or voluntary you could be moving closer to a course or career you want.
- An apprenticeship – earn while you learn and gain qualifications – find out more in our flexible study area. Apprenticeships England, Apprenticeships Northern Ireland, Apprenticeships Scotland or Apprenticeships Wales.
- Go straight into a career – get advice from your local government centres – Careers Service England, Careers Northern Ireland, Skills Development Scotland or Careers Wales.
- Start a business – find advice and support at the Prince's Trust or the local government – gov.uk for England, Northern Ireland Executive, Business Scotland or Business Wales.
Study in a different way
- A foundation degree – usually over two years, gaining knowledge and skills to prepare you for business.
- Study part-time instead – check out our info on flexible study options.