Applying for higher education: understanding the options

For many, the choices for higher education can be daunting - it pays to be clued up on what the available options are. 

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If your child is set on university and they're suitably gung-ho about their career and academic ambitions - great. Encourage them to visit different institutions, research courses and chat to other people about what they studied and different career options. Remember that further education isn't all about academics - there are numerous practical, physical or creative courses as well.

After a few campus visits and talks with their school or college career adviser, they may want to consider alternative routes. Sometimes even the best plans go awry, so it's important that your teen has an idea of all the different options available to them.

However, if your child is in any doubt about university, it's important to think about alternatives.

Find out more about the university application process

Vocational courses

There are numerous vocational courses that allow students to balance work and study, leading to professional accreditation, from apprenticeships and traineeships to BTECs, HNDs, and NVQs. These are particularly good for students with an interest in more practical jobs, and increased government funding means more apprenticeships than ever are now available for young people.

Find out more about apprenticeships.


Alternatively, your child may be planning a break from full-time education. Travelling is a great way to get an insight into a new culture. If they're keen for a new experience they could consider learning a language abroad, volunteer work, a conservation project, or even teaching English overseas.

The workplace

Many youngsters are keen to get out into the workplace, but getting a foot on the career ladder doesn't mean they necessarily need to commit to a single job. Businesses of all shapes and sizes are increasingly keen to offer work experience and internships. Some bigger companies have dedicated school leaver programmes that focus on training employees on the job. If your teen is more career-focused, they can get further information online from their regional careers service:

More useful info...

Starting university: advice for parents and students

Guide to student loans and finance

What you need to know about university clearing 

Last updated: over 1 year ago