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Making the right choices after GCSEs or A-Levels: Top tips from Yvonne Kelly, Acting Principal & CEO

30th August 2016

Yvonne Kelly, Acting Principal and CEO at Barking & Dagenham College says: ?Receiving GCSE or A-level results is both nerve wracking and exciting. Be proud of your achievements and know that whatever results you gain on the day, there are plenty of routes to success. Here are my top tips?

Just taken your GCSEs?

If you didn’t get the results you wanted, don’t panic; use this as an opportunity to make a fresh start.

You have lots of options besides A-Levels, and you do not have to stay at school until you are 18. If you need to, you can re-take your GCSE Maths and English at college, as part of your study programme. As well as full-time study, explore Traineeships which are designed a stepping-stone to Apprenticeships. There’s lots of information at, just look for the Traineeships & Apprenticeships section on our home page.

You do not need A-levels to go to university. BTEC Extended Diplomas at Level 3, offered at many colleges, are A-Level equivalent and can take you on to a university degree. Indeed many colleges even offer degree-level courses.

Government funding for your education stops at 19. If you make the right choices now, it will be easier on the pocket in the long-run. Don’t follow the crowd, do what is right for you by thinking about your interests and what you are good at. Are you better suited to a technical/vocational learning environment within a college or an academic environment within a sixth form?

Gather as much information as possible so you make an informed choice. Search online and take advantage of college open events throughout the summer as Career Advisers and Lecturers are on hand to give you impartial advice face-to-face.

Just taken your A-Levels?

Don’t panic. Even if you did not get your dream results, there will be a course available for you and there is still time to confirm your place on it. Many colleges, like Barking & Dagenham College, also have Higher Education programmes offering undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. Ask about Higher National Certificates, Higher National Diplomas, Foundation Degrees as well as BA (Hons) and MBA options.

Even if you don’t decide on your undergraduate place until well into August or even September, UCAS and Student Finance England will be on hand to help

Talk to as many experts as you can. Look for open events at colleges over the summer. You can also contact the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham careers service on 020 8724 3763, (for Havering it is 01708 746 401), or the National Careers Service if you are over 19.

If you are worried about the cost of gaining a degree, think about alternatives:

  • College tuition fees for undergraduate and post-graduate degrees are usually much more affordable than at university;

  • If you are over 18, and did not get your A-Levels consider the one-year Access to Higher Education Diploma which will take you on to university. If you are considering an Advanced Learner Loan to pay the tuition fee, once you secure your degree then the loan is written off.

  • Explore Higher Apprenticeship, which involves study at Level 4 and 5 (equivalent to a HNC, HND or Foundation Degree) or the new Degree Apprenticeships. As with all Apprenticeships, you’ll combine a job with study.

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