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How to help your 16-year-old choose their further study options

What type of study do they want to continue with?

In comparison to helping your child choose their GCSE options, there are more varied education options available to 16-year olds.

A Levels and AS Levels are a great option, particularly if your teenager has their sights set on going to university after sixth form. As of 2015, AS Levels are now counted as a separate qualification rather than counting towards their A Level grade and are worth 40% of an A Level’s UCAS points.

BTECs and OCR vocational qualifications can also lead to a degree. If a college or sixth form offers both, your teenager could combine A Levels with a BTEC Level 3 course for a greater variety of academic and practical learning.

If they have a particular sector in mind that doesn’t require a degree, they could consider an apprenticeship. These are great ways to continue learning in a workplace environment and get paid while doing it! While many are available after sixth form or college, it’s possible to do intermediate and advanced apprenticeships immediately after GCSE.

A final option to consider is a traineeship which can last anywhere from six weeks to six months. If they don’t have the sufficient grades for an apprenticeship, a traineeship can help them achieve passes in core subjects and gain valuable work experience too.


What are their GCSE results?

Your child will undoubtedly be thinking about what GCSEs they’ve done well in too: if they’ve got great grades in a subject and enjoy it too, it usually makes sense for them to continue with it and even consider potential career paths in that field too.

And what if they didn’t get the results they needed to continue studying a subject? They could consider resitting the subject or looking at alternate routes into the career path it leads to – our handy Careers Explorer can help with this!

The UK government requires that they must have at least Grade 4 in Maths and English to study at a school or college. Some courses may allow them to start on the condition that they will study for a resit in November or June. Another option (if grade 2 or below was achieved in these subjects) is an approved ‘stepping-stone qualification’ like functional skills instead of the GCSE.


Are they aiming for a specific career path?

If your teenager knows exactly what university course or job they’d like to do, you can work backwards from here by researching the entry requirements. Some courses have very specific A Level requirements while some accept a wider variety of options, but checking this now will make sure they have the best possible chance of getting onto their desired course.

Of course, not all courses have specific entry requirements – if so, great! Your teen can opt for a variety of subjects that they’re interested in exploring at a higher level. A general rule to bear in mind is that scientific degree courses usually require two science subjects at A Level and similar with humanities.

If the career they’re interested in doesn’t require a degree, help them to look at alternate pathways to work like apprenticeships and where to find them. Many employers will begin recruiting for these throughout the summer holidays and local colleges/training providers advertise them on their websites too.

If they aren’t sure about what they’d like to do yet, choosing a broader subject range keeps their options open. If they have more of a general idea, considering which subjects go well together could help: for example, Maths and Economics have an overlap, as do the skills required for both English and History. They can also use Coursepilot’s Careers Explorer to find different job options in various fields and get a feel for the entry requirements this way.

Some schools and colleges also recommend taking one or two ‘facilitating subjects’ if your teenager has the end goal of university in mind. These are commonly asked for subjects within university entry requirements and include Maths, English, Sciences, Geography, History and languages.


One final important note is that having these conversations early can help, perhaps throughout Year 11, so they don’t feel rushed into making a decision. However while schools usually ask students to choose their A Level options in advance of their GCSE results, it’s still possible to switch after receiving them. Even after starting a course, many schools and colleges will allow students to change subjects if they realise that they don’t like it fairly quickly.

Best of luck having these conversations and helping to guide your teenager through these exciting times! If they need a bit of extra help, why not encourage them to sign up for a free Coursepilot account? Here, they can search thousands of courses, view our open day calendar and get inspired by the huge range of careers within our database.

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