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  About college courses   When and how to apply?
  How does it work?   What happens after you apply?
  What GCSE grades get you into what?   Where are the colleges?
  How do I plan?   College Qualifications explained


Even though you can do A levels at college as well as having college as a learning provider for an apprenticeship, for those who want to go to college full time and not take A levels, there are two main options:

  • college courses’ – these are the standard courses you can take and mainly consist of BTEC courses but depending on the subject you want to do, there are other diplomas as well such as the CACHE course for childcare for instance.
  • T levels – they are new courses which contain learning at college, both in the classroom and in the ‘workshop’, with in addition, a significant period of work experience. They will set you up with the skills, knowledge and experience to find a job afterwards.

There are different levels of college course and they are equivalent to A levels when you finish the full level 3 course. This means you can use them to go to university. If that’s your plan however, you need to plan this carefully. Not all degree courses and university courses will allow you in with a BTEC and your university course will normally have to be linked to the subject you took at college.


Specific about college courses is:

  • You normally only take one subject, as opposed to A levels where you take 3 subjects.
  • It’s different to school and will expect you to be self-motivated and keen to learn. So it’s very different to school in that sense.
  • People often feed back to me that at college, you’re treated as an adult. But don’t be fooled; they expect you to take responsibility as an adult for your learning as well. There is a lot of support too, but you may need to ask for it sometimes.
  • A lot of college courses are assessed through coursework, but quite a few have a test or exam at the end as well.
  • Work experience, either at college, with an employer or a combination of both, is normally part of a college course. If you take an applied qualification, then this could be practical experience instead of work experience.
  • College courses are often 3 or so days a week. You’re then either doing work experience, or college work such as course work during the other two days. You will need to find out from the college how many days and when you are expected to be at college for your specific subject.

There are two kinds of college courses:

Technical and vocational qualifications: these offer training and experience in a particular job area such as: hairdressing, motor vehicle mechanics, catering, etc…

You’re more likely to plan with a specific career or job in mind already;

Applied qualifications: they are broader and give you training and education in a particular sector where you can then enter a range of jobs. Examples of these are: business, art, applied science, etc…  

These are more likely at level 3 already and you can be more flexible in your planning and either plan for a specific career or job or plan step by step, which means you decide on the college course you would like to do and then plan your next step when you’re actually on the college course already.

Also have a look at the planning section on this website: https://marcr.net/school/how-do-i-plan/


How does it work?

Or in other words… which GCSEs do you need to do which courses at college? There is no straightforward answer to this unfortunately, and it’s best to check the requirements for individual college courses on the college website.

Broad guidelines are:

For the college option, if you achieve the following at the end of your GCSEs:

A Foundation Learning qualification, then the possibilities are:

  • A 1 year foundation level course at college.

What you can do after this:

  • You can then move up depending on your ability and result for your college course
  • Or you can go on to do a traineeship or apprenticeship after your foundation course
  • Once you are 18 you can go to work

GCSE Grades 1 – 3 you can get into:

A one year level 1 to level 2 course at college.

What you can do after this:

  • You can then move up to the next level if you get the results to allow for this.
  • You can also get into an apprenticeship in the same area as your college course, or sometimes a different or related area, depending on the entry requirements for the specific apprenticeship
  • You can go to work once you are 18

GCSE grades 4 – 9, the options are:

  • A 1 year level 2 course at college
  • A 1 year or 2 year college course
  • A 2 year T level course
  • Sometimes A levels at college (you need to check the grades for this and please read up on the sixth form section on this website).
  • A level 1 college course: for some subjects you have to start at level 1, regardless of the grades you got for your GCSEs. These are often the very skills based courses such as bricklaying, carpentry etc… This very much differs per college, so check this with a couple of colleges you can travel to, to see what they have to offer and make a decision based on this and your other preferences.

What you can do after this:

  • If you completed a one year level 1 or level 2 course then you can move up a level after finishing this with a decent grade.
  • If you completed a level 3 course you can go on to higher education if you like, but check your options and ideas on ucas.com. This is not really possible in the same way for every subject and there are degrees that won’t be able to take anyone who didn’t complete A levels, even if they officially claim they can. Foundation Degrees are also a great option to explore.
  • Either way, you can start a foundation or advanced apprenticeship or
  • If you completed a level 3 college course, you may be able to get into a higher or degree apprenticeship.
  • Especially if you’ve completed the two year level 3 course, you will most likely be 18 and you can start a job.
  • If you’re confident and you feel you have enough experience, you can also start work as a self-employed person or start your own business. A word of warning!! This takes planning and a lot of preparation normally. At the very least, you need to put together a business plan, talk to a bank and an accountant. The Princes Trust also have a programme to help young people like you to set up their own business. It’s well worth exploring them. Also have a look at the self-employment section on here to get you started.


When and how do you apply?

When do I apply?

There is no official deadline for applying to college. But!!! Courses do fill up so there may come a point for some courses that the college will need to stop accepting applications. Don’t be caught out! So it’s best to apply around Christmas or shortly after. This will allow you and the college enough time to do everything properly and on time.


How do I apply?

All applications are electronic these days, so you need to:

  • Find the course page on the college website
  • Click on the ‘Apply’ button or link and follow instructions
  • Before you start your application, make sure you have all the details at hand. This includes:
    • Contact details for you and your parents/carers
    • A list of grades or predicted/estimated/expected grades for your GCSEs, even if you enter college after year 12.
    • A reason or reasons of why you want to do the course and what your plans are for the future. Not all applications ask for this, but it’s a good idea to be prepared.

You can apply to more than one college and you can make a choice later. In many cases this is a good idea in case one college can’t accept you for whatever reason, or you decide you can’t get there or don’t want to go there anymore.


What happens after your application is in?

Have a look at this flowchart to get a better idea:

Once you have sent off your application you will normally:

  • Get a confirmation email or letter, but not always. Some colleges wait with this as well, and combine it with the interview invitation.
  • You’ll also receive an invitation for a college interview. This can take a while as colleges normally organise interviewing days. They may wait to send you an invitation closer to one of those. The college interview is nothing to worry about, nor is it like a job interview. It’s normally a chat between you and your parents/carers if you like and the college. It’s as much for them to find out about you than it is about you finding out about the college. So, the best preparation you can do for this is:
    • Think about why you want to do the course and what you hope to do afterwards. What you hope to get out of the college course you’ve chosen and whether you have experience.
    • You could also explore the course a bit and ideas or possibilities of what it can lead on to in the future. Have a look at the following websites if you’re not clear:
  • Think of anything you want to know about the college, the course, how to get there, how many days you’ll be there, how you’ll be tested, etc… before the college interview. In short, write down any questions you may have in between now and your college interview so you’re ready. You can take your questions with you. You don’t need to memorise them!


Where are the colleges?

There is an option to go to Yeovil College through the Colfox – Beamister – Yeovil Partnership, which is open to students who don’t attend either Colfox Academy or Beaminster School. This means you:

  • Are part of sixth form at either school, even though you take a college course.
  • You take the bus at the school you registered around 9-ish in the morning (either school can give you more detail) and you will taken directly to the college
  • You will spend the time you are not in college in school to catch up on your English and maths if needed.

If you are interested, you ideally need to talk to:

  • Mr Farrow or Mr Teasdale in the Colfox Academy
  • Mr Donovan or Mr See in Beaminster School

Also have a look at:

Colleges in the area in alphabetical order:


In conclusion

  • Make sure you choose courses that lead on to something you would like to do later or something you would like to do for a job.
  • Explore, explore, explore.
    • Make sure you know enough about the job the college courses leads on to.


  • Make sure that the course leads on to something that broadly leads on to something you like later
  • Make sure your school record and grades are as strong as they can be
  • If you don’t get C grades in maths and English you will need to redo them after you leave school
  • Find out as much as you can about the course:
  • Do you need additional work experience?
  • Do you like the subject enough?
  • Do you like the college you want to apply to?