My Journey to Higher Education

Life at school and college can certainly feel busy, and at times you may feel overwhelmed with the constant stream of things you need to do and decisions you have to make, but fear not!

We’ve put together a timeline of key stages you will likely go through on your journey through school and to Higher Education and beyond, including exploring options, planning and preparation, and becoming your future. Here are some practical tips to consider in the coming years ahead.


a certificate with a rosette Making your GCSE Choices

GCSEs will certainly help define the early stages of the career path that you may want to pursue, so be sure to think carefully about what you choose beforehand. With that said, there’s no right or wrong choice when it comes to your GCSE subjects, especially if you’re unsure of your career path, as each one will give you the necessary and transferable skills needed in the next steps of your education. Most universities and colleges offer access courses that can help you focus on narrowing down your career path later on.

Things to think about:

  • What might you want to be in the future?

  • What do you enjoy doing?

  • What subjects are interested in the most?

In answering those questions, you’ll likely be in a stronger place to decide which GCSE subjects you take on. Seeking advice from parents, carers or teachers about these questions can also help you, as they can support you in the decision making process.

It’s always important to keep in mind that this is your decision to make. Remember, you will be the one of the course, so pick what you enjoy, are most interested in, and ultimately what is best for you.

A shirt collar and tie Doing Work experience

Work experience is a great way to learn new skills outside of the classroom, and by taking part, you may discover something you may want to do in the future, as well as what you may not want to do. You’ll also be able to develop new skills and build upon them. It can also be

Career Pilot is a great site with a ton of guidance around course options and planning next steps, you may have already used this in school. It contains really useful information regarding various industries and the careers attached to them. You can find Career Pilot’s guide’s here.

Even more so, Future Quest has a dedicated page on work experience opportunities in and around Bristol that is frequently updated. Find work experience opportunities here.

(You can also read our blog that gives advice on finding the best work experience for you, and how to make the most out of your work experience.)


piece of paper with pencil getting ready for your exams

Exam season is an incredibly stressful time for all students and getting ready for just one can seem daunting at first, however, there’s plenty of support in place for you. Mock exams are a great way for you to test your knowledge and find what areas you might need to put extra focus into. They’re also a great way to discover what kind of revision techniques work for you. For more advice, read our blog on preparing for mock exams here.

Revision can be tricky, especially if you’re not sure of the best techniques and organisational skills available. Sites such as BBC Bitesize are great for this, as they offer a heap of support with revision, and often make revising more interactive and interesting to keep your attention and focus up. Find revision tips on BBC Bitesize here. Furthermore, Future Quest offers a great guide on revision tips centred around organisation and optimising the revision experience. Find Future Quest’s guide on revision here.

signpost with two signs pointing in opposite directions Making your Post 16 Choices

Similarly, to your GCSEs, post 16 options will help you as you move further though education and onto your future career, and you should continue to think carefully about what you’d like to do in the future, what subjects will get you there, and most importantly what you enjoy and what you’re passionate about.

Talking to others that have gone through their post 16 options about their experience can give you a better insight into the overall experience and should help you develop a more concise idea of the subjects and pathways that may be right for you.

Again, Career pilot has some really useful information revolving around A-levels and other vocational courses, and a resource that shouldn’t be overlooked. Check out Career Pilot’s post 16 guide here.


signpost with two signs pointing in opposite directions making your post 18 choices

Deciding your post 18 options can specifically shape your immediate future – and it’s a decision that shouldn’t be rushed into. You could consider higher education, a transformative experience that allows you to learn new skills, gain new opportunities, meet tons of new people from across the globe and gain a qualification at the end of it. Other options could be apprenticeships, that allow you gain valuable experience and develop specific skills whilst on the job.

There are also several careers that a degree isn’t necessary for, so it is well worth looking into this if you have a specific career in mind.

A square shape with an arrow going through it Preparing for transition

Whatever you decide to do after school or college – big changes are happening! It’s important to be as prepared as you can for the future.

  • Talk to anyone you know who has gone through their post 18 options. Ask them about the challenges, pros, and cons of whatever route they went down.

  • Practical skills are just as important, especially if you’re moving out – making sure you know how to cook, wash your clothes, and take care of yourself are essential.

  • Being aware of the support and wellbeing policies in place for you will help keep you on track should you feel you need it.

And lastly, well done! Whatever way you got here, you’re here, and those achievements should never be overlooked!