Level 3 college, what next?

How to decide?

Having a Level 3 qualification can open the door to many exciting pathways but it may seem a difficult task deciding what's best for you. As an adult learner you may have more things to juggle in your life and it might feel there is a huge mountain to climb to get to where you want. The good news is that adult learners are really welcomed by many institutions, there are flexible learning options and help is available to give you the confidence to succeed. 

Below are some key things to consider that will help you make the right decisions about your next steps. 

Personal circumstances

The type of course you choose will often depend on how it fits in with any other responsibilities you may have including work, childcare, caring for adult relatives or voluntary work in your local community. There may be other factors which are personal to you that could impact what you do next including finances, health and wellbeing, geographical location and transport.  

Think about what is realistic for you and how you will balance your time to decide if you would like to study full-time, part-time or if you prefer flexible learning options including distance learning.

When you are choosing where you will study it's important to factor in your personal circumstances and what support is available to help you succeed on your course.

Career goals/interests

The qualifications you do next will often depend on the the type of job or career you want to pursue. Or you may still be deciding what you want to do in the future and need to narrow down your options.  Below are some different scenarios and tips for things you can do that will help you make some decisions.

I know what I want to do for a career

You may already be working towards a particular career with your Level 3 qualifications and are ready to take your next steps. Some things to do next.....

  • research the routes into your chosen career to see if there are specific qualifications that are required.
  • If there is more than one route in, make a list of the pros and cons and consider which one plays to your strengths, is the most realistic and fits with your personal circumstances
  • look at the job sectors and search for a specific job to discover different routes and information about entry requirements

I am interested in several career areas  

If you are already taking a Level 3 qualifications in particular subjects it's likely that you have some ideas about the job or career you want to do but you may be struggling to narrow it down and decide on your next qualifications.  Some things you can do next.....

  • compare entry requirements and routes into each career you are interested in - search courses to see what they want and what's involved.
  • make a list of your personal priorities you want from a career and see if they match 
  • consider which one more closely matches your key skills and personal qualities - you could do the HE Skills Map to see what skills you have to offer
  • research job prospects and types of vacancies available in each career area through our job sectors

I don't know what career I want to do

Even though you are studying a Level 3 qualification you may be a long way from knowing what you want to do in the future or you may have changed your mind and want to take a new direction.  Some things you can do next....

  • reassess where you are at and take an online careers matching assessment - Prospects has one you could try
  • reflect on your skills and personal qualities - you could do the HE Skills Map to see what skills you have to offer
  • think about your interests and think about aspects of any previous jobs you liked
  • research different job sectors to see which ones appeal to you and consider employment opportunities for the future
  • make a list of what is most important to you in a job.

Entry requirements

When progressing from a Level 3 qualification the options open to you will often depend on particular entry requirements, which can vary a lot depending on the course and institution. To help you decide what to do next you will have to carefully research what the entry requirements are for each option you are considering.  Entry requirements may include the following:

  • Level 2 qualifications including certain grades for English and maths
  • if English is not your first language there may be specific entry requirements for you to have achieved a certain level
  • Level 3 qualifications and grades required
  • have you work experience (paid or unpaid)? 
  • evidence of specific skills and personal qualities e.g. for nursing careers
  • passing an aptitude test e.g. for Law degrees
  • portfolio of work e.g. for creative courses

Note: If you are an adult learner who has built up some relevant work experience which relates to the course you are applying for it may be possible for you to use your experience to be exempt from certain academic requirements. 

Specific entry requirements can be found on an institution's website or general course search site which you can find through Find a Provider on Lifepilot.

Skills and experience

To help you decide what to do next it's a good idea to reflect on the skills and experience you have demonstrated so far throughout education and/or work. You are more likely to be successful and enjoy what you do next if you can identify and play to your strengths.  Some things you can do next....

  • complete the Higher Skills Map in Career Tools to identify your existing skills that are relevant for studying a higher level course (you will need to register with Lifepilot to access this free resource)
  • have a look at individual course requirements to see how closely your skills and  experience match - in Courses
  • create a timeline of any jobs/work experience you have done and think about when you were most content and what skills you enjoyed using the most 
  • have a look at improve your skills if you feel you need to gain more confidence in certain areas before you decide what to do next

Learning styles

It's really important to factor in the way you prefer to learn when choosing what qualifications to do next. For example, if you prefer to learn by doing you might want to consider doing an apprenticeship or a course which has practical elements.  If you prefer to learn by information presented visually you might prefer to take an academic course which uses a variety of teaching materials including books, film, presentations. 

Another key thing to think about is how you are going to be assessed when choosing what to do next. For example, you may already have identified that you prefer to take practical assessments or you may prefer written exams or project assignments.

Make sure you research the teaching and assessment methods for each qualification you are considering and choose the one that will play to your strengths.

Financial costs

The type of qualification you do next may depend on your personal financial situation and may dictate whether you study full time or part time, choose a short course or study over  a longer period of time. There is a lot of financial support available to cover tuition fees for degree level courses and there are different packages to support with living costs for those who are eligible. If you choose to do a Higher or Degree Apprenticeship your employer will usually cover the cost of any qualifications. 

Look at the Money Matters section of Lifepilot which explains about the funding available for learning especially at higher education level, and gives you links where you can find out more.

Top Tip: Tuition fees for some higher education courses including Foundation Degrees and HNDs may be less depending on the institution you are hoping to attend. 

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