University Tips Blog
Image of a dartboard, with three darts hitting the bullseye
A headshot image of the author, Jen Barton

by Jen Barton

Student Recruitment Manager at Durham University

posted on 1 Feb '24

How important are post-16 option choices?

As higher education advisers, we’re often asked by students and parents how important their post-16 options are for their future education and career prospects.

If your young person knows what career they want to go into, then it’s important that they choose the right options to get them on the right path. They can research their chosen occupation and find out what qualifications they need, working backwards to choose the relevant options for post-16 study. There aren’t as many occupations as you might expect that require specific qualifications, other than the obvious examples such as doctors, engineers or dentists – these professions require specific qualifications which need to be considered at Level 3.

What are the options?

There are so many options, it can feel overwhelming. Some of the most common post-16 qualifications include A Levels, Scottish Highers, T Levels and Apprenticeships.

How do students choose?

The key is to be well-informed by undertaking research, and the good news is that there are a lot of online resources that can help. If your young person wants to go to university, it is important to note that not all degrees demand a particular set of qualifications. However, your young person needs to make sure that they don’t limit their areas of interest by taking the wrong subjects for their post-16 options. They can use websites such as The Russell Group Informed Choices web page which will help them with the pathways they could take. UCAS and are also great sources of information.

If your young person wants to take a science pathway, then they will almost certainly need to take at least one science subject at Level 3, whereas social sciences and arts and humanities subjects tend to have fewer prerequisites. If your young person still doesn’t know the path they want to follow for post-18 study, then it’s good advice to take a mix of subjects for their post-16 qualifications. Most importantly, they should study subjects they’ll enjoy.

There’s no wrong choice!

Reassure your young person that they don’t need to have everything figured out right now; many students, even when they reach Year 13, still don’t know what they want to do. All you can do as a parent or supporter is be there to help them as they make their choices. It’s also important that they don’t feel any pressure about making the ‘wrong’ choice. Remind them that if they change their mind part way through their studies, or even during their career, it’s never too late to take their future in another direction.

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