For many of you, the big question when you leave school is whether you should go to college and study full-time, or apply for an apprenticeship. The choice is all yours - there are pros and cons to both, but don’t let those around you tell you that one option is definitely preferable to another - find out what best suits your needs and that’s the path to go down!

What about apprenticeships?

There are a million reasons why you might want to apply for an apprenticeship - it almost gives you the best of both worlds - you have the opportunity to study for the same qualifications as you would do in college, while at the same time you gain a wage along with that all important work experience. Furthermore, many employers take on their apprentices after they’ve completed their qualifications, and if they are unlucky enough not to have a role for you, you’ll have the qualities and experience that other employers want, putting you in a good position compared to your contemporaries.

Apprenticeships are also more flexible than college - you’ll only be put in for exams if your mentor feels as though you will do well, so you’ve the opportunity to really get stuck into learning on the job, and don’t have to worry about how well you are going to perform straight away. 

At the same time, because you’ll be employed 9-5 (including you time studying) you won’t have to deal with the hassle of a part-time job. This means that you might have more time for your hobbies and interests, as well as more money to pursue them. 

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If you are someone that’s itching to get out into the real world, form relationships with people from all walks of life, then an apprenticeship is for you. But remember that along with all the pros, you’ll also have the same responsibilities as every other employee - you’ll have to be reliable, hard working, and work well with others. 

Undertaking an apprenticeship also means that you have to be clear about your career goals. In applying you’ll have to show the employer why you are suitable for the role and how your experience so far is useful. As apprenticeships are more specific, they do narrow down your future options, for example, if you undertake an apprenticeship as a veterinary nurse, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to switch to a manufacturing career at a later date. 

Due to the full-time nature of your employment, your social life may also take a hit when you’ve got exams to get under your belt. Unlike those in college, you’ll have to fit your revision around work as you won’t get the time off, which you may find more stressful. 

What about college?

However, if you still want the student experience - and a little more time to enjoy not having any responsibilities, then college may be for you. You’ll be treated like an adult, with the ability to wander in and out of the premises whenever you’ve not got lessons, and they’ll be plenty of enrichment activities for you to enjoy. You’ll also be surrounded by a vast number of people your age, so it will be easy to make friends and enjoy your social life outside of learning. 

College is also a way of keeping your options open - if you are not sure what you want to do as a career, both BTECs and A-Levels offer you the ability to enter a wide range of sectors, offering a multitude of transferable skills. 

If you’ve got your heart set on university, then college and A-Levels are by far the most straightforward route. But remember that they are not the only route - most universities accept students who take BTECs at college, while apprenticeships also give you the opportunity to study for qualifications equivalent to an undergraduate degree (in the future this will increase to postgraduate level), while once you’ve got an apprenticeship under your belt there’s no reason why you can’t go to university indirectly. 

Also remember that the competition for apprenticeships is pretty high - if you’re not confident that you’ll get a place we’d recommend that you also apply for a college course just in case.