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Now that GCSEs are fast approaching, many if you will be thinking about your future. If you want to carry on in education, you will most probably have to apply for college. Even if your school does have a sixth-form, college is often a better option. They offer more courses, a greater variety of subjects, different types of qualifications (i.e. BTECs and NVQs) and more relaxed atmosphere.

There is also more choice at college level, you don’t just have to go to the one that is closest to your house, although depending on how lazy you are you might just go for that option. You can, if you want to, though, shop around a bit. Also, unlike secondary schools, colleges can be a bit selective in their pupils. Because of this, they want to know more about the students applying to them. Colleges want to see whether they are the right college for you and whether you are right for them.

This means that there is a proper, formal application process. This can be a bit scary if you’ve never done anything similar before but don’t worry too much, here is our step-by-step guide to doing the application right.

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Section 1: Personal Details

On a typical application form you will be general questions like your name, date of birth, address and phone number. 

Section 2: The Courses you are Applying For

This part of the application will question you about the courses you are enrolling in. You may be doing more than one course, or have one in reserve and colleges want to know how to fit this in a schedule for you. They also want to know why you chose the course. Course numbers are usually quite limited so they only take the best students. Therefore, you have to make sure you really explain why this course particularly interested you. Just be honest. There must have been something that attracted you to this course so just explain what that was in the best way you can. 

Section 3: Additional Support

This section asks about any health issues, disabilities or learning difficulties. This may seem quite personal but it is there to determine what sort of help and support you will need, while at college. 

Section 4: Equal Opportunities

This section asks you about your ethnic background. 

Section 5: Residency

Colleges want to know where you live because many have more than one campus and may be able to enrol you in their college closest to where you live. Also, bear in mind, if they have more than one campus you may live much further away from the campus that runs your course. If this is the case, you will aslo have to bear in mind transport costs and factor in travel time to your day. 

Section 6: Criminal Convictions.

In this section, although it may jeopardise your chances of going to college, you must be honest because you will get found out anyway. Don’t worry too much, if it is a minor conviction, the college may let you in but have you supervised and monitored for a while.

Section 7: Qualifications.

The course you want to get onto may have specific qualification needs (i.e. 3 Cs at GCSEs). Most college courses require fairly low grades to give everyone a chance to get on the course that they may want to study. As a general rule five A-Cs are needed to study A-Levels and slightly lower grades are needed for NVQs and BTECs, although this does depend on the college and the specific course you are studying. Whatever your results, you have to be honest on the application because they will ask for your certificates as proof anyway.

If you've not currently got your GCSE grades the college will ask for predicted grades and your teachers will be able to tell you what you're predicted in each subject. 

Section 8: Tell us about yourself.

Try and make this section as interesting as possible. This is the only area of the application form where you get to make a bit of an impression. Treat it as though you're applying to a job; talk about your hobbies and what you do in your spare time but be specific. For example, don’t talk about shopping or ‘hanging out with friends’, or even just reading, instead talk about what genres you like to read or what activities you do with your friends. Also try to mention what you want to get out of your college course and what you plan on doing after college, whether it's an apprenticeship, a job or university.

Section 9: References.

Give this form to a teacher or previous/current employer if you have one. Do not fill out this form yourself because the college will contact the person and catch you out! Just try and choose someone that knows you well, perhaps the teacher of the subject you'd like to study at college and who you get along with and hopefully they will fill out the form honestly and in your favour.

Remember to ask your references for a statement in advance of your college application deadline giving them a few weeks to write something for you. 

Once you've completed your college application form, pop it in the post and wait patiently. All you have to do now is get revising so you've got the grades to get into your dream college!

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