There are many things to consider when choosing what direction to take after your GCSEs. You may decide to remain at school as part of their sixth-form, or mix studying with working by enrolling on an apprenticeship qualification. An alternative to both of these is to study full-time at a further education college. If you decide to take this route, what things do you need think about when making your choice?
What courses can you study there?
The range of courses and qualifications that you can study at college will vary dramatically from school sixth-form, with a greater variety of subjects and levels. Whilst most will be related to a particular career path (such as construction, hair and beauty therapy or catering and hospitality), others will be broader, including business, media, photography, and science. At West Kent College, we are also one of the few colleges to offer A-Levels.
Does it feel welcoming?
At first, it may seem daunting to move from a school to a college, especially since there will usually be significantly more students. It's important to gauge how friendly the college feels when you visit on open days or as part of your application. Do the students generally seem happy? Are the staff helpful? If, when you walk in, you feel like you belong (and at West Kent College 96% of students fed back that they felt welcome on their first day) then chances are you’ll enjoy your time there and achieve.
How easy is it to get there?
Although the journey may not seem too difficult, or long, at the start of term remember that this is a journey you’ll be doing all year, in all weathers. When doing your research, investigate the different travel arrangements, including the cost of travel, to make sure it is affordable. West Kent College, like most colleges, does offer some support with travel costs and is located within a 10min walk from Tonbridge train station, and on a number of bus routes. All of these factors are reasons why we have students travelling in from as far afield as Hastings and London.
What do the people you trust think?
Importantly, this is not a decision you have to, or necessarily should, take alone. Talk to those people you are close to or who know you well, such as your teacher or your family. Look at reports from independent organisations, such as Ofsted, to see what they say about the quality of the teaching. If you know anyone who has studied there, or is studying there, then ask them too what their views are. At West Kent College, we’re pleased that 95% of students would recommend us to a friend and, our recent Grade 2 “Good” for Teaching, Learning and Assessment from Ofsted affirms the quality of the student experience.