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Welsh Government

Choosing a course at 18

Thinking about taking a course at 18, after your A levels or other qualifications? We can help you decide which course and course provider is right for you.

The choice you make now will have a real impact on your future career.  While changing or leaving a course is possible, finding the right course to excite and motivate you will save you trouble and money later on.

If you are still unsure about what you want to do after leaving school or college, look again at all of your options at 18.

Ask yourself

1. What subjects do I enjoy?

Knowing which subjects you have enjoyed the most so far can help you identify courses you might enjoy. Remember you may be studying the subject for 2 or more years.

2. What subjects am I good at? 

You need to think if the subjects you are good at are useful for your career ideas and next steps. Speak to your teachers and tutors to get an idea of the grades they think you can achieve so that you have a better idea of the UCAS points you're aiming for. 

3. How do I like to learn? 

We all learn differently. You may prefer to continue your learning ‘hands-on’, learning on the job through a training programme or apprenticeship. Or continuing with academic work may suit you better on a college or university course.

4. Where do I want to learn/study?

You need to think about where you'd like to study further. You may want to move away to study or you might prefer to stay closer to your home. Having a better idea of where you see yourself studying for the next few years will help you to start thinking about your finances and accommodation options.

5. Where could certain courses and qualifications take me?  

Certain careers may need particular courses or qualifications. There are many different routes. Some examples:

  • If you are hoping to become an Accountant or an Engineer you might consider choosing an undergraduate degree or you could choose a more practical course like a Higher National Diploma (HND) or National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). 
  • If you have a particular career in mind like Medicine or Veterinary Medicine, then choosing an undergraduate degree course is slightly more straightforward.

Find out more about qualifications and use Job Information to see what qualifications are required for different job roles.

First 6 steps to take

Check it out

Find out as much as you can about courses and subjects available and where you would prefer to study:

  • Find out what courses you can study in colleges and training providers near you using Course Search
  • Find out what HE courses are available through UCAS Course Search and university websites
  • Check the content of the course.  What will you be learning and how will you learn?
  • Visit college and University Open days.
  • Ask tutors and teachers. Ask other students
  • Make a shortlist
Entry requirements

Some jobs will ask for specific subjects and qualifications so you'll need to be aware of what you need to be studying if you have a career idea in mind. Look at Job Information to see what subjects and grades are required for different job roles.

Check what grades or UCAS points you need for courses you are interested in on college and university websites and UCAS Course Search.

Think about your career ideas

Got a career in mind? Check what subjects and grades are needed in Job Information.

Look at Future Jobs Wales to explore some of Wales' most important industries.

Find out more about the jobs in demand now and in the future on Future of Work Wales.

Unsure of your career ideas? Try our Career Match Quiz. The quiz will match your skills and interests to different jobs and help you to explore where subjects can take you.

Financing your course

Learning is not always free once you leave school or college at 18.

Take a look at what funding is available and what support you may be able to get on funding your studies.

Keep up to date with the loans and grants available to students on Student Finance Wales

List the pros and cons

Sometimes the easiest way to come to a decision is to write a list of the pros and cons for each of your options. Think about the:

  • Positives about each option
  • Negatives about each option
  • What each option could lead to

Go through your list and think about how important each point is to you. By the end you’ll have a better idea of what’s important to you and which option is best.

It’s good to talk

Talk to family, friends, tutors and teachers about your choices. Talking it through can help you make this big decision. They will be able to give you a different perspective and offer you ideas you may not have thought of before. 

Contact Careers Wales to speak to a careers adviser about your options.

How do I keep my options open?

If you know you want to go to university but can’t decide which course to do, you could take a good general degree, such as English, Maths or a Science, which will help you to develop the skills that employers need.

Explore your career ideas

Useful links

A Level Choices Tool (Which? University)  
Students’ top 20 tips for choosing a course (The Guardian)
What can I do with my degree? (Prospects)
Job Information (Careers Wales)

You might also like

Find out about qualifications

Understand qualification levels and why they matter. Learn about qualifications, including NVQs, GCSEs, BTECs, A levels, degrees and HNDs.

Options at 18

Find out the career options you have after you leave school or college.

Going to university

How to apply, including UCAS deadlines, attending open days, student finance and clearing.