Alternative to University

by Waller Jamison

If you didn't get the grades you need for university this year, what are the options? There are plenty of potential choices and finding the best alternative to university is just a matter of research and careful thought. 

Amongst the possibilities as an alternative to university are vocational qualifications, which you can get at local further education or community colleges, and apprenticeships in a wide range of different subjects, not just the traditional trades like plumbing and hairdressing.

You could also think about taking a year out to get some experience through travelling, volunteering or trying out work in a number of different temporary jobs.

A year out before making a final career decision can help you to focus on what you really want and give you some idea what the world of work is like. This can also help you decide whether or not to reapply to college or whether an alternative to university might be a better choice.

You could consider going back to school to resit exams or take new subjects and then re-apply next year. Or you could go to a college which specializes in intensive exam preparation.

Another possibility is online learning which will enable you to get a degree or another professional qualification part-time, perhaps while working, thus getting rid of the problem of future student debt

Which alternative to university is right for you?


Much depends on your long-term career goals and these might need to be reconsidered. If you have your heart set on a career which requires a specific degree, you'll need to ask yourself why you didn't get the grades this time.

This is essential if you are thinking about re-sitting your exams.

If you had a good reason for not doing well, such as serious illness or a family crisis or a bereavement, there is every chance you will do well next year as long as you are fully recovered, both physically and mentally.

If you failed as a result of laziness, your poor grades might be just the wake-up call you need.

If you worked really hard, the decision to re-sit is tougher. Can you work out where you went wrong? Can you get help with study technique or with your grasp of the subject?

If you can identify the problem and feel that there is a solution, it's worth re-sitting, but if you don't think you can do any better, there isn't a lot of point.

The important thing is to be honest with yourself. But remember that some people learn better using different learning strategies. So you might make more progress with a new teacher, who uses different techniques. It might be worth looking at some new approaches to learning before making a decision.

If you do feel resits are the right step, check our study tips.

Should You Even Consider an Alternative to University?

There has been a lot of pressure put on young people to go to university and with increased numbers doing so every year, it's easy to think that this is the only option and that failure to do so makes you a failure.

Get that idea right out of your head. Academic success isn't the only type of success and in many cases it doesn't lead to a job, as a heck of a lot of new graduates are discovering to their cost.

Not only are they finding that there are no jobs but they will also have a load of student debt to pay back when they do finally find employment.

So if you do decide that university is not the best way forward, don't be hard on yourself. You might find yourself doing a lot better than your previous classmates.

If you do proper research, you could find an option which is not only an alternative to university, but a much better choice.