Moving from school to college

Leaving school to move to a different learning environment can sometimes be stressful. But, wider choices, different ways of working and diferent opportunities make it the right choice for some young people.

After spending years in school and being used to the same routine, people and place it can be hard moving to college, or another learning environment. Almost everyone finds change difficult. But at other times it can be exciting and interesting. College exposes you to more independence, so if that's what you like, then this might be the right pathway for you. 

Managing your time and taking responsibility is important in college as you are often set tasks to do outside the classroom. The way of work between school and college is very different, as well as the approach between staff and students. So, you might talk to your lecturers by their first name, or wear your own clothes instead of a uniform. You might also work differently, for example have assignments, projects or end of year shows instead of exams.

Colleges may also have subjects schools don't offer, and these are often related to jobs you might go on to do, after you leave college.

Take action: Have a look courses and more from some of our nearby colleges - Abingdon & Witney College,  Activate Learning, Buckinghamshire College Group, New College Swindon and BCA.

If moving from school to college seems difficult, think about the positives! You will meet many different people from different places who may have been in the same situation as you. This will be a way for you to gain more experience and resilience. And after this change, you will find adapting to different places and situations a lot easier!

The way you learn in college can seem quite different to how you learn in school. This short video explains the Activate College group philosophy of learning:

Common transition worries

An important part of learning well, is finding out what sort of environment and learning style suits you best! Do you prefer a school environment? Do you want to be more independent while studying? Or are you money-motivated and prefer a working environment? You can gain good qualifications in all sorts of different settings, so what matters is what works for you.

It's natural and normal to be worried when you change school or college though. These are some common concerns young people have when they move or change school or college:

  • Afraid of losing your friends? You can keep in touch via social media. Plan out your weeks ahead and organise something together. And don’t worry! You’ll meet plenty of new people in the same position as you and looking for new buddies.
  • Think you won’t fit in? You need to remember, you are all in the same boat! There will be many people starting new just like you - including plenty who are worried that they won't fit in.
  • Afraid of the unknown? Do your research and try and visit beforehand (go to an open day or taster session) so you can get a better idea of what it’s going to be like. This will help remove the fear of your first day - if you can't visit try to find a video so you can have a virtual walkthrough.
  • Need a confidence boost? First impressions matter! Make sure you are well prepared, so that you are confident and ready for the day ahead. You could; check travel plans, find out dress requirements, and see if you need any equipment or to do anything before term starts like attend a workshop day. 
  • Scared of change? Change is a part of life and the best way to help you grow as an individual. Take advantage of the new experiences and take the opportunity to improve your skills!

Pathways for you when you leave school or college

If you are moving on from school or college at age 16+  there are lots of options, including- A-levels, college, apprenticeships and traineeships. Find out more about Choices at 16.

You need to stay in learning until your are 18, but this doesn't mean you can't start work. You can work part time, or do an apprenticeship, or another kind of work with training. Find out more about why everyone has a place in learning up to age 18 - guaranteed!

If you are moving on from school or college at age 18+, there are lots of different opportunities, including jobs, apprenticeships and higher education. You have the right to information and guidance to help you choose your next steps from your school or college. Did you know that you can also study for degrees at your Further Education College? So you might end up staying at college to do your degree.

Get support

When you're going through changes, it helps if you know where you can go for extra help! There's plenty available:

  • Your teachers – talk to your teachers, lecturers or other teaching staff for extra guidance.
  • Older family and friends – talk to them about their experiences.
  • Careers advisors specialise in helping young people decide what they want to do, they should be available in your school or college.
  • If you are having difficulties or feel stressed you can talk to your school health nurse, student support, or wellbeing support in your place of learning
  • There is lots more information and support right here on oxme 

It can also help to talk to people you know who have gone to college or made similar learning choices. This is what one person who changed from school to college experienced:

“I was 16 when I left school and decided to go to another sixth form for a change. I chose to study sociology, philosophy and ethics and world development. But what did I want to go into in the future? Business. I decided to overcome the pressure of studying 3 A levels and choose what I thought was best for me. This led to me joining Abingdon & Witney College to study Level 3 Business Management, which is equivalent to 3 A levels, except with different way of learning. I have now been accepted to all 5 of my university choices to study International Business. I am looking forward to starting in September.” Yusra, 19

Find out more

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