University isn't for me: What are my options?

23rd November, 2023

Our University and Careers Specialist Hugo shares his insights.

More and more students are applying for university. Since the year 2000, the number of undergraduate students each year has increased from 1.5 million to 2 million.

For many students, however, university isn’t the best way for them to blossom and grow, and some only realise this during their first year, at which point it can be difficult to change what they’re doing. So, what do you do when university is not the right option for you?


For students who struggle to engage with classroom learning and prefer a practical learning style, apprenticeships are a fantastic alternative. During apprenticeships, students study vocational skills that lead into a career path. This allows students to gain job specific skills and work experience and build contacts in the industry by working with them. There is also the ‘earn whilst you learn’ benefit that allows students to gain money during their learning, rather than taking out a student loan.

Apprenticeships range from GCSE equivalent (Level 2) to degree equivalent (Level 6 & 7) and can be undertaken in subject areas including business, construction, legal & finance, and sales & marketing. The entry requirements for level 6 and 7 apprenticeships often include 3 GCSEs and 3 A-levels, but do not require an application process like UCAS.

Gap Years

In many cases, university can be the right option, but it can be slightly too early for some students to make the transition to living and learning independently. For these students a gap year can work wonders.

Having a year to take a break from studying and thinking towards the future is a great way for students to determine their career path, making them much more motivated to study towards it. It also offers an array of learning opportunities to embark upon during a year out, which can help them to grow in maturity and readiness for study.


If you’re interested in a specific career but don’t meet the requirements for an official apprenticeship, traineeships are a fantastic option.

Traineeships can last from as little as six weeks to a year, and are designed to prepare students for a full apprenticeship or the world of work.

Unlike apprenticeships, these courses are typically unpaid, but are a great way to build experience and connections in your target industry.

The World of Work

Aside from apprenticeships and traineeships, there are also lots of opportunities open to you in the world of work.

Internships are a great way to gain experience in a field without taking on a full-time job, while entry-level jobs in cafes, restaurants or bars are a great way to start earning quickly without the need for higher-level qualifications.

Not sure what’s the best option for you? Get in touch with our University and Careers specialist Hugo to arrange a call and discuss your pathway.