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A Levels

Leaving before your A levels finish, what to do?

If your A Level courses haven’t been going as well as you expected and you are starting to think that you should never have started them, what should you consider first before you leave?

Talk to other people

  • Have you had a discussion with your subject teachers and/or your tutor? Perhaps you are not the only one to be finding the course difficult and rather than see you leave, they may be able to give you some additional help. Let them know how you are feeling and find out what they can do.
  • Is it just a particular module that you have been finding hard or a test that didn’t go particularly well? Students often feel a bit frustrated or anxious about certain parts of the course. Try and keep things in perspective and give yourself time to think.

Option to change if early on in the school/college year

  • In school it may be possible for you to consider changing subjects or doing a BTEC vocational course instead. Talk to your tutor about this, but remember that it can be hard work catching up.
  • You may be in time to transfer to a college course, but make sure that you research this thoroughly – you don’t want to leave one course you don’t like only to find you are not very keen on the college course either. Again, there could be a cut off point, after which they would not accept you.
  • Check out the implications for future FREE education. If you carry on with your A Level courses knowing they are not for you, you might miss the chance of doing a future Level 3 course for free, as free education after 19 isn't available if you already have a Level 3 qualification. 

Things to consider before making the final decision

  • Think carefully about dropping subjects and not replacing them. What will be the implications of this decision? Will you have sufficient qualifications to keep your options open or will it prevent you from entering a specific career? 
  • Could you start a Extended Project Qualification instead of the subject you want to drop? This qualification gives you UCAS points and is highly regarded by universities, but it isn’t going to replace a full A Level.
  • How much longer do you have to go? If you do not have the opportunity to take AS qualifications in your first year, you could find that you would be leaving without any new qualifications, just your GCSEs.
  • If you are in your second year of the A Level course, then maybe it is worth sticking it out. Remember A Levels are all passes whether you gain A* or E grades and you can demonstrate to an HE provider or an employer that despite finding it to be a tough course you were determined to stick it out – determination and resilience are two skills many employers value!

If you are definitely not continuing - your choices

  • Consider whether you should stick with the course whilst you research the new options, rather than leave. Finding yourself leaving the course and doing nothing is never great, either for you or your CV!
  • What are you going to do instead? Deciding to leave the A Level course might be your final decision but what are you going to do now? You may need time to rethink your plans – talk to as many people as you can to get their advice – parents, teachers and careers advisors.
  • Options at colleges or apprenticeships. You could go on to an apprenticeship or do a college course. Colleges offer a range of Level 3 (same level as A Levels) vocational courses and the style of learning might be a change from the academic route. Explore your local education providers and check out your local college's website to explore their courses, and search for local apprenticeships.
  • If you are leaving your A Level course make a list of all the skills you have learnt from the work you have done so far and be ready to talk about these on your future applications to courses/apprenticeships or jobs. Post 16 Skills Map will help with this.

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