How to Get Into University Without Any A-Levels

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At this time of year, a lot of people you know may be talking about applying to university. You may want to go to university yourself, but you have no A-Levels. A-Levels are widely regarded as the way to get into university, this may make you feel like you can’t get into university. That’s where you’re wrong – there are actually lots of ways to get into university if you don’t have any A-Levels!  

There are many ways to get into university without A-Levels. These include qualifications such as vocational qualifications (e.g., BTECs), Access to Higher Education Diplomas and International Baccalaureate Diplomas. Many of these qualifications are easy to get even if you have been out of education for many years.

In this article, I will talk all about the different qualifications you can get that can get you into university. So, whether you’ve just finished school or you’re looking to get back into education and go to university, this is the article for you!   

Can You Get into University with No Qualifications Whatsoever?

If you don’t have or can’t get any qualifications, don’t fret as you may actually still be able to go to university. You would need lots of work and life experience relevant to your degree and you may have to do a Foundation Year or submit some pieces of work before you’re offered a place.  

Additionally, a good idea if you have no qualifications but still want to go to university, a good idea would be to apply for an integrated degree course. Many universities have these, and over a thousand courses are integrated degree courses, so you will be spoiled for choice!  

An integrated degree course might last four years, rather than the more common three-year courses on offer. It would include the Foundation Year I mentioned above. Many integrated degree courses result in a bachelor’s degree at the end of it.  

What Qualifications Do Universities Accept?

While many people who go to universities do have A-Levels, it’s not as uncommon as you might think to go to university without any A-Levels. There are many alternative qualifications that universities accept. Some of these include Access to Higher Education Diplomas, Vocational Qualifications, International Baccalaureate Diplomas, and even having appropriate work and life experience.

This article talks you through many other qualifications, such as using Open University credits to apply to university. However, some universities might not accept certain qualifications. So, make sure you check if your chosen qualification(s) are accepted before applying to your chosen universities.   

What is an Access to Higher Education Diploma?

An Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma, or Access to Higher Education Course is a course that is designed to prepare you for studying a specific course at university.  

Normally, they are designed for people who have been out of education for a long time. But you can take an Access to HE Diploma if you’re still in education too. If you pass the course and get a diploma, your qualification is equivalent to a level 3 qualification, such as A-Levels.  

To pass the course, you have to achieve 60 credits. For more information on Access to Higher Education Diplomas, here is the official website.  

Advantages of a Higher Education Diploma

You can study your course via distance learning. This is great because, especially if you already have a job or other commitments, like looking after children. You can study when and where you want to, fitting in studies around your schedule. 

The course can be very specific to what you want to study at university. There are more than 1,000 different courses to pick from. Meaning that you can pick something very specific to what you want to study at university. So, if you were worried about keeping up in university if you took an Access to, HE Diploma, then that wouldn’t be the case at all! 

Disadvantages of a Higher Education Diploma

You usually have to pay. The prices vary depending on factors such as which course you’re studying and where you’re studying it. According to The Complete University Guide, you could be paying up over £3,000.  

Your course might require GCSEs, especially English and Maths. However, if you don’t have the GCSEs for an Access to, HE course, you can still get into university using other methods, such as a Functional Skills course. Click here to learn more.

What are Vocational Qualifications?

Vocational qualifications often involve a mixture of classroom and hands-on learning. There are many different types, such as BTECs, CACHE qualifications, Cambridge Technicals or City and Guilds Technical Levels.  

Advantages of Vocational Qualifications

They often combine a mixture of in-class and practical learning. This means that you would have hands-on experience. This would improve your university application as well as helping you in university and in the workplace. 

There’s more of a focus on coursework than exams. You may not have got GCSEs or A-Levels because you and exams don’t get on. If that’s the case, then a vocational qualification might suit you as they are often coursework based. 

Disadvantages of Vocational Qualifications

As there is more focus on coursework, you need to be organised. Since coursework is weighted heavily for a vocational course, you need to hand in as many assignments as you can and complete all of your coursework on time.  

There may also be more coursework and assignments than if you were to do an A-Level. Because coursework is important here, so you need to be organised to stay on top of all of your work.  

Some universities may not accept these qualifications. For many universities, even if you do BTECs, they often want you to either get very high grades or to have done some A-Levels as well, so they may not accept these qualifications alone.  

What is an International Baccalaureate Diploma?

An International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma is a course where students cover six subjects (language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies sciences, mathematics, and the arts).  

These all improve your skills in the areas of theory of knowledge, creativity, activity, service, with an extended essay during the diploma. The assessments are a mixture of coursework and exams.  

Advantages of an International Baccalaureate Diploma

You are well prepared for the assignments and homework at university. This is because for the IB Diploma you have to write an extended essay. This is similar in nature to homework assignments that you will have to do at university. 

The workload is heavy, which forces you into good study habits. Hopefully, you would carry these habits across to university life. Getting into good study habits also teaches you skills that are attractive to employers. These habits will also help you in day-to-day life, such as strong time management and organisation skills.  

Disadvantages of an International Baccalaureate Diploma

Like I said earlier, the IB Diploma involves a lot of work and often a very heavy workload. So, if you have a habit of procrastinating, this may not be the qualification for you as you really can’t afford to procrastinate much.  

Like A-Levels, you usually study for two years, and the exams are all together at the end of the course.  If you don’t have a good long-term memory, this might be a big struggle for you. Your knowledge of what you studied at the start of the course has to be just as good as your knowledge of what you studied right at the end of the course.   

Will You Have to do a Foundation Year at University?

A foundation year is just an extra year at the start of a course which helps prepare you for studying a degree. Normally, when you have completed the foundation year, you just go straight onto studying the full degree with the university you did the foundation year with. But if you decided, for whatever reason, that you wanted to switch to a new university, you can also do that.  

You might be offered to study a degree with a foundation year if you don’t have the traditional qualifications – such as A-Levels and GCSEs – or if you’re a mature student who has been out of education for a while. However, they’re also good if you’re simply unsure if you want to study that degree or if you’re unsure that university life is right for you.  

At some universities, you can also do the foundation year over distance or blended learning, which is great if you have a family, job, or other commitments at home.  

Advantages of Doing a Foundation Year at University

You have an extra year to make sure that the course and university are really right for you. The foundation year will also give you skills and knowledge for the degree you will be studying next year. So, you have that extra confidence that you’ll be up to date in classes next year, especially if you don’t have any qualifications relevant to the degree.  

If you’ve been out of education for a while, a foundation year will also help you ease back into that education mindset and help make the transition to university easier. As long as you get the right grades at the end of the foundation year, you’re usually pretty much guaranteed a place on the full degree with the same university.  

This is great as you’ll have a lot less stress because you won’t have to worry about going through the university application process all over again and can just focus on doing great in your exams and coursework!  

Disadvantages of Doing a Foundation Year at University

Since you’re doing an extra year, that means an extra year’s worth of tuition fees and living costs such as rent. You might have to take out a student loan to cover this, on top of any student loans you plan to take out to study the rest of your degree.  

How to Apply to University

Applying to university when you don’t have A-Levels is actually the same as how someone with A-Levels would apply.  

You can do this through UCAS. All you have to do is register on the UCAS website and fill in all of the mandatory information, including a personal statement. 

Speaking of personal statements, you need to make yours stand out as much as possible. This is the case for any applicant, but if you’re applying to university without A-Levels then it is especially important to make yourself stand out from the crowd.  

You’re going to want lots of work and life experience relating to your chosen course. If you’re stuck, try volunteering as talking about volunteering on your personal statement. This is a great way to show that you have a variety of skills and attributes such as compassion and the ability to work well in a team. Check out this article for tips on how to write a personal statement that stands out from the crowd.    

How to Get into Good Study Habits

If you’ve been out of education for a while, you might be struggling to get back into that education and studying mindset ready for university. So, here are some tips for you. 

Learn Something New

Try to get back into the habit of learning something new every day before you start your degree. A good idea is to just spend five minutes a day learning a new language on an app like Duolingo to get yourself back into the habit. Besides, learning a language has so many benefits – and multilingual applicants being attractive to employers is one of them!  

Use Apps

Get an app which helps you focus and stay off social media. Normally, apps like these involve a timer that stops if you use your phone and if you reach the end of the timer, you usually get some kind of reward in the app.  

A popular timer app like this is ‎Forest, but there are other free options that work just as well, such as Study Bunny and Plantie.   

Don’t Leave it Last Minute

Don’t only revise when you have tests or homework coming up. If you get into the habit of revising regularly, then when you have to revise for tests, you will actually have to do less revision as you have already revised the content! This also helps keep stuff you studied at the start of your course fresh in your mind.  

Find Out Your Learning Style 

Find out your learning style and revise using those methods. You might have already done quizzes in school to find out your learning style (learning style is how you learn most effectively).  

If you’ve been out of school for a long time your learning style might have changed, or you may have forgotten what your learning style is. When you have found out your learning style, revise using those methods. For example, if you’re a visual learner you might want to revise by making mind maps. To find out your learning style, you can take quizzes like this one or this one 


Similarly, to learning styles, find out the time of day that you work most effectively. To do this, just try working and revising at different times of day, like in the afternoon, early evening, late evening, or morning.  

While you should still try to study at different times if you have a lot of work to do, try to plan out your day so you get most of your work done at your most productive time.  

If you procrastinate a lot, what do you waste time on the most? Whether you just reach for your phone for a five-minute scroll through Instagram and end up spending an hour on the app (don’t worry – I think anyone with social media can relate). You may even procrastinate all day without social media. 

It is important to identify the main distractions and time wasters and get rid of them. You can find apps which can block you from going on apps of your choosing for a certain time or you can go the whole way and delete distracting apps while you study and redownload them after.  

Good luck with your university applications!

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