For at least two years, you will have studied for your GCSE exams at the end of Year 11. Now that they are complete, there is a long summer ahead of you. With so much time to fill, this article contains some helpful ideas of what to do, both in the short and in the long term.
Regardless of whether you are a Year 10 student looking ahead, or an exhausted Year 11 student looking at the next steps, here are 15 ideas on what to do after your GCSEs are complete. In this article I will discuss the various pathways in further education, whilst also mentioning work experience, skills, sports, driving, travelling and so much more!
1. Relax and Rejuvenate
This is definitely the most important thing to do as soon as your GCSEs are over! Allow yourself plenty of time filled with all the things you enjoy doing. Allowing yourself to relax and rejuvenate after months of anxiety, stress and late-night study sessions is extremely important.
You might want to meet up with friends or family and spend days with them going to theme parks or out shopping followed by coffee! Whatever it is that you choose to do, you must ensure that it does not involve any sort of work which may induce negative emotions, so that you can fully recharge.
To ensure that your mind is calm and at ease, it is a good idea to start meditating after you wake up, or just before you sleep. Another idea is writing down three things that you are grateful for each evening, whilst you reflect on all the beautiful moments which have occurred during the day. By doing this you will promote positivity within yourself, allowing for an improved mindset.
2. Go Travelling
It might sound a bit random but given that the summer following the end of Year 11 is longer than the holidays you would have received before it, it is a great time for you to travel abroad and maybe even visit multiple countries.
Travelling to foreign places will be a great opportunity to practise any languages you can speak (for example your GCSE language choice!). Appreciate other cultures, allow you to relax in style, explore places of interest, learn about the history of different areas…the list is endless!
You could plan to go with your friend, or if possible, with family (though jobs may constrict when and how long they can travel with you). On the other hand, you might be brave enough to travel solo and take some time to learn about yourself in beautiful settings. If you do choose to travel alone, I’d advise you to make sure that you know people in the area(s) you’ll be staying in beforehand just in case some help is needed.
A little tip is that staying with family and friends is a cheaper option, but if you don’t have any who are living in the countries you want to travel to, then look around for youth hostels which cost less than staying in hotels.
3. Focus on a Sport
With a longer summer and no mandatory events, the summer after Year 11 is the best time to participate in a new sport or to spend a bit longer on a sport that you already practice but perhaps haven’t spent much time on recently due to your GCSEs.
You could either join a club, which will allow you to meet and befriend other people in your age group, or you could decide to use the internet to help you along.
Sporting is a great opportunity to spend time with friends or family, it is the perfect opportunity to have a competitive blast! If you already participate in a sport, with so much time on your hands you could practise more often and improve those weaker areas that you’ve been struggling with. Whether it’s a certain kick in kung fu, a flick-of-the-wrist in badminton or a lengthy distance in cross-country now’s your time to perfect your skill set!
From the end of Year 11, Physical Education lessons will no longer take place, allowing some students to fall behind in their physical health. So, taking up a sport that you enjoy doing will allow for some regular exercise which will benefit you greatly in the long run (pun intended!).
4. Learn a New Skill
With so much time on your hands during the summer after Year 11, learning a new skill is a beneficial activity to do. You may wish to start a new super-curricular activity (extra-curricular activities that relate specifically to the subject you wish to study in depth) which will look brilliant on a personal statement.
If you aim to focus on English Language, you could take up creative writing, or perhaps if you plan on learning a new language you could join a penpal website to find someone with whom you can exchange letters with for writing and reading practise.
If you don’t want to focus on the more academic side of things, there are always life skills such as sewing, gardening, and cooking which you can easily learn either from family members, or by using every teen’s best friend—the internet!
5. Do Some Volunteer Work
For some great experiences you can offer a helping hand by volunteering. Not only will it look great on your CV, but you will also be supporting others giving yourself that beautiful feeling of happiness, which is something you can never have too much of!
Charity shops are a great place to start looking, otherwise there are also libraries, schools (particularly primary schools, which will still be open when you finish Year 11) and various organisations to which you can offer your services.
6. Gain Work Experience
If you’re here in 2021, then it is likely that Covid-19 caused your planned work experience to be cancelled, so now is the perfect time to start up the search again! If you still struggle to find anything, do not worry yourself too much as whoever you aim to impress with your skills will take the pandemic into consideration.
Work experience is very important, given that it gives you a better understanding of the career path you’re looking at.
If you did manage to complete your work experience, then well done to you! You may however, wish to do some more, so check out this article to help you to find somewhere ideal.
7. Prepare for Exam Retakes
If you are absolutely certain that you did awfully in a subject in your GCSEs, you may already be planning to re-sit the exams if possible. If that subject is maths or English language, then you may wish to start preparing now, since those exams take place in the November following your GCSE exams.
On the other hand, it is very important that this revision is not very heavy and that you don’t overwhelm yourself, as you will have just finished an exam period you absolutely must allow yourself to recover, relax and have fun over your summer!
For more help you may find the following articles useful:
- What To Do If You Fail Your 2021 GCSEs
- How Many Times Can You Resit GCSEs?
- What is a Pass Grade at GCSE and A-Level?
8. Pave the Way for Driving a Car
Given that you can sit the driving theory test at 17, those of you nearing that age may wish to spend some time learning about the course so that you can get the multiple-choice test out of the way.
The theory test contains two parts: a multiple-choice section and a video-based hazard perception section. You can also start driving lessons at 17.
At 18 you can then take the practical driving test, but this must be taken within two years of you passing the theory test. So make sure you carefully plan when you aim to do the theory test so that you have plenty of time to practice and take the practical test without clashing with any major events (for example A-Level exams). Please note that the ages I’ve mentioned will vary slightly for different types of vehicles.
If you don’t feel up to it, then don’t pressure yourself to learn how to drive, after all there is no requirement for you to do so! You may want to consider how you will travel around if your parents/guardians do not have time to drop you off given that you will be a legal adult. If it is still not for you, then public transport is also a great option!
For more on driving, read the following articles:
- How Much Does it Cost to Learn to Drive? – Student’s Guide for 2021
- Where Can You Learn to Drive in the UK?
- How Long Does a Provisional Driving Licence Last?
9. Start Preparing for Future Education
By now it is likely that you have already decided which path of further education you wish to take, if learning is what you desire to do. It is wise to prepare for the subjects you will be studying in order to lessen the shock of starting education again after the months you spend away from school.
Preparation could take the form of reading around the subjects and writing up your opinions on what you discover, or perhaps you wish to start revising for them already by making a head start on learning the content!
If you want any further guidance on how to prepare yourself for further education check out this article here.
10. Move onto Academic Qualifications
Academic Qualifications refer to AS and A-Levels. The academic route is the most popular route of further education and is intended for those who want to get a deeper knowledge of particular subjects. The difference between AS and A-Level is relatively large given that an AS-Level is worth half of an A-Level, so it is wise to consider the specifics of the path you take. AS and A-Levels are graded according to the A*-E system. To learn more about the difference between AS and A-Level click here.
11. Study for Vocational Qualifications
Vocational qualifications are work-related qualifications that are specifically designed to help the learners acquire work-related knowledge and skills. There are many different levels of vocational qualifications, but you will want to achieve a level three qualification after completing Year 11.
If your GCSE grades weren’t the highest, then taking BTEC Nationals (The most popular vocational qualification) is a great alternative to the exam-based A-Level course. BTECs are coursework based, so if you struggle with exams, they may be a great option for you. The BTEC grading system uses Pass, Merit and Distinction levels. To learn about their grading system click here.
12. Earn an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma
An IB Diploma is an internationally recognised qualification which is often regarded as a more difficult equivalent to A-Levels.
The IB programme allows students to study more subjects at a detailed level. Each student studies six subjects (three at a standard level and three at a higher level), each of which are eventually scored 1-7 points, with up to 3 additional points being awarded for essays. Students receive their diploma if they achieve more than 24 points in total (the pass mark). If you want to learn more about the IB programme click here.
13. Do an Apprenticeship
If you want to earn a degree or higher-level qualifications but don’t want to go to university, then a certified advanced apprenticeship may be what you need.
In an apprenticeship, you will work full-time with an employer, whilst also spending time studying towards a nationally certified qualification with a training provider or at a college.
In order to start an advanced apprenticeship, you are generally asked to have at least five GCSEs, which have been graded 9-4 (including English and maths), though the requirements will vary between companies. To learn more about apprenticeships check out this article.
The qualifications that you’ll receive are the equivalent of two A-Level passes. As you will be working, you will earn a wage, the minimum of which will be £4.15 per hour (But the older you are when you do an advanced apprenticeship, the higher the minimum wage will be).
14. Research Degrees and Universities
Although some Year 11 students will already have a specific career or field that they aim to go into, most students are often unsure and undecided. If this is the case for you, then you should definitely use your resources to learn about different careers that interest you.
You may find it easier to group careers into different subjects (for example journalists, authors and English teachers would all be categorised under English Language with some crossovers with English Literature). This will allow you to focus on the jobs which link in with what you already enjoy.
Once you have a job in mind, you can learn about what sort of degrees you may be required to have in order to succeed. This will then allow you to research what universities you want to attend, based on how well they teach your chosen degree.
If you still struggle to discover and latch onto a certain career, then you may wish to simply choose the certain subject that you hope to work within. This will likely be a subject that you have already studied or will be studying at the next stage of education.
Once you have found the subject, look into different degrees and universities so that you know what direction you are going in, even if you don’t yet know what the end point is.
15. Earn Money with a Job
Once you are 16 and have finished Year 11, you can legally start to work full time. But if full-time employment is not for you, then you could always get a part-time job, with hours that suit your lifestyle, such as on the weekend.
Some ideas of where you could work include coffee shops, fast food chains, restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, retail shops, and car washes.
This is a great way to gain life experience (and also earn money) if you are looking to go into further education in the more distant future!