When it comes to choosing what you’ll do after GCSE, you’re faced with choices you’ve never had to consider before, including where to go to school. For some people they want to get away from their secondary school and go to a college, whereas others prefer the comfort of the teachers they already know.
1. Sixth form: you're familiar with everyone and everything
Sixth forms are commonly attached to secondary schools, so a lot of students go straight from secondary school into their school’s sixth form. This is a great if you worry about settling in or making friends as it removes at least some of those concerns, meaning you can focus on your studies from the start. If you have the same teachers then they will already know you as well so they’ll be able to support you better if you struggle.
2. College: freedom and independence
On the other hand college can provide freedom from the teachers and people you went to school with before. If you’re looking for a fresh start after GCSE then going to a new school can the best way to get that. Typically they also have a more independent environment, whereas some sixth forms will still require you to wear uniforms. Depending on which style of course you choose, you could also end up with a timetable that has more free time and you may be expected to stay at school to study if you go to sixth form, but that is unlikely at college.
3. Specialist vs traditional courses
Which kind of course you want to do should also influence your decision. Colleges tend to be more specialist (for example in the arts) and tend to offer a wider variety of qualifications. This means that it’s not just your usual A Levels and BTECs, but also NVQs and training for apprenticeships. They may also have other types of courses but that will depend on where you go. If you are looking at more vocational courses then maybe a college will be better for you, especially if you can find one that specialises in the area you want to go into. Whereas sixth forms tend to have more traditional courses and subjects on offer, so they may not always have the course you want to do.
4. Difference in study groups
Colleges will also have a wider range of students as they will typically have older students as well, not just people of your year group. Whereas at sixth form it will only be students that are your own age, but the age range could help you to meet a wider variety of people. This range of people does also mean there are typically larger class sizes at college due to more students. If you tend to need more attention then sixth form may be a better choice as you will be in smaller classes and get more one-to-one time with the teacher.
At the end of the day, it comes down to your preferences. The main thing is that the place you choose offers the courses you want, as it’s better that you do things you like than just compromise. What you choose doesn’t matter, as long as it fits you as a person. Universities and jobs won’t care where you went, so we wouldn’t worry about it too much.