Why do an FE college course?

Attending a further education college – or FE college – is a very different environment to school or sixth form college. Here we take a look at the reasons students might choose to attend one of these institutions, whether that’s after GCSEs or after A-levels.

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FE college is a totally different world to school or sixth form college: you are expected to be responsible and take control of your own time-management, which can be great for those craving more independence.

One of the first differences between school and college you will notice is your timetable – at FE colleges you are more likely to have a less packed-out timetable. There could be several hours between lessons/lectures; you might not even have to attend at all for a full day.

On an FE college course it’s also possible to study on a part-time basis, rather than take a full-time course. Depending on the college and how courses are organised, you might be able to combine a full-time course with something part time. For example, attending Monday to Friday studying a BTEC National, together with a GCSE re-sit one evening per week.

The people are likely to be students from a wide range of ages, backgrounds and interests, compared with sixth form college or school – which is a great way to branch out and get experience working with different types of people.

The environment is also less formal: you’re likely to be on first name terms with most of the staff, whatever their age, and it’s unlikely there will be any dress code – definitely not a school uniform – which can be very appealing to some young people.

There is also a wider range of subjects and qualifications on offer at FE college, which is great if you know what industry or career you want to pursue. Most do offer A-levels, the same as sixth form colleges and schools, but also have a huge number of other qualifications available in different subjects and at different levels.

Most do offer A-levels, the same as sixth form colleges and schools, but also have a huge number of other qualifications available in different subjects and at different levels. Some specialise in particular industry sectors such as art and design, catering, engineering or finance. Some colleges have links with companies, so that students studying vocational courses can combine classroom learning with valuable work experience.

Further education colleges offer vocational subjects related to a broad subject area, such as business, health and social care, as well as apprenticeships and courses that prepare students for higher education, such as Access courses or art foundation/post A-level art courses,

The colleges also offer vocational higher education level courses, such as foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and Higher National Certificates (HNCs). Not all colleges, however, will offer the same variety of subjects and courses, so it’s very important to check carefully what is available locally.

Many people say that FE colleges treat students 'more like adults' than is the case in a sixth form. This is probably true in that you are not told where to be all the time, when to eat, what to wear etc. However, it doesn’t suit everyone.

Some students prefer a learning environment, which is very regulated rather than organising things on their own. You need to take a look at yourself and work out where you would achieve better – after all, that’s what matters in the end.

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