A parent’s guide to helping your 18-year-old decide their options

Go straight into work

After finishing formal education at 18, your child may want to dive straight into the world of work. If this is the case, it’s likely they’ll have an idea of what career they’re interested in already but if not, why not encourage them to volunteer or look for work experience? Working or interning during the school holidays during sixth form or college can give them an insight into the different types of jobs on offer and potentially even lead to valuable contacts for the future.

Another great way to help them move forward is finding out the skills they’ll need for their job of choice. First, take a look at our Careers Explorer to see what skills different roles require – you can do this together or simply point your teenager in the right direction. They’ll then be able to work on gaining experience in this area to make their CV stand out to potential employers.

Speaking of, it may be the first time they’ve had to write their own CV. Luckily we’ve created the ultimate guide to creating an amazing CV to help them get started! You can also help them to look at job recruitment sites or sign up to agencies who may be able to help them find a job, tailor their CV or even just advise on the best next steps.


Continue to university or further education

If your teenager wants to continue to university or a further education college, the application process often starts almost a year in advance.

A great way to support them is asking if they’d like you to attend university or college open days with them: this will help you both learn about what and where they want to study, particularly if they’re thinking of moving away from home. You can also help them to compare the benefits of different cities and courses, look into student finance options with them and even offer an extra pair of eyes to proofread their personal statement.

Not sure on how the university application process works? The UCAS parent tool is a great resource, especially when it comes to understanding how Extra/Clearing works if your teenager achieves higher or lower grades than expected on results day.

In addition to university, there are a variety of further education courses available with different bodies via colleges. This includes things like foundation degrees and vocational courses.

How about a combination of both?

Perhaps your teenager wants to gain more qualifications but is also keen to get some real-world experience and earn a salary too. Luckily there are a few different options available!

The most common of these options are apprenticeships where they’ll work at a company for two years and study at the same time. These qualifications can be work-based, academic or a professional qualification related to a specific industry.

Higher apprenticeships are available from level 4 to 7: Levels 4 and 5 are equivalent to a foundation degree or Higher Education Certificate, level 6 is the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree and level 7 is equivalent to Master’s degree. Salaries range depending on the company; there is a specific national minimum apprenticeship wage but some employers pay significantly more.

Degree apprenticeships are government-backed schemes similar to employer sponsored degrees. The structure can vary but usually combines working with studying part-time at university. This could be split in different days weekly, or in blocks (for example, studying during term time and working during the holidays). These can take between three and six years to complete.

To help your teenager figure out which option suits them best, take a look at opportunities available in your area. It’s also worth keeping an eye on when recruitment starts for these schemes and encouraging them to research interview tips in preparation!


Take a gap year

Maybe your child really doesn’t know what to do next. That’s okay and perfectly normal at this young age! If they’re interested in taking a gap year, listen to them as they explain why. What do they hope to gain from the next 12 months? Gap years can often be fundamental in helping young people learn about themselves, gain valuable work and life experience and figure out what direction they’d like their future career to go in.

If the gap year is an option, ask your teenager if you can help them to make a loose plan for their year ahead. For example, talk about how they plan to split their time between paid work, volunteering, work experience, internships and other important pursuits like travelling. By having a plan in place by the time they leave college or sixth form, it can help them to feel more confident as they take their next steps into this exciting time.

So what next? With Coursepilot, you can search thousands of courses, open days and explore a huge range of careers – there’s something for everyone! Better yet, it’s free to sign up for students so join today to get started.


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