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I don't know what to do next. What are my options?

Photo: Have a think about all your options before you make a decision

Making decisions can be hard. You may be looking for what to do next because you’ve finished a course or because something hasn’t worked out. One thing ending can feel sad or stressful but it can also mean the start of something new and exciting. Whatever stage you are at, remember that support is available and you have options.

Depending on where you live and what you’ve done before, your options can vary and you may have to make decisions at different times. In England, you have to stay in education and training until your 18th birthday. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it’s 16.

What are the options when I’m 16?
  • Staying on at school or joining your school’s sixth form
  • Moving to another sixth form college
  • Further education college
  • An apprenticeship
  • Traineeship (England and Wales)
  • Supported internship (England)
  • Part-time study combined with full-time employment (including volunteer work)
  • Get a job (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)
What are the options after I’m 18?
  • Further education college
  • University (higher education)
  • An apprenticeship
  • A traineeship (England and Wales)
  • Supported internship (England)
  • Get a job
  • A gap year, travel or working abroad
How do I decide what to do next?

While having options is great, understanding and deciding on the right option for you can feel stressful and overwhelming.

Here’s some tips for making decisions:

  • Think about what you like doing and what feels right to you.
  • Make a pros and cons list for each option. What are the good things and what are the bad things about your different options?
  • Plan for the career you want. If there is a job you want in the future, you may need to start with a particular course or qualifications. Get career advice and take things from there.
  • Make an informed decision. Find out all you can about your options. You can visit different colleges and universities. You could ask people who’ve already made that decision about their experiences.
  • Understand your rights and what support you would have for the different options.
  • Imagine you’ve already made a decision. How do you feel? If you feel worried then maybe it isn’t the right decision. Or maybe you just need to check you’d get the right support.
  • Think about the people whose opinions matter to you and discuss how you are feeling and what you’re thinking with them.
  • Remember, it is your decision in the end, no one else’s.
What if I've made the wrong decision?

Nobody makes the right decision all the time and it is natural that we sometimes change our minds. It can feel scary but realising something isn’t right is part of learning to make decisions.

Thinking you’ve made the wrong decision doesn’t mean you’ll need to start again. Sometimes it can be a sign you aren’t getting the right support and something else needs to change. 

Either way, tell someone who might be able to help. This could be someone in your family or a professional, like a teacher, careers advisor or disability advisor. Often the sooner you tell someone, the easier it will be to change. 

If you need independent advice or want to discuss your situation the Helpline are here to help.