For many teenagers across Northern Ireland, the wait is over.
Schools and six-form colleges across the land will resonate with the sounds of jubilation and commiseration today as A-level students pick up the results that could decide their future.
But missing out on your desired university place and being forced to rethink plans need not be a disaster – in fact, it could be the opportunity of a lifetime.
If you didn’t get the results you were expecting; don’t panic. You’ve been given the chance to broaden your horizons, learn more about other cultures, develop new skills and ultimately; increase your employability.
The British Council in Northern Ireland, the UK’s leading international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations, explains how to make the most of opportunities out there:
Reassess your options
If you still want to go to university, you can try to get a place through Clearing, but most places go within a few days and you will need to act decisively and fast.
When looking at alternatives, make sure to check out what the university itself can offer. For example, have you ever wanted to travel abroad or spend a year studying in another country? Both Queen’s University, Belfast and the University of Ulster offer a number of schemes to work and study abroad.
Currently these include programmes through the British Council, such as Study USA, IAESTE, Erasmus+, and Generation UK- China. Whether you’re looking to spend a year studying at a US college, gain technical experience in the summer in Slovenia or spend a term at a host university in China, there are a number of international exchange schemes you can make use of. For more details visit http://www.britishcouncil.org/study-work-create/.
Think about Volunteering abroad
They say the best things in life are free and it’s not far from the truth. Volunteer work abroad can be a life changing experience. Whether it is summer volunteer work or a paid programme, the benefits of volunteering are fantastic – as well as having a great time doing something different, you experience a new culture, make new friends and even learn a foreign language while doing something meaningful.
Each year some thousands of young people in the UK complete work placements abroad. Numbers have been growing exponentially as has the number of companies who get involved.
In Northern Ireland, there are many different organisations you can opt to volunteer with – including the European Voluntary Service Programme (EVS) through the new Erasmus+ programme.
Through the scheme all fares and expenses are paid and it can last anywhere from two to 12 months, and is not limited to just working in Europe.
The scheme is currently only open to people aged 17-30 who are part of a volunteer organisation, and the organisation will need to apply on your behalf.
The next deadline for applications is October 1 2014. For more information visit http://www.britishcouncil.org/study-work-create/.
Go for the gap
With so much choice, planning a gap year these days has become a bit of a minefield.
But if you fancy living, working or studying abroad in another European country, the British council offer a free information service covering work, study, travel and volunteering opportunities.
The website, EurodeskUK, will point you in the right direction on anything from visas and learning a new language to youth work and finding a job.
Travelling around Europe can be a fantastic experience. It looks great on your CV, you get the chance to experience another culture, meet new people and make new friends along the way. It’s a good opportunity to remain relatively close to home to see how you enjoy the experience before heading further afield on international trips.
Find out more at http://www.eurodesk.org.uk/.
Set to work
Increasingly, employers favour experience over qualifications, and this can be achieved through either an internship or apprenticeship.
Work experience placements or internships have increasingly become an established stepping-stone to employment for students and graduates starting their careers.
The British Council currently offers a number of internships, both at home and abroad, including the Generation UK internship programme and British Council Internship scheme.
Generation UK currently offers students scholarships to study in China, while with the British Council Internship Scheme, young people get the chance to experience working life in a British Council office. Past internships include work as music assistants, in communications and ITC.
Apprenticeships whereas, work essentially as subsidised on-the-job training in a professional work environment, giving young people experience, nationally recognised qualification and a weekly wage.
More and more school-leavers are shunning the world of university in favour of apprenticeships, particularly within the development of higher level advanced apprenticeships in areas such as ICT and engineering.
For more information on apprenticeships visit www.delni.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsni.