Here is our attempt at a definitive list of FAQs for prospective and current students regarding further education. If you have any suggestions for questions that may have been missed, please post them in this thread.
What advantages will I get if I continue to study?
Continuing with your studies is always going to be a benefit in the long term. Whether you study A-Levels, vocational courses like BTECs, or take an apprenticeship, when you're finished you will have more opportunities open to you. Some jobs require applicants to have certain qualifications, so continuing your studies will give you a better chance against a candidate who, when compulsory study ended at 16, doesn't have as many qualifications as you. Of course, further education gives you the opportunity to go to university, which again, can increase the career opportunities open to you. Meanwhile, an apprenticeship can give you vital work experience and see you become qualified in your chosen area, meaning you can easily get work in that profession.
What subjects should I choose?
At the end of the day, you should choose what you enjoy and are good at. Firstly, I'd suggest looking on the UCAS website to search for courses you're interested in, and see if they have any specific A level requirements, and then work from there. Be aware that some universities (Cambridge and LSE, for example) don't like certain subjects as much, you can find their tables on their respective websites (but a good guide is if it ends with 'Studies', it's probably on there). If, however, you do really want to take Media Studies, and go to one of these institutions, make sure to include two other A Levels that are more respected.
Personally, I kept one A level that I enjoyed and the other three were 'required' for my course, which I think is a very good idea. Also, on the TSR Wiki, you can read revision notes for certian subjects at A level and see if the topics covered interest you, but be warned different exam boards may use different case studies or areas of one subject. Best wishes!
Should I study at school or at college?
It's entirely down to you. If you are struggling to decide go to an open day at both a 6th form and at a college. There's a large difference. 6th forms are much more school like and many people are put off by the idea of still being treated like children. However colleges are a lot bigger and independent, you will have loads more freedom at college but the downside of this is that you won't be pushed to do work or to even turn up. The biggest turn offs I hear about when it comes to colleges is the size, and how independent and impersonal it can be. Pros of 6th forms include having your friends there with you and already knowing the teachers, it can also be good if you find you need a bit of an extra push from time to time. Pros of colleges can include the freedom, meeting new people and often a wider range of options available to you.
Have a look round different places, they have different atmospheres and you tend to find one which you are much more comfortable in.
How will I be treated by my teachers?
Generally, more maturely than at school. At a college, you will use their first names, go for coffee with them, and they hold workshops and things to help you out if there are any problems. There is more emphasis on self directed learning than at school, and this might feel a little weird at first, but generally, you will get into the swing of things. If you have any problems with teachers (one of mine was an alcoholic, for example), then you can easily go to see your head of department or head of year and it will be dealt with confidentially and rapidly.
What is a Consortium?
A consortium is a local partnership between schools and colleges whereby they coordinate their scheduling to give students a wider range of choices for subjects to study. As such, it works very much like a compromise for those who are equally attracted to the idea of moving on and staying put. Consortium partnerships offer a wider range of subjects, and enables you to experience different atmospheres and meet new people, whilst still attending your own school where a lot of your friends might still be studying. Travel arrangements should be made and paid for by your base school or college. If you want to know how it works, here's a little example:
- Let's say you want to study Maths, English, Biology and Law.
- You choose English from block A, Biology from B and Law from C.
- However, Maths at your school can only be offered in option blocks A and C - you already have those choices full.
- In many cases you'd try to reorganise the block you're choosing your subjects in, or prioritise and drop a subject.
- But isn't there a way to do all four subjects?
- That's where a consortium comes into it. Another school or college may then offer Maths at a time that would correspond with your school's D slot (for which you're yet to have chosen a subject).
- Hey presto, you can take all the subjects you want by studying Maths at another school/college.
What alternatives do I have to A-Levels?
There are numerous alternatives to A-Levels, one of the main ones is the International Baccalaureate, which is explained in more detail elsewhere in the FAQ. In addition to the IB you can also do NVQs, The 14-19 Diploma, access courses, BTECs, Apprenticeships or the recently approved PRE-U, although this is yet to get the go ahead to be taught in state schools.
NVQs are National Vocational Qualifications and is a work related qualification that develops practical skills and essential skills to work in specific areas. At college/6th form you will usually study NVQs at levels 1-3.
The 14-19 diploma is a new qualification and as of September 2009 you can choose from 10 subjects and you get a mix of practical hands on experience and class work. It's usually a two year course regardless of the level you study at and there are three levels. The advanced diploma is worth 3.5 A levels. As well as learning in class rooms, practical learning and work experience you learn how to tackle real life situations and it helps to set you up with what you want to do next.
BTECs are work-related qualifications, and designed to accommodate the needs of students, employers as well as allowing progression into university. They are nationally recognized and are available at a number of levels. Level 3 BTECs are equivilant to A levels but can get you a job as well as university places.
Apprenticeships are gaining qualifications and training whilst you work and earn money, again this is gone into more detail further on.
The PRE-U was created by the University of Cambridge and is intended to help people prior to university. You would usually study 3/4 main subjects along with a subsidiary. These are all exam based with four exams for each subject and in addition you will have a 4000 word essay and a project to complete.
For mature students 19+ you could also do an access course. They lead to a nationally recognized Access Certificate award, and can provide routes into higher education. These courses are usually one year long and available in a number of different areas.
There are a vast number of options open to you as well as A levels so if you don't think they are for you then make sure you explore the alternatives.
What are IB’s and how can I study them?
IB's or International Baccalaureates are an alternative to A-Levels that are offered at certain colleges across the country. Although they don't figure extensively in the UK, they are taught at most international schools, and are taught across Europe. Generally considered harder due to the depth each subject goes into and the range that students have to cover, and the fact it enables students to study more subjects, some universities in this country will make preferences of IB students final consideration.
What is an Apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a scheme where you work while you learn and you'll do both on and off the job training. An advanced apprenticeship is equivalent to 2 A-levels and can take between 1 and 4 years. You will also earn money while you do the apprenticeship as well as having the benefits of getting paid holidays, receiving training and qualifications and accumulating job specific experience. Anyone over the age of 16 and not in full time education can apply. There are over 180 apprenticeships in 80 different industry sectors.
How can I apply for one?
Are these other qualifications recognised as equivalent to A-Levels?
Despite the apparent bias afforded to A-Levels over many other qualifications that are available to students at 6th form and college, these qualifications are, in most cases, regarded equally by employers. Whilst some universities favour the IB system, the fact that A-Levels are still the most commonly studied qualification means any advantage gained will be minimal.
To see which qualifications are considered equal, see the table on the Guide to Further Education Qualifications page.
How will Universities view the subjects I have chosen?
For the top rated universities, the subjects you choose will have to be respectable and relevant to the course you are applying to. When making your choice, be aware of the LSE and Cambridge blacklists - taking more than one of these subjects will impact your chances against candidates with stronger choices. "Less respected" universities are likely to be more lenient, but will still favour candidates with stronger academic A-Level choices.
Will retakes affect my chances of getting to University?
Only Cambridge will be able to see your module results - this is filled in on the SAQ. Beside this, there is a check box where you can say if you intend to retake a subject. Even retaking one module will not adversely affect your application. The only course (AFAIK) which does not permit retakes is A-Level Maths at Imperial. The offer they give you is 'As in every Maths and Further Maths modules, without resits' which, to be honest is one of the most risky offers you could have when going into the summer exams in year 13.
On a more general note, retaking exams will hopefully improve your overall UMS. If you happen to get a lower mark in your resit, then the highest score is still taken so you don't lose out by having a resit (other than the money and time spent preparing for the resit). Even an extra 10 UMS gained by resitting a module could mean a grade boundary. So if you are unhappy with a result and you are not restricted by resits, then go for it - if you improve, the score you need to obtain on future modules will be less, improving the chance of you getting the grades and thus the chance of getting into university.
However, taking resits will require you to spend time re-learning and revising material which you may not have covered for 6 months. This is time consuming and this time could be spent on getting better results for your new modules. In an ideal world, you should aim never to take a resit and try and do the best you can first time around, otherwise you may end up in a vicious circle (for 2 years) having to invest time in revising material you should have done 6 months before - this in turn having a negative impact on the new modules.
How will employers view my qualifications?
It depends what level you are applying for and with what company. Many employers specify very vague and/or minor academic restrictions, such as Maths and/or English at grade B or above at GCSE level to prove basic competencies. Obviously, if you're applying for a higher level job (higher than "entry level" which basically means the bottom rung of the ladder) then you may be required to have higher basic competencies, or those subjects to A/AS Level. Employers more than universities will look for your qualities as a person rather than focusing so much on your academic subjects of study, but for very competetive jobs - which basically everything is in the current economic climate) then the more respected or relevant your subjects the better.
How much harder are A-Levels than GCSE's?
This will depend from person to person, and course to course. Some courses may seem like a natural progression, where things continue to fall into place and what you go on to study at A-Level simply builds on your existing knowledge. Some courses, however, will throw you into something completely new and different people will react differently. Some people will take to it almost immediately, especially those who seem to have a natural grasp of the subject without much effort; while others amongst you will need to spend a lot of time getting used to the material - and this can even take until the exam period to get right, so don't panic if your results throughout the year are not wholly impressive. Some subjects are more difficult than others - for example chemistry and maths seem to be notoriously difficult - but this is not to say that everyone will struggle with them - nor is it to say that some people may not struggle with a "less academic" course such as art or drama, which can be demanding in different ways. If you plan to study subjects you seem naturally to do well in, then chances are A-Levels won't pose that much of a challenge. If you plan to study something you find difficult because you also find it interesting, then chances are you'll find that subject pretty difficult. And If you plan to study something completely new? Well, that's just pot luck. If you're anything like I was when starting A-Levels, you probably won't notice the difference between the two.
What is the work load difference?
The main difference you'll find with work load is the amount that you have to outside of school. In some subjects you may find your workload doubles compared to GCSEs which seems scary at first but isn't that bad once you get used to it. Also you will do work a lot quicker than you did at GCSE so it will mean you cover a lot more in a shorter space of time with lots of work in order to do so but it varies subject to subject. Remember though, that you'll be studying fewer subjects, so this extra time spent on one subject might not seem like a huge increase on your weekly workload.
I want to study 5 A-Levels, is this advisable?
Taking 5 respected A-Levels (General Studies and Critical Thinking do not count!) can often be a challenging task. Taking scientific based subjects is a possible option (Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology) as there is overlap between some topics meaning that the overall workload is significantly less than if you did subjects such as English Literature and History. In some cases, it may only be possible to do 5 subjects if two of them include Maths and Further Maths - only a few additional classes are added onto the timetable and the Further Maths students work at a faster pace.
Remember, most students take 3 A2s and 1 AS so your workload will be significantly greater than everyone else. This will generally mean less free time at school (in L6th I was given 3 hours free per week and in U6th only 1 hour free a week). However, when considering this, you have to think what you will be doing with the additional 5 hours a week you could gain by only taking fewer A levels. If you are going to be spending time procrastinating in the Common Room watching TV or going on TSR, then this isn't going to be a valuable use of your time, unless this period will help you relax and improve on how well you do with your 3 or 4 subjects. You could be spending your free time at school doing homework or reading around your subject, in which case this is a useful way to spend your time and by removing it and increasing your workload, you will have to find time elsewhere to do this additional work - it is likely that you will struggle with this additional workload.
Your goal can be made significantly easier if you take an AS (or two) early - in year 11. By doing this, you will finish the A2 in the summer of L6th and you will only have to do 4 A2s in your final year. This is advisable if you are exceptionally good in the subject you plan on taking early. Be proactive, it is unlikely that your teachers will suggest this to you - you have to ask them. If you are in the early part of the first term then you can consider taking the AS by the end of the summer - if it is in January-February then you could still take a module or two early and this will reduce your workload later on.
Plunging in at the deep end - If you don't try, you don't get. So if you are in Year 11 and you are contemplating taking 5 A-Levels and you do not think you will be overwhelmed with work then you might as well try it. If you find that you are struggling in the first few weeks, drop a subject otherwise you it will have a negative impact on your studies and grades. If you end up taking only 4 and you find it too easy, it will be difficult to play catchup on a 5th subject a month into term.
After the summer exams you can reassess the situation again and look at your module grades. The step up from AS to A2 Level is as big (if not greater) than going from GCSE to AS. You will have to work harder and you will not get a chance to retake the majority of the A2 modules. If you have struggled with 5 AS Levels, consider dropping one for A2. Your 4 A2s and 1 AS still gives you an advantage with your university application. Again, you could see how the workload is like for the first couple of weeks and drop the subject if you can't keep up. If you make it to the following summer, well done and hopefully you will get the grades you want.
Also note, if you want to go into Medicine, Maths and Further Maths are often considered as one subject, so taking Further Maths will have little to no effect on improving your application. Keep these things in mind - have a look at what are the required and preferred subjects for potential courses and universities you are applying to. So having more A levels can be advantageous - you could be asked for an AAA offer and you only can afford to achieve Bs in two subjects, but often you are required to get an A in a specific subject. You could also be offered AABB - an easier offer. On the other hand, top universities could ask for 4As rather than the standard 3As.
Overall, applying with more A levels than other applicants will often give you an advantage. Having 5 predicted grades compared to another person's 3 will make you an attractive candidate. Most importantly, make sure your school knows what you are doing and talk to your teachers for their opinion on how you will cope. Your teachers will be the ones who monitor your progress. If it seems as though you are struggling, make sure they tell you. 4As will be better than crashing and burning in your summer exams.
What if I only study 3 subjects?
Although most people study four subjects at AS level and then drop one as they move up into A2, there are no set rules defining how many subjects you can or can't take (though I'd suggest that you'd be wasting your school's time and your own by asking to take just one or two). In some cases you may only take three subjects because of the timetabling of choices at your school - this happened to me and they refused to let me pick up an AS in year 13 to bulk my application out. At the end of the day it didn't affect my applications to university, and most universities make their offer specifying three grades, not four. For those universities that specify UCAS points (which you'd have a better chance to gaining having studied a 4th AS Level) they will look to make concessions if you just miss out. Although the application process may seem a particularly stressful one, universities really aren't the monsters they are portrayed to be.
Don't forget as well, the extra time you'd have studying just three would enable you to take up extra curricular activities that can show your organisation and motivation just as well as studying another subject, and can be a good addition to your personal statements.
Is it possible for me to do a full A-Level in one year?
Not often, unless you're at a specialist institution. The reason for this is that often the A2 material moves on from the AS material, and thus you can't really do the start of the A2 before the end of the AS. There are exceptions, for example some colleges offer both AS and A2 Maths in one year for pupils wishing to study Further Maths. Also, if you are willing to take it upon yourself to study a topic without being taught it, you could perhaps pull this off. Do not expect this to be easy, though, and be prepared to pay for your exams.
How will my schedule differ to studying GCSE's?
The most notable difference you will see in the majority of cases is the introduction of free lessons and double lessons. Frees are yours to spend how you wish, although it's usually advisable to spend at least one or two studying in them but they are also for relaxing, although sixth forms tend to make out you need to spend them all working. You may have found in years 7-11 you only have had single lessons, in my case they were an hour long. Now you may find you have two (or more) back to back, often if you have a nice teacher you will get a short break at some point during the lesson so you won't normally be expected to work straight though 2+ hours. Lesson wise, you will probably find in some cases the amount of hours you have per week of subjects double compared to what you had at GCSE. Typically you can have from 4-6 hours a week per subject. Other than that your schedule won't change massively, in some cases at sixth forms the sixth form day is longer than the main school meaning that when everyone goes home at the usual time you may have to stay another hour. Also some places do enrichment programs which will be timetabled onto your usual timetable along with your lessons but that varies place to place.
Where can I get extra help for my studies?
Extra help for your studies is available almost anywhere, it simply depends whether you choose to utilise it. If you're stuck on something the best thing you can do is ask. Ask your friends or coursemates, studying together is a great way to consolidate your knowledge; ask your parents, you never know, they may appreciate and enjoy the opportunity to spend time with you; but most obviously, ask your teachers - they are there to help.
Alternatively, make use of the internet. There is tonnes of information out there. (And, of course, an awful lot of that is on TSR!)
How much time should I spend per week on my studies?
It varies, the majority of people have either said to me or told me that they've been told an hour for every hour in a lesson should be spent working in your own time but usually you don't get that much work. Some weeks you could have so much work you want to scream but other weeks you may have next to nothing so it varies. If you have a busy week then just do the work set but if you've been set little use it as an opportunity to read over notes and do further reading around your subjects. There is no right or wrong as long as you are doing enough to be where you want to be in terms of grades and standards.
How will I be examined for A-Levels?
Most A Levels examinations are now modular, which means that you take topics or units in seperate sections at seperate times. In addition, there may be coursework for subjects such as English which usually around 20%, and practical exams which depending on subject may be a significant part of your overall performance at A Level.
Besides this, teachers may decide to give you weekly/monthly tests so that you consolidate your learning, particularly vocabulary tests in languages or once you have finished a chapter/topic.
How can I study more effectively?
By learning to manage your time well and not leaving work and revision to the last minute. Some people find having set times to do work and revision helps them a lot to be effective but not everyone finds this. One of the most important things to remember it's not necessarily how much time you spend doing something but how well you use that time. When you are studying try to remove any distractions and just sit down and get on with the work, trying to watch TV and work at the same time isn't effective, nor is being on TSR and working. Try not to do too much in one go, we don't have very big attention spans, especially when you're tired so trying to do loads at once may mean you get distracted or bored a lot more easily. Short spells of concentrated work is a lot more effective than long spells of concentrated work. When it comes to revising is a good thread to look at for different ideas but the most important thing that's not said enough is to not leave it to the last minute and try not to overdo it else you will end up burning out before you even get to your exams which could have a really bad effect on your exams.
Can I take all my exams in the summer examination period?
You can and in some cases it is 6th forms/colleges policy that they only enter students into their AS and A2 exams in the summer exam period and only enter into the January one for resits.
How would this affect my revision/workload/results?
If you are sitting all of your exams in the summer, don't worry! Many students are able to adapt to this situation- even if it is initially not something they wanted to happen; whilst others love the idea of having more time to prepare. Some people find it easier and more appealing to get some modules out of the way, so to speak, to reduce their workload come the summer, and so if you are adamant you do not want to do all of your exams in the summer-season exam-period, then it might be possible for you to enter to sit the necessary modules in January - but it will most likely cost you, and there is the problem of exam centres/determining where you are going to sit said exams.
Remember though, there are both positives and negatives of sitting all of your exams in the summer, some being:
Pros. of sitting all of your exams in the summer:
-More time to prepare
-More time to adapt to the A-level system
-If there are synoptic units, you are less likely to forget things you learnt months back provided you're reading up on the topics now
Cons. of sitting all of your exams in the summer:
-Heavier workload in the summer
-More exams in terms of numbers
-More exams to prepare for
-If your studying is not adequate, you might forget things you learnt months back
So, you can either take it on the chin, accept it and view it as a challenge - if your school are now allowing you to sit some modules in January- and think of the positives, or you can enter yourself for exams you would rather wish to take sooner.
It is your decision but remember, work hard and you'll most likely be fine!
What extra-curricular opportunities are available to me?
Staying on at 6th Form is a great way for you to get involved with activities outside of lessons, whether you choose to carry on with your current interests or take up new ones!
Performing Opportunities: Drama plays/perfomances, Orchestras/Jazz or Wind Bands, String Groups, Speech and Drama/Music examinations and lessons.
Sports: Playing Sports, either for School/Club/County or Nationally.
Community service: as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, Fundraising for Charities, Amnesty International.
Business Activities: such as Young Enterprise, and the NFTE scheme.
Leadership Opportunities: (Subject and Senior) Prefects, Head Girl/Boy roles, Head of House/House Captains roles, Student Council representatives.
Other opportunities: Debating societies often have county level debating battles (that makes it sound slightly more exciting), you may also contribute to your school/college magazine if there is one, or do some freelance writing for online publications.
Some colleges/schools will have these activities as part of Enrichment or PSHE, but if you wish to do them for yourself outside of school, it is very easy to organise them.
How will these affect my studies?
It depends how heavily you get involved with these and how many subjects you are studying. If you manage to fit these things into your free periods, then you still have all your time outside of school to study your subjects and do your homework - or vice versa. If you study a lot of subjects, especially ones with demanding work loads, and you are doing charity or volunteering work in your free time outside of school/college then this can have consequences. You don't want to have to stay up late every day finishing assignments because you were doing something extra curricular that you didn't need to do because you can't run without sleep; and it's also vitally important to have you time whilst studying for your A-Levels. Consider your workloads and creating schedules that you can keep to should help you keep on top of these so that your studies are complemented by these extra activities.
How will universities view these commitments?
Whilst extra curricular activities can help universities choose between two evenly matched candidates, and can demonstrate your dedication and motivation to other causes, enable you to develop yourself, show your range of interests and your ability to balance studies alongside other commitments, it's important to remember that it is your grades that ultimately universities will base their decisions on. It is never going to be a good idea to neglect your studies in order to take part in extra curricular activities and if your studies begin to suffer then you should definitely consider cutting back. They can be a nice addition to a personal statement, but only when complementing strong grades - they don't make up for poor ones.
What will I need to take with me when I start at 6th form/college?
You may be asked to bring along your certificates for your GCSE's. That said, if you've applied for EMA then you will be asked to bring along your completed form with you on the first day. Of course, take along pens, pencils and a notebook/paper with you to jot down anything relevant as on the first day you will simply be getting to know the teachers and the course itself.
The following link is useful for every day needs at sixth form/college: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wiki/What_to_bring_every_day_to_Sixth_Form
Can I change my A-Level choices after I have started?
It depends. You should make your A level choices and intend to stick to them. There is plenty of help on TSR on the types of subjects suitable for certain degrees/courses after A level. However if you are not happy come September, you should speak up as as soon as possible, (some schools don't allow you to change after a certain point in the term), preferably speaking to the subject teachers involved and/or your head of section, about your problems. Some people choose to change subjects as they no longer enjoy them, but make sure you're not changing because your mate is in the other class. Sometimes in the long run, it's better to plough on, if you feel you're struggling at the beginning of AS as it takes time to adapt and your teachers will give you the help that you need! If you manage to change subjects, make sure you discuss this with the subject teacher and catch up on any work/essays/notes you have missed.
What should I do if I am not enjoying studying at 6th form or college?
The best thing to do is talk to people about it. This can simply be to your friends, to let off some steam, or to parents and/or teachers if you have real concerns about your studying. There is nothing that says enjoying your time studying is compulsory. If you find straight away you are nto enjoying the courses you have chosen, most schools/colleges will be able to offer you a change of course (or two) if you fit the requirements to study the other course and it's agreed that you will be able to cope. Some things to do to take the pressure off include: setting yourself a period of time each day to wind down from your studies. Spending 6 or 7 hours a night studying into the early hours and getting no sleep is not going to be productive. You need a break and to wind down at the end of the day. If you're not enjoying your studies because of a lack of motivation, approaching your course from a different viewpoint might help. Consider your reading from another angle, try taking a more analytical stance or pro-actively find an aspect that suits the interests you have. In all subjects you will experience some modules that are less interesting than others, the trick is to balance the two. The important thing to remember is not to leave it for a long time before saying anything. If you feel you're not enjoying it, say something sooner rather than later. That way, if you continue to not enjoy things then changes can be arranged.
I'm halfway through the year and want to change my courses, what options are available to me?
My studies in my first year haven't gone well, how will staying on for an extra year affect my prospects?
How can I finance my studies?
Most people who continue to study past their GCSEs will get a degree of financial support from the government in the form of the Education Maintenance Allowance. Some of you may find your parents can afford to cover all your needs while you study. For others, a part time job will be valuable for providing some extra cash to afford the things you'll need to study.
Am I eligible for EMA?
Eligibility for EMA is dependent purely on your family income. There are different brackets of payment.
If your family income is below £20,817 per year, you are entitled to £30 a week.
If your family income is between £20,818 and £25,521, you are entitled to £20 a week.
If your family income is between £25,522 and £30,810, you are entitled to £10 a week.
For more information: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/14To19/MoneyToLearn/EMA/DG_066955
How do I apply for EMA?
It is a wise idea to apply for EMA very early, usually during the summer holidays of Year 11. You can pick up application forms from your local Connexions office or your school/college or alternatively request one from this website: https://learnersupport.direct.gov.uk/emaapplication.htm?PRO=ema_request. It is also a good idea to set up a new bank account, or sort out your bank account so that your EMA can be paid straight into it.
There are two sections to the form; one that you fill out with school/bank details and another section for your parents to fill out with their details and finances. There is a booklet with the form which explains how to fill out some of the details. Once you have completed this, send it back to the Learning Support Office, you should get a certificate of posting or send it by recorded delivery as they have lost forms before and they take quite a long time to process, so the quicker the better.
If you are eligible for EMA you will get a letter (they send a seperate letter to your parents) for your entitlement and an EMA guarantee (if you are eligible). You should also CHECK the bank details to make sure they are correct. You receive a contract that you need to take to your school/college for them to sign at Enrolment, usually your college will demand a certain amount of attendance and acceptable behaviour/academic performance for them to carry on your EMA, and for you to be eligible for bonus payments.
That's it! Except that there is usually another delay between your school signing your form and the EMA being paid. Don't worry though if you aren't paid straightaway, your payments are backlogged and you could receive a lump sum around October.
I left school some time ago and wish to return to college, how do I do this?
Look at the websites of local colleges that interest you, (although as many have merged into larger colleges over recent years, you may be able to find all you need on one convenient site), and see whether the subjects you want are on offer. You may need to contact the admissions team to see what their policy on mature students is as the 16-19 provision at many places tends, naturally, to prioritise school leavers. However, you may very well be accepted, so do try!
Something to bear in mind is that you will still need the up to date, GSCE level knowledge behind you in order to do well on your A Level programme. So, it's no good applying for A Level physics if you got your GCSE back in 1995 and haven't thought about it since. You may need to spend some time with good GCSE revisions guides and/or websites, or even consider doing some lower level courses to get warmed back up.
Another option is to do your A Levels by correspondence with people like the National Extension College. This can work well, but bear in mind that it can be HARD to get a local place to sit your exams if you can't get to their Cambridge centre to do your papers. They also do GCSE course materials that you could buy to revise from.
What funding options do I have as an older student?
I have an education related illness - will this negatively affect my studies?
The simple answer is yes, it obviously can do. Whether you let it is another matter. It all depends on the extent of your illness and how you personally cope with it; but there is nothing to stop you overcoming this and succeeding with your studies.
What support will I be offered?
Make sure your teachers/tutors are aware of your illness so they can make the proper arrangements to give you the best supposrt possible. Like doctors they will retain confidentiality with you as students.
Depending on the severity of your illness, you may be exempt from certain methods of examination, or be given concessions; you may have have someone to write your answers for you in the exam room; or it may just be that you get extra time at the end of the exams. Talk to your examinations tutor to see what you're entitled to and remember that it is your right to use it.