Post-16 Application Guide – Part 1

10th September 2021

Many of us are back at school or continuing with our education at home, and hopefully studying hard. As you are now in Year 11, you will soon be making your post 16 applications and some decisions!

We hope that this brief guide will help you as you make your next steps.


You have many choices open to you after Year 11, with the main options being:

  • Stay on in full time education, at a school, college or with a training provider on a study programme.
  • Take an apprenticeship.
  • Work or volunteer and study part-time alongside (E.g., traineeship).


Current Year 11 students will be applying for courses in schools and colleges from October across Kent, Medway, and Sussex. Either using an application portal called Kentchoices (if you are in Kent) or via direct application to your school, college, or training provider of choice.

NOTE: Traineeship and apprenticeship applications are slightly different, which we will cover in part 2 of our application guide.

If applying outside of Kent, students will need to either apply with a direct application to their chosen provider or using that county or borough’s online application portal (if available):

A few schools have internal application processes which allow students to apply to their current school on a paper application form.

  • In many schools, Year 11 students will have made their initial applications for schools and/or colleges by December.

Each school and college have their own deadlines for applications, so be sure to find out when these are by speaking to each school and college you are interested in applying to at open days or by contacting via email or phone.

Open Days

From September, many schools and colleges usually hold open days and events aimed at Year 11 students, to show what courses they have available and to allow students and parents/carers a chance to look around. Some of these you will need to register for to attend.

  • As an example, here is Plumpton’s event page: Information Events and Taster Days for 2021/22 – Plumpton College
  • Due to the current circumstances open days may look a little different with some being “virtual”. Others will be a mixture of face-to-face opportunities to provide a chance to speak with tutors and staff, alongside additional online resources.
  • Open day details can be found on the websites of schools and colleges.

Careers Research

If you are unsure what you wish to do after Year 11, make sure you book an appointment with your careers adviser at school, college or contact the National Careers Service young person’s careers helpline:

The National Careers Service provides free, up to date, impartial information, advice and guidance on careers, skills and the labour market in England to anyone aged 13 and upwards. To speak to a National Careers Service adviser, call 0800 100 900 or use the webchat (8am to 10pm, 7 days a week)

Social Media

Whilst researching, it is advisable to explore the social media content of schools and colleges on popular platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to see what additional information schools and colleges are providing, as well as reviews by former students.

Some schools and colleges already have virtual tours available on YouTube, with 360-degree visuals on their websites and embedded in their course pages (here are some examples below):

Aim to attend as many open days as possible at the schools/colleges you are interested in.

Some schools and colleges also provide residential or boarding opportunities which may incur additional costs. However, these costs can sometime be covered by scholarship and/or financial packages of support (contact each school for details).

Questions to ask…

There are a few important questions you can ask:

  • Check the facilities and ask what equipment you may need to purchase (if looking to take a specialist course such as mechanics or catering) and whether the college or school can help with the cost of these.
  • It is advisable to ask what the progression rate is, relating to what you wish to do. E.g., “If studying carpentry how many students go on to become carpenters afterwards?”
  • You can also ask how many students “drop-out” or leave once starting their studies, as well as how much support is available and how far you may have to travel.
  • You may find this link useful for your research: Find and compare schools in England – GOV.UK (
  • If you can, speak to students who already attend the school or college and talk to the teachers, as well as support staff at the school or college, to find out what each place is like.
  • Ensure you find out what their school policies are on dress code, attendance, and behaviour, as well as how they measure progress.
  • Check whether you will need to build a portfolio if taking art or media, and whether you will need to prepare an audition piece if taking music or drama.
  • Lastly, listen to your heart and gut instincts, as they may be telling you something that your head has missed!


Schools and colleges start interviewing students from January onwards, with some running a first-come, first-served process. When they are full, some places start a ‘waiting list’. It is for this reason that an early application is vital once you know what you wish to study.

  • Note: there are not always enough places on every course for every student to always have their first choice. An early application reduces the chance of disappointment!

Some courses are more popular than others, so getting in early can be vital!


The level of course you can apply for will vary depending on the grades you are predicted.

  • Courses at post 16 vary significantly in depth and breadth, with options available for students with complex SEND requirements, for those with no qualifications (or very few) all the way through to courses for students who are predicted to gain grades 4 or higher at GCSE.
  • Some courses are very practical and others more exam based; there really is something for everyone!
  • Make sure you take a pathway which suits your needs and how you like to learn, whether exams, coursework, vocational or creative. As well as one whose entry criteria you are likely to meet.

Local Authorities

Local Authorities have a statutory duty to track the destinations of all young people at ages 16 and 17 during the two academic years of Year 12 and Year 13. This data is used to target resources and provide additional coordinated support to the most vulnerable young people, through the Early Help and Preventative Services, Virtual Schools and the Care Leavers Service.

You may have heard of this referred to as the September Guarantee. For this reason, you may receive literature or be contacted during the school year with regards this. Part of this is to make sure young people are engaged in education, employment, or training to meet the Raising Participation Age (RPA) and to make sure you are OK next year.

How many places can we apply to?

  • You can apply to as many places as you like (whilst you figure out what you wish to do).
  • You can keep all your “offers” of places open until the day you enrol in September (you do not have to specify your final choice until you have received your GCSE results).
  • It is advisable to apply to more than one place in case courses are cut, full or you change your mind later.


If you have SEND (with or without an EHCP) it is advisable to discuss supported transitions with who supports, you in school and the school or college you are applying to. Some have the capacity to offer additional support and will help you with your next step.

  • Speak to your school about the support you can access this autumn as getting support in place can take longer than expected in some cases for students with SEND.
  • In addition, you can access support from the SEND team via your local authorities and their Local Offers: CXK Blog: SEND Provision Map Supports Kent & Medway Local Offers

NOTE: It is worth being aware, there are also supported apprenticeships and other work-based options available for students with SEND.


All of this may feel a little daunting, but our careers advisers in schools, as well as our colleagues at the National Careers Service helpline for teenagers, are here to support you if you have any questions or queries. In part 2 of this guide, we will explore apprenticeships and financial support available for study.

Good luck with your careers research!

Written by Chris Targett RCDP, Careers Adviser

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