How to focus on your future in the midst of a global pandemic

Summer holidays are going to be far from normal this year. School finished at the beginning of March and end of year exams and GCSEs are either postponed or cancelled. Some of you may have had online homework to be getting on with, a job to go to, or a family who needs you, but it’s easy to feel a bit lost without the structure of school especially as we move into the holidays.

Well, did you know there are a variety of useful websites, online courses, and employability resources that could help you pass the hours AND focus on your future? Here’s a short list of some of the options I found useful – but keep an eye on the blog for more stuff to keep you productive and busy!

Online educational resources

First up we have The Open University’s Open Learn. This is an AMAZING resource. If you’re thinking about progressing into higher education it’s a great way to get a feel for different subjects that you think you might be interested in, whether you’ve tried them before or not. These courses are free, available to start now, and have no time limit so you can complete them at your own pace. You might be thinking “…isn’t university work going to be a bit beyond me right now?” but many of the courses on the website are Beginner/Introductory level and aim to teach the basic and essential concepts of whatever it is you choose to study. There are over 1000 different courses to sign up to, from sports to science, business to books, and everything in between so when you find yourself missing school (and trust me, you will!) head over to Open Learn.

Next on the list is Google Digital Garage. These courses aim to give you new skills for a digital world. Although some of these modules probably won’t be relevant to you, there are some useful courses on the website around improving your employability, like Land your next job, Effective networking, and Build confidence with self-promotion, plus other educational resources such as Understanding the basics of code and What is data science? These courses are shorter than the Open Learn programmes (some are just half an hour) so are ideal if you don’t have much time on your hands but still want to do something productive with your school-less days.

University research

You could use some of this free time to get informed about university or other higher education pathways. If you’re interested in going to university, check out some websites like Informed Choices by the Russell Group[1]. If you think you know what you want to do, you can click through and see what A-Levels or BTECS you may need in order to study this specific subject at university. However there are certain subjects which don’t even require you to have specific A-Levels or BTECs, only specific grades, so that’s something to bear in mind if you’re not sure what you might want to do – I definitely didn’t when I was 16!

University access schemes and contextual offers

Another great thing to do is have a look at different university websites, see if they offer your course, what the entry requirements are, and check if they have any access schemes running. Many universities use contextual offers too (see our other blog post for more on these!) but the criteria that students have to meet can vary from institution to institution. This means you might be eligible for a contextual offer at one university but not the next, so it’s worth using the eligibility checkers they provide to see whether you qualify.

National Careers Service website

If you have a clear idea of the career you want to pursue but you’re not sure whether you need a higher education qualification to do it, the National Careers Service website might be a useful tool for you. You can ‘explore careers’ by clicking on the relevant job categories, and from here work backwards to see what qualifications are needed for you to enter this field or industry.

These activities should keep you occupied, at least for a while! Let us know how you get on, and leave a comment if you have any other suggestions for ways to keep focused on your future during these strange times.

[1] This resource is created by the Russell Group – a collection of 24 public research universities – but these institutions are by no means the only ones you can apply to, so I’d recommend using this site as a stepping block to provide you with some background information on the courses you’re interested in.