Next Steps at 16+ and 18+

Help turn students’ aspirations into actions by getting prepared for their next steps after secondary school or college. Hear from local colleges sharing their top tips for Open Days and create a checklist of what students will need. Explore common challenges they might face and the skills required to overcome them. Find out more about the practical skills necessary to navigate personal statements, applications, interviews, course choices and more.

This lesson plan can be used for students of all ages to learn more about what comes next at 16+ and 18+, helping young people prepare for transitions and next steps. It emphasizes the importance of early research to start conversations and spark ideas, as well as taking practical steps towards achieving their goals and preparing for a successful move.

Learning Objectives

At 16 and 18, you’ll face important decisions about your future career. Choosing what to study, where to study it or where it could lead, as well as balancing extra-curricular activities, part-time employment, volunteering or other aspirations. Having choices is a good thing, but it can feel overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start or worried about getting it wrong. The reassuring news is, that if you do make the wrong choice, you can quickly get back on track and there’s usually more than one route to achieving the same end career goal.

In this lesson plan, students will learn:

  • How to prepare for your next steps
  • How to research your options and identify key requirements
  • How to make a personalised plan to take action

Teacher Guide

You can use the PDF lesson plan to deliver a targeted session lasting 30-45 minutes or break it down into smaller chunks to be used during form time, within a careers lesson or embedded within the curriculum in specific subject area.

Our suggested delivery for this lesson would include:

  1. Introduction (5 mins): Start by introducing today’s topic and key learning objectives. You could ask students whether they know what they want to do next or are still considering their options.
  2. Preparing for your next steps (10 mins): Ask students to make a list of all the different options available as their next step (after secondary school, after college or for their future career). Use the discussion points on slide 2 to discuss whether there are lots of options or only a few, whether there were some they had not thought of before and which they feel are most popular. Raise a flipchart or use the whiteboard to record their answers and encourage students to think about any new options they’d like to research further.
  3. Your options for future study (5 mins): Using slides 3-4, talk through the different study options available at 16+ and 18+. Explain the difference between academic and vocational qualifications and invite students to discuss the pros and cons of different routes.
  4. Making decisions (10 mins): Talk to students about how making decisions can be challenging and feel overwhelming for some, reinforcing the need to research their options thoroughly, gain advice from experts and access available support services. Use the discussion points on slide 5 to discuss which options students feel are best for them and how confident they feel about their next steps.
  5. Getting ready to take action (10 mins): Explain how students need to start preparing for their next steps – by attending open days, careers events or job fairs; finding a careers mentor or gaining work experience; writing a personal statement or CV for example. Using either slide 7 or 8 as a prompt for academic or vocational study routes or employment, ask students to create a list of what they need to do before taking their next steps. Use slide 9 to summarise what’s required to apply for study or work and help students to create their own next steps checklist.
  6. Summary (5 mins): Recap on what students have learnt about their next steps at 16+ or 18+ and ask them each to name one action they are going to work towards to help them progress their action plan.

Follow-Up Activities

After the lesson (or if you have extended the lesson into multiple sessions), you could ask students to complete the following tasks:

  • Research a different course, training provider/college/university, or job/employer/apprenticeship that they had never considered before to see if they can expand their knowledge of the options available to them.
  • Explore your options at 16+ (A-Levels, T-Levels, Apprenticeships, BTECs, NVQs etc) and your options at 18+ (university, higher education courses, degree apprenticeships, employment and self-employment) on Stockport Jobs Match
  • Review our Digital College & Sixth Form prospectus to learn more about local providers

Games, Activities & Worksheets

The following printable materials can be used during lessons or sent home with students as follow-up activities:

Individual Activity – Open Day Checklist

Identify what you’ll need to attend an open day and how to plan for a successful visit – including the practical aspects of planning your journey and knowing which parts of campus you want to visit, to crucial questions to ask and who to speak to on the day.

Group Activity – Life Skills Flashcards

Use our flashcards to explore different challenges students may face at college, university or in the workplace, discussing possible solutions and the skills required to tackle them.

Bitesize Videos

View our selection of short 2-3 minute clips to hear from students talking about why they chose A-Levels, BTECs or Apprenticeships for example, or hear from local colleges on their top tips for open days.

Daily Reel (15 min video)

If you need to deliver a shorter session to students, try our Daily Reel video on this topic. It recaps on all the available options after secondary school or college to make sure you know the full range of what’s on offer. It then outlines what you’ll need to progress at each stage – from submitting applications to attending open days, writing personal statements to having interviews. It’s a really practical guide to help you prepare to take action.

In this 15 min summary, you’ll learn:

  • An overview of choices after secondary school – from A-Levels to BTECs
  • An overview of choices after college – from degrees and HNCs to higher apprenticeships and adult courses
  • How to get the most out of open days and job fairs
  • Deadlines for applications and what you’ll need to complete them online

Useful Resources on Jobs & Sectors in Stockport

We’ve produced a range of tools to help teachers, careers advisors and students prepare for some of the actions you’ll need to take when leaving secondary school or college. Use these articles and resources to prepare for your lesson or to signpost students to help them expand their knowledge and make informed decisions about upcoming job choices, available training pathways and future career options.

Navigating College and Sixth Form Open Days

College and sixth form open days offer a unique opportunity to explore your options, gather information, and gain insights that can shape your future. Learn about the importance of open days, how to prepare for them, what to look for, key questions to ask, practical considerations, and how to make the right decision after attending open days.

Completing a College Application Form

Ready to apply for college or sixth form but need some help completing your college application form? Don’t panic. We’ll help you understand exactly what to include and give you a practice form to complete. You can use it once you know which college(s) and course(s) you are applying too.

Writing an Apprenticeship Application

Need help completing an apprenticeship application form? Not all apprenticeship applications are the same, but this should give you an idea of the sort of information you might need. This application is based on one you might find when applying through the government’s Find an Apprenticeship website or via

Creating a Budget for College, University or Starting Work

Financial worries can be a big stress when you’re taking your next steps and becoming more independent. Knowing how to manage your money and stretch your student loan, benefits, apprentice wage or allowance that little bit further is an important skill to master. But if you’re starting out with no clue on creating a budget (or how to stick to it!), we’ve got you covered.

Writing a Personal Statement for University Applications

One crucial aspect of your application process is your university personal statement. This definitive guide will walk you through crafting an impactful personal statement showcasing your uniqueness, passion, and potential to thrive in the academic world.