If you are in the lower sixth or your first year at college, tutors and parents may be asking you what you plan to do next. It feels like the pressure is on and you have to have a plan for the rest of your life … but don’t worry. There are lots of options available to you and you have time to choose what you’d like to do.

The number of apprentices is rising. An apprenticeship is a great way to get skills, qualifications and experience. If you are considering leaving school or college to go straight to work, an apprenticeship could be the right route for you. You can read more articles about apprenticeships here.

You may also want to explore higher education. You local college offers further education – higher education covers degree-level courses. These are offered by universities, and you’ll find colleges that also offer higher education too.

It can seem daunting: there are universities across the UK and it’s even possible to study abroad – so how do you focus your choices to find the right place for you to study? Using a website like the Complete University Guide’s Uniselect can make things easier for you. You can enter the subjects you are studying and the grades you might achieve to get a list of courses that you could qualify for. This smart guide works if you know what you’d like to study – and even if you don’t. It allows you to narrow down where you’d like to live – you can select certain areas of the UK and the type of town or city too. You can add in your budget for accommodation and it will come up with your matched unis. A little like some online dating sites it will rank them for you too.

Once you have a shortlist of places to look at, it’s time to book onto open days. Website Opendays.com aims to list all UK open days for unis. Visiting a uni is a great way to get a feel for the place. You can check out the facilities for courses you are interested in, and explore the local town or city. It’s great to visit as many places as you can – but don’t worry if you can’t. Universities have upped their game for virtual visits and now you can take online tours and book into webinars – helpful whether you are short on time or don’t have the budget to visit lots of places.

You can narrow down your uni by looking at its ranking – there are several sites that rank unis in different ways. Think about what’s more important to you – how students rank the uni, how it is ranked for teaching or how it is ranked for research. You can also get informal views from students studying at many universities via The Student Room. Join the site to post your own questions.

This article can only get you started on the next steps in your life. There are lots more articles for students on Careers in Eyecare – or why not check out our eyecare career guides too?