College vs Sixth Form: What is the difference?

As you’re coming to the end of your GCSEs, it is important to understand what your different options are to ensure that you can make a well-informed decision. 

Access Creative College is here to help, we’ve summarised the main differences between college and sixth form to help you make the right choice for you!


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What is the difference between college and sixth form?

Graphic design college students working together

Before we jump into the specifics, in general, the main difference between college and sixth form is the type of available qualifications. 

Colleges cater to students aged 16 and above and offer a wide range of qualifications. These not only include your standard A-Levels, but also often include:

On the other hand, sixth form is for students aged 16-18 who choose to continue their studies at their secondary school, or transfer over from another school. Typically, the only qualification option offered is A Levels. This is a perfectly suitable path for those wanting to continue on to study at university/higher education or go straight into employment.


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College or sixth form? 

Which is better? The choice depends on your interests, career aspirations, preferred learning environment, and personal circumstances. 

Colleges typically have more options available which can open the door to a wider range of opportunities. For example, vocational courses can lead directly to specific career paths and provide practical skills and training which is often highly sought after by employers.

Some colleges will have partnerships with local industries and businesses offering work placements and opportunities for practical experience. Colleges also have specialised facilities and resources which provide access to industry-standard equipment and training. Furthermore, they tend to have a more independent learning environment which gives you the freedom and flexibility to manage your own schedule to suit you best.

On the other hand, one of the biggest benefits of sixth form is that it can provide you with continuity and familiarity. By staying on at your secondary school, it will be a smoother transition from GCSEs to A-Levels as you will already have those friendships and support systems in place. Sixth form tends to have a more structured environment than college and may be more convenient in terms of travel if you already attend the school. 

In summary, some of the main areas of differences between college and sixth form to consider are:

  • Curriculum – as mentioned above, colleges tend to offer a wider range of options whereas sixth form focuses on A-Levels
  • Structure – sixth form will be part of a secondary school building with a lot of the students staying on after doing their GCSEs. Colleges tend to be standalone buildings which welcome students from various secondary schools in the local area
  • Age range – sixth form caterers for 16-18-year-olds whereas college is open to students both below and above the age of 18
  • Focus – sixth form prepares students for university/higher education, colleges have a broader focus and cater to both academic and vocational pathways.

It is important to consider what both of these different options can offer you. Check if the courses align with your career goals, and preferred learning environment and if the facilities and resources on offer are best suited to your course. UCAS recommends going to as many open days as possible to help find the best option for you!


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Can you do A-Levels in college?

A-Levels are a popular choice for students aged 16-18 who want to go on to university or employment. Attending college for A-Levels will give you a new and more relaxed learning environment compared to staying at secondary school.

Colleges tend to have a wider range of subjects with more tailored facilities, which will provide you with a broader educational experience. The choice of vocational courses, T-Levels or even apprenticeships at college can open the door to more options in the future because you will have the opportunity to make connections with the companies which the college is in partnership with.


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What can you study at Access Creative College?

Music students DJing at Access Creative College

Finding the perfect course for you can be overwhelming, luckily we have a multitude of qualifications available to choose from:

  • ACC offers full-time vocational courses in music, media, games, esports and computing. These courses give you access to specialist industry support and employer engagement, with extensive work-related projects and high-quality work experience opportunities available.
    • Vocational qualifications have different levels, ranging from entry-level to advanced diplomas. This means you can start at the level which suits your current skills and knowledge, and progress at your own pace. They are also recognised by employers, so by choosing a vocational pathway you will gain a competitive edge in the job market as well as a qualification.
  • We are in partnership with dBs Institute, who offer undergraduate and postgraduate degree qualifications in games development, music production and live sound, to name a few! With campuses in Bristol, Manchester and Plymouth this is the perfect place to pursue a creative career. 
  • Alternatively, we have recently launched Access Industry, which offers an exciting range of apprenticeships in events and music, digital and business. Doing an apprenticeship offers direct progression routes to and from our other qualifications, from BTECs and T Levels to Degrees. Also, you’ll get paid whilst developing your technical knowledge.
  • Fancy a career as a sports coach? We also cover that, Access Sport inspires the next generation of sports coaches by working towards your FA Coaching Badges alongside core qualifications. 

So, there we have it! If you fancy any of the above courses, we are holding open days in your area, feel free to sign up and visit your local campus. Or apply now to join us in September 2024!

Last updated on: 11th April 2024