Choices, choices, choices
Like children in a toy shop. That's how students feel when faced with the bewildering array of options open to them on finishing school, according to a Bristol college principal. The number of choices available to school leavers is colossal and grows bigger every year.
Not only must 16-year-olds choose the type of course they would like to study, but also which subjects suit them best and can unlock the door to their favoured university course or dream career.
Another tough decision must be taken regarding the place at which they continue their education.
The number of academies offering further education subjects is increasing, while colleges are offering a broader range of subjects than ever before to cater for every possible need.
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Do students stay on at a school or academy sixth form, move to a dedicated sixth form college or perhaps switch from the state to the independent sector, or vice versa?
With so much uncertainty surrounding the country's economy, the pressure on teenagers to pick a course which eventually leads to steady work is intense.
Students starting further education in September will be desperately trying to avoid adding to the growing ranks of youth unemployed or becoming another NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) statistic.
Some will want to explore the possibility of getting a foot onto the employment ladder immediately by starting an apprenticeship, picking up the skills of a trade which will give them a solid career.
Due to the recession, school leavers may be placing more emphasis then ever on choosing a path which leads to a secure job, rather then picking subjects or courses based on what they enjoy.
But it is a daunting task, as students are being asked to think ahead and plot a course for up to five years into the future.
Michael Jaffrain, the principal at St Brendan's Sixth Form College in Brislington, believes it is highly important for students to do their homework on the options available to them before making their choices.
He said: "There is a wide choice of subjects, with AS and A-levels, and they can be taken in any permutation. For the students, it's like being child in a toy shop, with so many toys to choose from.
"If the student is not entirely sure what they want to do in wider life, it's important they do their homework and make sure the choices are the right ones."
With the pressure growing on students to choose the right courses, they also need to consider whether their chosen school sixth form or college can provide them with the relevant careers advice during their studies.
Connexions advice has been reduced and schools have to fund information, advice and guidance from limited budgets.
Mr Jaffrain said: "We have two tutorial sessions a week and have our own dedicated careers officer and advanced graduate co-ordinator for academically-able students who want to go to Russell Group universities.
"But some schools are either struggling to get someone in externally to give advice or give advice that might not be deemed unbiased because of a lack of expertise."
Another consideration for students selecting courses this year is recent Government reforms. The announcements made by education secretary Michael Gove may have muddied the waters for students who are already struggling to make a decision about their future.
Although they are not due to come into force until 2015, it is possible the proposed changes to A-levels could influence student choices this year.
Mr Gove wants to reintroduce more traditional A-levels to replace the modular courses, with students taking an exam at the end of two years of study.
He is also keen for students to take two or three core academic subjects as "facilitating subjects" (English, maths, sciences, modern foreign languages, history and geography) alongside one or two other subjects.
Mr Jaffrain, who become principal at St Brendan's 10 months ago, believes the move could be limiting for students.
He said: "I like the idea of core subjects and can understand this. But the range of subjects students can choose from is quite limited.
"I wasn't a scientist or mathematician at school, which meant I would have had the others (English, history, geography and languages) left to choose from. If I didn't like one of two of them, it would have greatly limited my choices.
"People might take more facilitating subjects but at the moment, there's still a lot of unknowns.
"Since the announcement by Mr Gove, what we haven't had is the phone ringing and people saying they want to change their subjects."
Frenchman Mr Jaffrain said he was worried about the impact of the proposals on the college, which offers more than 70 A-levels to students who come to the college from 73 different schools and academies.
He said: "We just don't know what the impact is going to be. I started in this country in 1994 and this (the proposed new A-levels) was the system we had then. Curriculum 2000 was introduced and was designed to expand the range of subjects students were taking.
"Some were taking six or seven subjects but most took four. Thirteen years down the line and we are back to where we were before.
"The work on the reforms has been commissioned by the Russell Group, which is great but what about students who don't want to go to Russell Group universities or to university full stop?"
Another option for students is the International Baccalaureate, an globally- recognised qualification which is growing in popularity in the UK.
Those taking the course study three core subjects and three other subjects, with an exam taking place at the end of the two-year qualification. They also have to produce a extended essay of 3,000 words and carry out community work which is similar to that of a Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Mr Jaffrain said there had been a "massive" increase in applications for the course at the college this year.
He said: "We've had an increase of about 20 per cent. We've had 25 applications so far."