Principal and chief executive, Northern Regional College
Thousands of students across Northern Ireland will get their A-level results today. While there will be plenty of cause for celebrations, for anyone who didn't get the necessary grades to progress onto their chosen career trajectory, there may be disappointment.
Going directly to university after A-levels may seem like a natural progression, but it's worth remembering there are alternative pathways offering a more affordable route to university or a professional qualification.
Many of you will be at a crossroads, unsure of which way to turn, but it is important to consider all your options carefully and reflect on what's best for you as only then will you be able to make an informed decision.
Don't feel you have to make this decision by yourself. Parents, guardians or friends can offer reassurance and provide direction. Talk to your teachers who will know what you are capable of achieving and will give a realistic assessment of your options.
If you have fallen just short of the grades needed for university, keep in touch. You might still be offered your first choice or have your insurance choice confirmed. And make sure you talk to us. Our careers advisers give impartial advice about all the different further and higher education options, including apprentices and training opportunities and access to university courses.
Northern Regional College offers a range of higher education (HE) qualifications that provide choice and flexibility for career and education goals. Foundation degrees, which typically offer exemption from part of the university course, are offered in Built Environment, Engineering, Applied Science, Business, Computing, Childcare, Social Care, Counselling and Sport.
Higher level apprenticeships (HLA), which allow you to 'earn as you learn', are also available. The college works with employers to give students relevant work experience. HLAs will spend three/four days in paid employment and one/two days in college working towards a nationally recognised qualification. HLA subjects include Accountancy, Computing, Construction and Engineering.
HE courses will enhance your employability. Whether you choose to focus on your career or progress to university, each course is officially accredited and recognised by the relevant professional body.
This is an exciting time but with so many options out there, it also can be a very daunting time. Don't feel pressured into doing what your friends are doing. If a qualification does not suit your needs and abilities, then it is not the best option for you. Challenge yourself to be the best you can be and be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone.