While it certainly isn’t ideal to finish your secondary school education with no GCSEs, there are plenty of reasons not to lose hope of future academic success. In fact, you can get into university without GCSEs.

It can seem like the end of the world to miss the mark on such important exams, given that they can determine whether or not you can go to college or university, however this isn’t entirely true.

To answer in short: can you get into college with no GCSEs? Yes, you can.

Now, that’s not to say that it will be easy, and there will be financial costs along the way, but it is encouraging to know that there are alternative routes to college out there.

Why College?

College class.
College classes are often smaller, and allow for more personalised tuition.

If you are considering going to college with no GCSEs, it’s worth taking some time out to mull it over, and make sure it’s the best course of action for you.

A common misconception held by a lot of people is that higher education courses are reserved for universities. This isn’t true though. Colleges offer an alternative option to university, with their own pros and cons.

Another misconception is that you can’t receive a full honours degree at college courses like you can at university, since you can at some. Colleges offer courses covering a whole spectrum of subjects, rivalling the choices provided by universities.

Another great aspect of college, especially for those who didn’t do as well in their GCSEs as they hoped, is that they have foundation degrees. These foundation degrees can help you get to university even without the highest grades at GCSE or A-level, if this is your end goal.

All that’s required upon completion of a foundation degree to turn it into a full honours one is one or two additional years of study. This makes it a fantastic option if you’re academic career got off to a slow start, since it gives you the opportunity to get back on track with your peers who aced their GCSEs.

In terms of the education you can receive at a college, here are some of the main benefits:

  •  You can receive more personalised tuition with small classes.
  •  It’s a more economical option than university.
  •  You might not have to move far from home.
  •  You can study part-time while you work and save money.
  •  You can still get the full honours degree at the end.

You can also check out this cracking article from Study in UK, which outlines the reasons why you might opt for college over university.

The Easiest route to College

Students studying and laughing.
Apprenticeships can be a great option for further study.

While this might not be what you want to hear, the easiest route to college is through a set of good GCSE marks. They are important for university and college alike. That’s not to say it’s the only way though.

In general, the entry requirements of colleges will specify how many GCSE exam passes they prefer, and if there are particular subjects which they require that you pass.

However, they won’t rely on you accumulating UCAS points like at university, so that’s a plus.

The importance of English and Maths

Typically, English and Maths are the most sought after GCSE subject passes, since if you do well in these subjects, it proves that you have the tools to succeed in many career paths.

For that reason, English and Maths GCSEs take on a lot of importance. If you ace those exams, you’ll give yourself a much better chance of going to university without GCSEs, or in this case, college.

It cannot be understated how big an impact good - or bad - grades in these subjects can influence your academic future. After all, this is all universities or colleges have to go on when you start to apply. They aren’t likely to rate your chances of performing well in A-level exams if your GCSE grades aren’t up to scratch.

While you should give a lot of your attention to the subjects that will be related to your chosen profession or career path, English and Maths are too important to be ignored.

As much as you might not enjoy the subjects, you have to dedicate a significant portion of your revision time to make sure you make the cut with these GCSEs.

What happens if you don’t? What happens if you fail English and Maths, or even all of your GCSE exams?

Correct your GCSE marks

If you find yourself in the situation that you’ve failed to pass some, or all of your GCSEs, or you didn’t quite do enough to pass English and Maths, then there are 2 things you can do which can help turn it around and potentially improve the marks.

Resit the exams

First, and the option most likely to make a difference, you can choose to re-sit the exams that you failed. I know it might seem that if you failed the first time, then paying for a resit would be a waste of money, but you should try to see this as a second chance.

The ability to re-take GCSEs is a valuable lifeline which can help you get over the feeling of having failed something so important, and give you the impetus to apply to the college of your dreams.

As for Maths and English GCSEs, it is compulsory to resit them until you pass, so as I mentioned earlier it's well worth getting on top of those subjects sooner rather than later.

A plus of deciding to resit exams is that a lot of schools will allow you to study for them, while also studying for your A-levels, so you don’t have to worry about being left behind.

Ask for a remark

The second option is to request a remark. This option should only be called upon if you are certain that the paper has been marked incorrectly, or that you should have received a higher mark.

The risk that this process carries is that your mark could just as well go down as up, so bear that in mind if you decide to go down this route.

If a college offer depends on your getting a certain grade in a GCSE exam, then you can even speed up the process to around 15 calendar days.

How can you get to college with no GCSEs?

Even if you have no GCSEs and you don’t want to resit them or ask for a remark, there are still options open to you. You can actually get to college with no GCSEs, which might surprise you to know.

However, it will come at a cost. You will have to invest a fair amount of time, and money, but it will be worth it if you have your heart set on college and pursuing higher education.

Functional Skills courses

Your first option if you’re looking to go to college and you have no GCSEs to your name, is to look into taking a couple of Functional Skills courses.

Functional Skills courses provide an alternative to the GCSE, and upon successful completion will grant the student a qualification which is equivalent to a C grade. The 3 subjects covered are the most important for applying to any college or university: ICT, Maths, and English.

What’s great about these courses is that your chance of success is high! With individually assigned tutors to mark your work as you go along and provide feedback, you have a great shot at passing the GCSE equivalent course.

To boost your chances of success even further, consider working with one of our private tutors at SuperProf. With their ample experience and qualifications, our private tutors will work closely with you to ensure you make the most of the course and have the best chance of getting the job done.

The courses themselves can be done online or in person, which allows for flexibility. The only downside to them - aside from the financial cost - is that if you need anything higher than a C grade to get into your preferred college, this isn’t the way to do it.

In the rare instance that you’ve lost your GCSE certificate, here’s how to recover your results.

Other options with no GCSEs

Students studying and laughing.

If you have no GCSEs but want to go to university or college, then there are ways to make it happen, as we’ve looked at in this article.

University entry requirements provide an obstacle, but doing Functional Skills courses is one way to bypass them, and make up for the fact that you don’t have GCSEs.

But aside from university and college, what other future career options are available if you don’t have any GCSEs?

Intermediate apprenticeships

An intermediate apprenticeship is a good example of something you can do without necessarily needing GCSEs, and to steer your course towards a specific career.

Even if you don’t have a pass in GCSE English and Maths, you’ll be fine, you’ll just need to take a basic numeracy and literacy test in most cases.

As part of the apprenticeship, you will get up to speed by taking a GCSE or equivalent course.

The best part about it is you’ll even get paid a small wage for participating!

A great way to get involved in the job sector that most interests you, an intermediate apprenticeship is a solid option.


Another good option for fast-tracking your progress towards a career, a traineeship is a short course that provides real-life work experience as part of it.

While you won’t get paid, you will be able to get travel and food expenses reimbursed, and get the help you need to improve your mathematical and English skills.

Traineeships are typically seen as a precursor to doing a full apprenticeship or going straight into a full-time job. This is a good option if you have struggled academically, and have no desire to continue in the education system.

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Sam is an English teaching assistant and freelance writer based in southern Spain. He enjoys exploring new places and cultures, and picking up languages along the way.