While the importance of exams, particularly GCSEs and A-levels, is drilled into you from a young age, doing well in them isn’t easy.

From parental or peer pressure, to a lack of self discipline when it comes to putting in the hours studying, there are a whole host of reasons why many of us don’t do so well in important exams.

All of your time at school is spent building up to a few important exams, and if you fail them, then where does that leave you?

You might be led to believe that having no GCSEs to your name means that you have no hope of further academic success, or that getting into university is virtually impossible.

However, I’m here to tell you that there are other options for continuing your academic career, and that you can actually go to university without GCSEs!

University Entry Requirements

University building.
University requirements usually ask for GCSEs, but there are ways around it.

Typically, universities will require you to attain a set number of UCAS Tariff points in order to be admitted. Entry requirements depend on the institution, but there are some general rules you can go by.

UCAS points are gained through advanced-level qualifications - A-levels and equivalents - and will determine which universities you can choose from.

Most universities will also expect you to have passed at least GCSE English and Maths. However, as we’ll see later on, this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker in some cases.

Aside from how you have performed academically in secondary school, universities will also take a variety of other factors into account to decide whether they will accept a candidate's application.

This is where you should focus most of your efforts.

If you have no GCSEs but want to go to university, then your best bet is to make your application really stand out in other areas.

Of particular interest to universities will be your aptitude for the specific course you are interested in taking.

For example, if you want to study Photography, and you have a strong personal interest in the subject, you should try and create your own portfolio to impress the admissions staff.

By going above and beyond, such as seeking out extracurricular activities associated with the course you want to apply for, you will earn yourself some extra favour with the university which might prove critical for them to accept you without any GCSEs to your name.

One way to think of it is like applying for a job. While candidates with the strongest credentials and qualifications tend to get preference, it’s often the case that those who have relevant experience and can show they´re a good fit for the position end up successful.

While you won’t be able to hide the fact that you don’t have the GCSEs most universities ask for, if you aim to develop your skills and gain relevant experience in the subject you want to study, you can give yourself a fighting chance.

How Important are GCSEs for University?

So just how important are GCSEs for getting into university?

I’d be lying if I said GCSEs aren’t a huge factor into university admission since the universities need some sort of indication of how you are going to perform in your A-Levels.

UCAS points can play a big role too, find out here if GCSE grades count towards them.

That being said, there are other routes you can take to prove to universities that you have what it takes to do well in an academic setting. So in this scenario, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if your GCSEs weren’t up to the standard the university expected.

However, if you don’t have any GCSEs or some other form of academic qualification, you’ll probably struggle to find a university that will open its doors for you.

This is because studying under pressure is a huge factor in determining whether or not you will be successful at university.

If you struggle with the self discipline needed for independent learning, or the stress and pressure of meeting tight deadlines, then university might not be the best option for you.

After all, not everyone needs to go to university, and there are plenty of arguments as to why you should stop and really consider whether it is a move you really want to make.

To find out more about how important these GCSEs are for getting into university, you can read our article on the topic.

If you are set on going to university without any GCSEs though, then you might be interested in some of the following alternate paths you can take.

Pass GCSEs With No GCSEs

Open books for studying.
Study hard and you can make up for a lack of GCSEs.

It might surprise you to learn that you can actually pass GCSEs without having the GCSEs.

You can do so through an alternative qualification called Functional Skills that can bring you up to the equivalent of a C grade in Maths, ICT, and English.

Passing these 3 subjects at GCSE level is huge in securing a place at university, so it’s well worth looking into.

By passing the Level 2 functional skills course, you can get the C grade you so sorely need to boost your university application, and you needn’t worry anymore how universities will view your lack of GCSEs.

The best part about Functional Skills…?

It only takes a few weeks to complete the courses!

In order to get started with these courses, you’ll need to jump through a couple of hoops. Namely enrolment, and a couple of assessments, then you’re ready to go.

Courses consist of online or in-person training, and practise exam papers, before the end of course exam. The whole time you will have your own assessor who will give feedback, and mark your work.

One website you can enroll in a Functional Skills course is The Learning Station. You can browse the various subject courses, and see which ones you’re interested in before making the investment.

It really is as simple as that, making it an incredible back-up option for GCSEs.

If the issue is that you have lost your GCSE certificate, then there is a solution for that too.

Understandably, these Functional Skills courses can be stressful, given that you might depend on them for your successful admission into your university of choice.

That’s why it might be worth considering working with one of our qualified private tutors here at SuperProf, who can help guarantee your successful completion of a course such as those we just mentioned.

The one caveat with Functional Skills, aside from the cash investment, is that you will need to check with your preferred university to make sure they accept them as GCSE equivalents.

Consider a Foundation Degree

Another option open to you if you want to go to university, but don’t have any GCSEs, is to look into foundation degrees.

A foundation degree is a course offered by universities which will typically last 2 years, with the option to do another year for the full honours degree.

This is a fantastic option if you have a solid idea in mind of the kind of vocation you want to work in.

Unlike the full degrees, with a foundation degree you won’t have to worry about not having GCSEs, as the entry requirements are minimal.

However, as I mentioned earlier, if you’re considering applying to university, it's definitely worth trying to make your application more attractive by seeking ways to make yourself stand out more.

The great thing about doing a foundation degree is that you will get the full university experience with everything that entails, so you can make the most of your further education.

The foundation degree was designed to allow students a second chance to get a university-level education, despite not achieving the highest of grades at secondary school. Plus this alternate route can lead to the same result as a full honours degree, so it really is a fantastic option to have on the table.

Give College a Go

College library.
College can be a great alternative to university.

Finally, if its further education and better employability you’re after, then you shouldn’t rule out going to college instead of university.

College is meant for those wanting to acquire specific skill sets for jobs, or those who want to boost their academic credentials before heading off to university at a later stage.

At college you can expect to be taught practical skills. This is ideal if you are looking to enter a hands-on profession such as engineering or plumbing, where such skills are valued more than the theoretical side of things.

The typical length of a college course is between 1-2 years, and there are various options offered to you as to how you study, to allow you the freedom to work at the same time should you so desire.

But why choose college over university, I hear you ask.

Here’s just a few of the most compelling reasons:

  •  Smaller classes, meaning more personalized learning.
  •  Cheaper tuition fees (this one is a big deal!)
  •  Opens the door to university at a later date.
  •  Specialized courses in areas such as business, and technology.
  •  Various study options to cater for all lifestyles.

Lastly, can you get into college with no GCSEs?

Yes. While again you’re going to have to fill out your application with plenty of impressive-sounding skills and character traits, it's certainly possible to go to college with no GCSEs.

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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.