21st October 20

Although the new school year in the United Kingdom traditionally starts in September, many schools and colleges now offer an additional entry point in January.

January start courses are intended to allow international students from countries whose academic year does not sync with the traditional school year the option to study in the United Kingdom without having to defer their studies to the next academic year. For example, school years for some countries finish in November. This is too late to join in September, but having a January start option means students can still realise their dream of studying in the United Kingdom.

January start courses may also have the benefit of lower fees than a traditional September start course. For example, at Abbey College Manchester our January start 18 month long International Foundation Programme (IFP) options work out quite a bit cheaper than our September start 2 year versions but still deliver the same syllabus.

If you are considering joining a January start course at a British school or college, there are some considerations to take into account and questions to ask before you jump in.

The first question to ask is what courses and subject combinations are available if you start your studies in January? Some colleges may offer a limited range of programmes and subjects to their January start students. At Abbey College Manchester, we offer a wide ranges of courses to suit different ages and academic abilities from a 6 month IFP option and 18 month IFP ones to 18 month GCSEs and two and half year A-level courses.  Our experienced Admissions Team will work with you to identify to best course to meet your academic aspirations.

Most January start programmes offered by British schools and colleges are also ‘condensed’, meaning that students who start a Programme in January will finish their studies at the same time as those who started the previous September. What does this mean? As a January start student the first two terms of your studies are likely to be quite intense, your settling-in period will be shorter, and you will have to hit the ground running.

Whereas to some extent this cannot be avoided, it is still important to ask the school or college you are applying to what measures they put in place to support January start students. For example, here at Abbey College Manchester our January start courses are planned so they are achievable in the time given and that students are capable of gaining the grades they require to move onto the next level.  Our January A level study course is two and a half years, which Is perfect for students who need time to settle into studying in the UK and allows additional time to improve their English and get to understand the demands of the different A-level subjects.  It provides a gentler start to A-level studies, which suits a number of students who have never been away from home before.

Some colleges might also ask international students starting their course to achieve a higher level of academic performance, or a better level of English for entry to January start course than they would for their September start students. At Abbey College Manchester we do not increase entry requirements for our January intake as the additional academic support we offer enables our students to effectively ‘bridge the gap’.

That said, you should not be afraid to ask your college how January start students perform in their final exams compared to September start students. They should be able to provide data that will help to re-assure you that January start students achieve just as good results as those who started a bit earlier.

Another good question to ask is how the college helps students starting in January to integrate and settle into college life. Does the college organise the students into their own class? Or integrate them with students who started in September? likewise do they board together with other January start students? or with the wider student population?

Here at Abbey College Manchester, after a short induction, we integrate January start students with the rest of the college community.  We are a small, supportive college and our students are very welcoming.   January start students attend the same classes and live in the same boarding house as September start students, with additional academic and pastoral support. We believe that this helps them to settle in to college life quickly and more fully, factors that are key to ensure our students’ academic and personal development through their studies. We also offer a programme of Academic English lessons and tutorial sessions which take place alongside the academic programme, this helps January start students to quickly and effectively improve their English language skills, which are a vital contributor to academic success and wellbeing for international students.

Having the ability to take part in extra-curricular activities is also a crucial part of helping students settle into college life. At Abbey College Manchester we offer a diverse enrichment programme consisting of a number of weekly clubs and activities, and we encourage and support our January start students to get involved in these.

It is also worth considering is how the college will be able to support your university application. At Abbey College Manchester we ensure that our January start students are not disadvantaged in this respect and they receive support and guidance from our specialist University Support Team.

Finally, remember to ask the college how many students they would typically enrol in January? As you may prefer to be part of a larger group of students sharing the same experience, or you may prefer to be part of a smaller group starting in January.

We believe that a January start course is a great alternative to consider for international students who are not able to join a British school or college in September. Make sure to do your research and choose the college and course that fits your personality and academic ambitions and we are sure you will have a great learning experience, make lots of friends and achieve top results!