YOUNG VOICES

These Four Wildly Successful Young Professionals Ditched The A-Levels - And Left School With Just GCSEs

21/08/2014 14:52 BST | Updated 21/08/2014 14:59 BST
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Countless freshers are currently poised to break out their new set of Wilkos pans, navigate the washing machine for the first time and blow their student loan on tequila shots. But university is by no means the only route to success – as proven by this lot.

Ollie Forsyth, owner of online gift shop Ollie’s Shop and online fashion retailer Charmou

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Ollie, 16, failed his GCSEs today but as he's already turned over £50,000 since going into business, we can't see him losing any sleep over it.

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Ollie, who used to charge his parents 20p per cup for their morning tea and coffee, hopes to be a millionaire by the time he’s 20. Despite being too young to drive, he already owns two classic cars.

He says: “I was told I would never succeed in life, I was bullied, I’ve been through it all, and those of you who have had it all done before, you know what I’m talking about. When I was told I would never succeed in life I was determined to prove those bullies wrong and I guess I have done. “

Ollie is dyslexic and struggled with academic work at school. He has known he doesn’t want to go to uni since the age of six and joins the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy in September.

Ollie says: “With the university fees increasing, I am fascinated to know how many students will stop going to university due to this. University is only worth going to if you are going to be of a profession which really benefits from a degree i.e. a doctor or teacher.”

Hattie Wrixon, founder of careers website Uni’s Not For Me

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Hattie, 20, left school at 17 because she felt her A-level teachers were too focused on getting students into university. She studied a secretarial course and then afterwards worked at a hedge fund and as a PR intern.

Unable to find information about university alternatives, and realising many of her friends were heading into higher education because they didn’t know of other decent options, Hattie decided to take action.

She founded Uni's Not For Me, a website which provides information about opportunities for those who've decided against uni.

Hattie says: “We are talking to increasing numbers of ambitious young people who recognise that alternatives to university like Higher Apprenticeships are a smart first choice, not a Plan B. They earn as they learn and future employers love their hands-on experience and staying power.”

Adam Bradford, social entrepreneur

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Adam, 21, chose not to go to uni despite achieving a whopping 27 GCSEs (and there we were worrying about getting five…). He is now the founder of a global IT consultancy, an ambassador for Bono’s One Campaign (an organisation fighting extreme poverty), a TEDx speaker and an entrepreneurship expert for the Virgin Group. Wow.

Adam took A-levels in IT and English and then studied for a BTEC in entrepreneurship through the Peter Jones Academy. His course enabled him to develop a business idea and receive support from the likes of Levi Roots, creator of Reggae Reggae sauce.

To anyone thinking of starting their own business, Adam says: “Follow your dreams. Network. Expose yourself. And weigh up all the options – uni is just one option or route to go down. And most importantly, if you have an idea you’re passionate about, never give up.”

Emma Prentice, fashion designer

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Emma left school without completing her A-levels. Now 24, she is the creator of ethical and sustainable fashion label Hoda London, which is stocked by Topshop.

After working in a range of reception and PA jobs on leaving school, Emma went travelling in India. The sari silk she discovered there inspired her to design her own dresses, which she made by recycling this material.

The reaction of her family and friends encouraged her to have a couple of hundred made up, and when her designs sold out at home sales, she decided to pitch to Topshop.

Emma has no regrets about not going to university. She advises: “I think university can be great for certain types of people and academics. Personally if someone was thinking of doing a vocational or industry type course I would always encourage them to look and see if they could go straight into work and learn the ropes from the bottom - this way you will get a major head start and you will be able to see if it’s really something you want to do! It may even lead you down another path. “