Thousands of students across Wales are picking up their GCSE results on Thursday.
Many will now be faced with the dilemma of what to do next - so what options are out there?
These four young people went down the path of vocational courses, and they have told BBC Wales what it has been like so far.
Adam Greenslade, 17, from Cwmcarn
Adam is halfway through his BTEC diploma in performing arts at Cardiff and Vale College.
"I've had a passion for acting since I was about six, when I got my first speaking role in infant school," he said.
His course is a mix of theoretical classes, practical workshops and training in directing, physical theatre and improvisation.
"The best part is meeting other people who have the same kinds of passions as you," he said.
He is hoping to get into a drama school in either London or the USA next year - and already has an interview lined up for one American academy.
His advice for anyone thinking about performing arts? "Do it if you're passionate about it."
"It's not as an easy option - but doing this course has been one of the best decisions I've ever made," he said.
Stacey Davey, 19, from Blaenavon
Stacey is a world champion kickboxer and has just finished her diploma in fitness instruction and personal training at Coleg Gwent.
"It has opened so many doors and has helped me realise that this is what I want to do," she said.
Her week is split between the classroom, the gym and coaching kickboxing to children, which helps with confidence issues.
"When I can help people's confidence shoot up, its an amazing achievement. I have had problems with my body image - it is everywhere you go."
Stacey has just competed in the semi-finals for fitness instruction in World Skills. One day she hopes to run her own independent gym.
Her advice to young people is to not rush into anything and make sure you are happy with your choice, because that impacts the people you work with.
"When you get the best out of yourself, you can get the best out of other people," she said.
Freddie Hoare, 17, from Newtown
Freddie is in the middle of his quantity surveyor apprenticeship with Alun Griffiths contractors, after a summer job with the company.
"I chose my course because it is a great way to get practical experience on the job, a bit of money and independence," he said.
Freddie spends his week learning the theory of quantity surveying in college and applies this to daily work with the contracting company.
"The biggest challenge was getting all the college work done and the actual work done - plus having a social life as well. They are three huge parts of life."
It meant sacrificing some weekend mornings to college work, but he says it will pay off.
His tip for anyone thinking about what to do next? Weigh up your possibilities and think about getting first hand experience.
"What you learn in the classroom is just paperwork, but apprenticeships are about preparing for work which we are actually going to be faced with."
Molly Smith, 17, from Merthyr
Molly is one year into her BTEC diploma in sports at Merthyr College and trains in athletics, hockey and throwing sports like javelin.
"I've always loved sports ever since primary school - when I was a kid, I was the least girly person, so this was me all round," she said.
Working in the gym has given her ideas for a future career in sports nutrition too.
"They are always doing sports plans and how people can improve their diet. It means I can apply this to myself too, and stay healthy."
She hopes to study sports science at university, but for now its head down with training for the Great North Run.
"I used to enjoy running, but now the best part is learning how to improve your physical condition and personal game for your chosen sport - like hockey," she said.
Her advice to any GCSE students interested in sports, is to "definitely" follow their passion and do a sports course.
"I wouldn't really say anything is hard on the course. It is the best decision I have made," she said.