Don't leave it too late to research courses for next year

Year 12's are approaching a time when they need to implement their course and career choices for next year.

Applications for universities, many TAFEs and private higher education and vocational education course providers in Australia open early in August. On-time applications close for many of these courses on 30 September. Ideally Year 12 students intending to go on to further study in 2016 or later will have investigated career possibilities for the future. They will have settled on a preferred initial career direction with a back-up plan if things don’t work out as hoped. They will have identified related further education and training courses, and the entry requirements and prerequisites for these courses, ready to implement their initial career decisions by applying for relevant education and training courses. Well, the world is not ideal. The problem is that life gets in the way and some Year 12 students may have no firm idea of what their preferences are for 2016.

While this situation may be true for many Year 12 students, the school education system demands that current Year 12 students do something different next year. In other words, Year 12 students have to make a career choice of some kind – whether to get a job, take a gap break, start a course at a university, TAFE or with a private provider, or do Year 13. Many current Year 12 students decide to go on to further education or training and some decide to defer their course for a year.

It can be stressful keeping up with academic work, preparing for exams, striving to get a good ATAR or OP, keeping up with co-curricular or extra-curricular commitments and at the same time researching not only course preferences for next year, but the order of these preferences! Added to that, some will need to move away from home for study next year and will need to investigate accommodation options. Then there is the matter of financing tertiary study. Researching and applying for scholarships is another task for Year 12s over the coming months.


Tips for Researching Courses

  • Use course career information websites such as myfuture , Good Universities Guide , Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching , and My Skills to get direct links to various Australian higher education and vocational education and training course databases. These databases provide general information about all courses in Australia.
  • Find out the prerequisite subjects (if any), assumed knowledge, an indicator of the ATAR score or OP, any special requirements (e.g., portfolio, audition, interview, UMAT, etc).
  • Get more detail about courses of interest by going to the course provider’s website and searching for the course. The Grow Careers site contains direct links to all Australian university and TAFE websites and to the Study Assist website which has links to all private higher education and vocational education private course providers that offer courses that are eligible for Commonwealth student loan assistance for tuition fees.
  • Attend career expos, information sessions or course taster events.
  • Attend open days for higher education and vocational education and training institutions. By going on-campus, prospective students you get a ‘feel’ for the institution, courses, support services and student life.
  • Make contact with recruitment staff and academic staff at education or training institutions who can give more information.
  • Read about the course experience of students from sources such as Graduate Careers Australia and the Good Universities Guide and compare the course experience for different universities on the Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching .
  • For courses that lead to professional occupations, such as human resources manager, psychologist, engineer, physiotherapist, etc., check to see if the relevant professional association accredits the course. For example, the professional association for Occupational Therapist is Occupational Therapy Australia. The website of this organisation lists all accredited entry-level university courses for Occupational Therapists in Australia.
  • Some people may apply for a course at one tertiary education or training institution with the intention of transferring to a target course at a different higher education or vocational education and training provider. Always check with the target institution to ensure that the first course provides the appropriate background for entry into the target course.
  • Consider course costs such as tuition fees, accommodation costs, textbook costs and find out what financial support is available.

Planning your Order of Preferences for Courses

One year I read a useful strategy for planning order of course preferences on the QTAC website. The advice went something like this:

  • Top two preferences – courses you would love to do and are hopeful of being offered a place.
  • Next two preferences – courses would love to do and are fairly confident of being offered a place.
  • Other preferences – foot in the door courses – courses you would love to do and may help you to get to a target course. Pathway courses may fall into this option.

Don’t worry if you don’t get your order or preferences right when you first apply for your courses for next year. There is the opportunity to change your order or course preferences, but make sure any changes are made before the closing date for change of preferences.

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