Successful Transitions to University or College

Not all students who aspire to a university or college education attend or go on to complete their degree. The transition points in the pathway from aspiring to go to university or college to completing a degree are shown below.

Year 12 Transition to University or College

Transition flow

We hope that all students who aspire to attend university or college apply, enrol, attend, persist with their studies and graduate. However, this is not always the case. Students who aspire to attend university or college may not actually apply, those who apply may decide not to enrol, those who enrol may decide university or college is not for them and those who attend may not persist sufficiently to graduate in the end. There are factors that have been associated with the likelihood to sticking to a university or college degree.

A longitudinal study that followed 416 Year 12 students from their final year at high school through the process to degree completion investigated factors that influenced successful transitions from aspiration to persistence. Students who were more likely to finish their degree:

  1. Demonstrated successful academic performance in high school.
  2. Worked hard.
  3. Had family support for university or college aspirations, application, enrolment, attendance, retention and persistence.
  4. Had early university or college aspirations.
  5. Researched universities and colleges and application processes.
  6. Had more frequent meetings with school career practitioners to define career and course preferences and goals and to get assistance with university or college applications.
  7. Had greater career and course choice certainty in Year 12 and commitment to course completion and graduation.
  8. Had greater certainty about how to pay for university or college study and sources of financial support.

University or college characteristics were associated with student retention and persistence, including:

  1. Good student retention rate.
  2. Proportion of full-time faculty.
  3. Student to faculty ratio.

Practical implications of these findings for families include:

  1. Attend open days at tertiary education institutions over a number of years while your child is at high school. This may facilitate the early formation of university or college aspirations and greater certainty about course preferences.
  2. Access the Learning Potential website or app for information and tips on how you can support your child in developing good work and study habits.
  3. Use the Grow Careers website for information and links to resources to help your child explore career and related course options.
  4. Attend career expos and school and community career information events.
  5. Book an appointment for you and your child to have career counselling interviews with you school Career Practitioner. This will help to your child to be more certain about their career and course preferences, have greater commitment to their career and study goals and to understand university or college application processes.
  6. Introduce your child to the Australian Government’s Money Smart website and Study Assist website to develop budgeting skills and an understand of methods of paying for their tertiary education.
  7. Together with your child, explore the characteristics of higher education institutions of interest, such as costs, retention data, student to faculty ratio, scholarship availability etc

Poynton,T. A. & Lapan, R. T. (2017). Aspirations, achievement and school counsellors impact on the college transition. Journal of Counseling & Development, 95, 369-377. DOI: 10.1002/jcad.12152