Full steam ahead

The end of secondary education is a turning point in every young person’s life. So what comes next? 

full-steam-aheadThe last days of high school are a rush of exams, graduation ceremonies, parties and jubilant goodbyes. For many young people it’s a time of both happy anticipation and not a little anxiety about what lies ahead.

For some lucky students the end of school marks a smooth transition to further study and the career of their choice. But not every student knows exactly what they want to do next.

Being unsure about your next steps is a common post-school scenario. Even if you’re not certain what you’d like to do, you probably already know what you don’t want to do, and that’s a great first point for clarifying your thoughts. Next, you need to ask yourself what you do enjoy doing. Are you a hands-on person who prefers real-life experience to books and essays? Do you want to work in sports, help people, or are you a budding entrepreneur?

Dip your toe in

There are lots of options for students keen on pursuing further study and training, even if you aren’t 100 per cent sure of your final career choice. The Good Universities Guide (gooduniversitiesguide.com.au) recommends considering a generalist degree if you have an idea of your interests but aren’t sure where they may lead you. A general degree offers lots of subject choices so you can try out new subjects.

Another good option if you’re not ready to commit to a three to four year degree is to start with a lower-level degree such as a certificate course. These courses can get you working in the field of your choice – a great way to decide if it’s the industry for you – or be a pathway to higher study in your chosen field later on, with credit for study and practical experience.

Many unis have access and pathway programs that can help get students into study even if they didn’t get into their preferred course. At Charles Sturt University, which has study locations in NSW, the ACT and VIC, equity access schemes, bonus points for regional students and early entry based on your school’s recommendation and your year 11 and 12 results.

Flexible broad-based degrees can also help you find a path into your preferred area of study, or even introduce you to a whole new study interest.

Looking outside the university sector opens up a wealth of options. TAFE colleges deliver both vocational programs and degrees (gooduniversitiesguide.com.au). Victoria’s Holmesglen, for example, offers diplomas, degrees, certificates, apprenticeships and short courses in industries as varied as computing and IT, business and finance, hospitality, and design. Similar colleges operate in every state.

Have a plan B

Not getting accepted into your first choice of course or institution is always disappointing. Consider similar courses at other universities, online learning or a pathway course.

Secondary schools offer career counselling to students in their final year of school but you can also take advantage of professional career advice (cdaa.org.au). University and college admission offices and websites have detailed information about courses and entry requirements, and student profiles offer an insight into the actual study experience.

Still not sure? Why not take a gap year to think about your options? It can be a great opportunity to gain work experience, join a volunteer program, or simply take a break from study.

Q&A with Lackie Humphreys

Melbourne University graduate Lachie Humphreys shares her higher education path

“I spent a lot of time choosing what to enrol in. All the way up to Year 11, I planned my studies around becoming an architect. It was something I was really passionate about. My back-up was to look at getting an interior design qualification. Then I completely changed my mind! When I got to the application stage, I was really enjoying psychology and decided to pursue this through a Bachelor of Arts.

I had no idea what to expect from university, and early on I definitely spent a lot of time thinking “I have  no idea what I’m doing”. But there’s plenty of help available if you ask.

I reconsidered my study path all the time – and I really think that’s fine. There are so many options and so much pressure to be on the right path, but you can never know if it’s right for you until you’re on it. One of the best things about uni is that I never really felt locked in to what I was doing.”


The Good Universities Guide will help you find courses at Australia’s top universities, TAFEs and training colleges. Whether you’re looking to study a degree, enrol in an MBA program, or searching for more vocational training, you’ll be sure to find a course to suit you. Visit www.gooduniversitiesguide.com.au and start planning today.


This article originally appeared in Jetstar Magazine – Full steam ahead

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