Going to university or completing some form of post-school qualification is almost a given these days, but every plan needs to be considered carefully. University is not an ‘easy’ decision, it’s not an excuse to just follow in your friends’ or sibling’s footsteps, so put some serious thought into university before you say yes. Things you might like to ask yourself include:
1. Why do I want to study?
The most important consideration for university is why do you want to go? Are you looking to give yourself the best shot you can at building a great career? Or are you feeling pressure from others? Is a degree a necessity for your preferred career, or just a bonus? Think carefully about your motivation and it will guide you to finding the right course.
2. What are my career goals?
If you’re lucky enough to know what you want to do with your future, you should have a good understanding of the qualifications that align with your desired career goals
. If not, do your research. Analyse the job listings and see what employers of your dream job are looking for. Is there a particular degree that they require, or could certain responsibilities be paired with other qualifications? Make a list of the preferred-candidate requirements and see how they compare with course descriptions.
3. What are the prerequisites?
Once you know what courses are of interest to you, you’ll need to check the course prerequisites. Certain courses require minimum entry requirements, such as a previous qualification, proven experience, or high ATAR scores
. If you don’t meet the prerequisites, don’t write a course off just yet. There are alternate ways to access your preferred course, from changing the institution to enrolling in a more generalised course, incorporating specialised units and then applying for a transfer or doing a bridging course to cover the requirements you’re missing.
4. What do prerequisites mean?
Tough prerequisites can make a course feel exclusive or superior. But this is not always the case. Prerequisites often come into play because of course demand, therefore they’re not always a reflection of quality. Try to look at entry requirements as a function of the number of places available and the number of students who want to do the degree, not a level of prestige. Be open to even the most casual-sounding courses, so long as they align with your goals. The same goes for university ranking.
5. Where do I want to study?
Whether it be for an entire course or just for exchange, having a university experience away from your hometown can be indispensable. But where do you go? University today means destinations almost anywhere
, and so much choice makes your decision a tough one. Factors that might influence your decision include cost of living, cost of course, language barrier, and how easy it is to get home to visit the family when you miss them.
It’s also important to consider the reputation of the university when choosing a course. The name of the university you attend will be on your resume forever, so you’ll want it to help you stand out when applying for jobs.
But reputation isn’t everything, and you shouldn’t get caught up in picking the most prestigious university. Some universities specialise in certain degrees, so it might be worth overlooking prestige and instead focussing on expertise, as this way you’ll gain a quality education from your course.
6. Will I fit in there?
University students come from all walks of life, but even so, certain universities have their own personality profile. Location, size and campus atmosphere all play a part. Close your eyes and think about the overall university experience you want. Picture the university. Can you see yourself fitting in? Can you see yourself maximising the opportunities available?
Most universities will offer something for everyone, with student clubs and societies for all interests, from hockey, swimming and debating, to Disney enthusiasts, chocolate lovers and poker players. So when choosing a course don’t panic too much about fitting in, because you’re bound to find someone who shares the same interests as you.
7. What do I enjoy?
University is a long-term commitment. It can take years of motivation which sometimes feels like an eternity. Think about what it is you love and find a course that supports it. Tapping into your passions
and your own unique style of learning will put you in good stead for a an enjoyable student experience.
8. How can I choose a course that will still be relevant in the future?
The rise of automation and artificial intelligence means the world is changing. This will have an obvious effect on the workforce. It’s estimated that up to 60 percent of the jobs
Australian students are training for simply won’t be around in the future. Will yours be? Think about the future and where the world is going to ensure you’ll be able to use your qualification, or at least some of it.
9. What are my career prospects?
To turn your degree into a career you need to do your research. Talk to the university about the kinds of jobs graduates have gone on to. Learn how competitive your field is. Find out who recruits for your career path and the skills that are in demand. If you discover your field is a highly-competitive one, think about what you can study to give you a competitive edge.
10. What non job-specific skills do I want?
Attending university isn’t just about learning job-specific skills. Sometimes it’s about discovering how to juggle uni life with a part-time job. Sometimes it’s about discovering yourself in a big city. Sometimes it’s about making friends in a multicultural environment or learning to deal with change. Ask yourself ‘what will make me a well-rounded person?’ and see how a course and university align. A university’s role is to produce graduates ready for any kind of workplace.
Making the most of university life
University is ultimately education for life. This means that there is more to university than studying for the end goal of a degree. Take the opportunity to push yourself from every angle, intellectually and socially.
If you want to learn more about what opportunities are out there, check out our Ultimate School Leavers Guide
. From comparing the best Australian universities, to considering RTO and VET programs or taking a gap year, the Ultimate School Leavers Guide
will help you weigh up the pros and cons of each option.