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Sound advice for school leavers wanting to find a pathway to university


Charles Wood
18 November 2020

If Year 12 school leavers have little idea of what they wish to pursue at university, or for some reason things don’t quite line up for their first choice, they shouldn’t be concerned.

That’s the advice from Southern Cross University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Students), Professor Nan Bahr who believes the most important thing is for students to have options and to choose start points that include a focus on things that are enjoyed or where there is a natural talent. 

“There are many roads to glory. Of course, guidance officers, family, friends are helpful, but it is possible that they don’t know what is possible much more than the school leaver themselves,” Professor Bahr maintains.

“If students have little idea of what they wish to pursue, or for some reason don’t quite line up for their first choice, then they should not worry. It almost doesn’t matter what your first step is, so long as it’s a decisive one. For example, if you a student doesn’t make the cut for a competitive entry program, then they could enrol in something that has some alignments and then transfer into the dream program after first year. Or if they’re not sure what you want to do, they should choose a course that develops a broad set of skills.”

Southern Cross University offers pathway and enabling programs through SCU College. They provide a supported transition to university courses, often with the opportunity for advanced standing. Students who are concerned about not achieving the required Year 12 results can apply for Transition to Uni a free intensive course which will help to guarantee a place at Southern Cross.

“The most important thing though is to remember that whatever the situation, there are options aplenty. It is no longer the case that the die is cast with the announcement of the ATAR. It is no longer the case that a school leaver must make life-long decisions at the point of leaving school.”

Other pathway programs include the award-winning Preparing for Success Program (PSP) for mature age students, and the SCU Diplomas in business, tourism, science, engineering or health which can transition into a degree.

2021 sees the introduction of the New Southern Cross Model for some courses with six-week ‘blocks’ replacing the traditional twelve-week study sessions, combined with the option to focus on two subjects at a time full-time. It gives students access to a more personalised and engaged way of learning, enabling greater success. The new Bachelor of Business Enterprise is first degree to adopt the innovative model.

Deputy Vice Chancellor (Students) Professor Nan Bahr’s - FAQs for school leavers

Should I seek guidance from my school for courses and pathways?

Yes, in fact you should talk to everyone who might have some insights. If you want to be a podiatrist, then drop into your local provider and ask them about the job that they do. If you think you’d like to be a nurse, then talk to a nurse about their job. Talk to the University student’s teams. Read about your options. You need to become an expert on the choices available to you and everyone you talk to will have a different piece of the puzzle. If you just become more confused, don’t worry, you can simply choose something to get started with and follow your nose through the things you enjoy and excel at to find the right career fit for yourself.

How should I mix work and study?

This depends a lot on the nature of the work you have and the course you are enrolled in. However, a general tip is to plan ahead. Identify when the peak times are for assessment and block out enough time ahead of due dates to work comfortably on the submissions. Try and establish a routine and block out time. In fact, it is unlikely that you’ll succeed by actually mixing work and study. You need to carve out time for each.

Should I ask for help?

Yes. There are supports available at University for just about everything you might need. But parents and family are also essential. They won’t be able to help you if you don’t tell them what you’re doing though. So, share your story. What assessments are you working on? When will you be working intensively? How are you going with your assessment results? Communication is absolutely vital.

What if I’ve made the wrong course choice?

Not possible. If the course you choose is not a perfect fit for you, then you’ve learned something important, and if you stick at it for at least a session and can at least pass, then you can apply to shift direction perhaps even with advanced standing.