What have you decided? Are you off to Uni next year? Do you know what you plan on studying for the next 3 plus years? It’s all new and exciting and sometimes it can be a little challenging to navigate.

Geelong Careers Specialist Tanya Derrett-Houghton lends a hand.


Tanya Derrett-Houghton Careers Specialist Geelong

Tanya Derrett-Houghton Careers Specialist Geelong

If you haven’t decided or if the wheels fell off because VCE didn’t quite go how you expected or perhaps there is a little seed of doubt in your mind, then great.

Great, because you can take the opportunity to make a considered decision and know that even once that decision is made nothing is set in stone – you can still change.

According to the Grattan Institute more than 50,000 students who started university in 2018 will drop out and on average students pay $12000 for an incomplete course. It’s also important to remember that the graduate market is competitive and not everyone will leave university and work in the area they imagined they would or that they studied for.

So, what can you do make it through to the finish line and maximise your opportunities?


Do what you enjoy

Don’t ‘spend’ your ATAR for the sake of it.

Students who are at higher risk of dropping out include those with ATARS over 90. Those with very high ATARS feel more pressure to choose their study based on score. It’s not about what you are capable of, it’s about what you want to do. You absolutely must enjoy what you are studying to remain engaged. It doesn’t matter how academically clever you are, if you don’t enjoy it your motivation will wane. Interest should be one of the primary elements in deciding which course to take. It is ridiculously common and heart breaking to have students come to me in their final or penultimate year and tell me they just couldn’t do it anymore, they didn’t want to finish, they didn’t know how to tell their families, but they couldn’t bare another minute of what they were studying and in fact hadn’t ever enjoyed it.

What’s your WHY? 

It’s vital to ask yourself why, and what is it I wish to get out of going to university?

For many of you, you’ll be imagining it is the start of a satisfying career journey. Good thinking. Education provides the building blocks for work satisfaction no doubt about it. If you are going to university though with the belief that your degree will get you a job and a great salary think again. The graduate market is competitive and youth unemployment is high, yes that includes university graduates. There are some fields that are very difficult to get into, yet the courses are over-subscribed to because they are interesting, but popularity does not translate to outcomes.

Do your research. Yes, you need to enjoy what you do but some courses have better employment outcomes than others. As do some universities.  An undergrad in Nursing for instance is far more likely to translate to a graduate full-time position at 80.3% with an average salary of $55K than an undergrad in Psychology where 56% of graduates were able to gain full-time work at an average starting salary of $53K and, let’s be clear, that isn’t necessarily in a field directly related to psychology.

The right Uni for you

Its not just about what course you choose, it’s also about ensuring the institution is right for you too.

What do you need from your university to succeed?

Write a list. Look for the info you need from an impartial source and ask the university the hard questions.

I have worked and still do work as a Career Consultant in Education across the dual Higher Education sectors. University has completely transformed over the last 7 years.  Caps off resulted in much higher demand for more graduates. Volume and a digital revolution contributed to creating a technology rich but often remote ways of teaching.  High-tech, campus connected small class rooms are common and lecture theatres are rare – you are as likely to see one in a photo in a museum than on a university campus. Most institutions offer degrees that can be done completely online, and even ‘on-campus’ students often have minimal contact hours. Be sure you understand your universities teaching style and whether its right for you. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the integration of technology into the student experience but I also know that I learn better with people.  Being by myself staring at a screen in my room is not conducive to my learning or engagement, I’d rather do housework and I loathe housework.

It’s also important to understand support services, how and when to access those services. I know Deakin University for instance has incredible supports available. Deakin Talent for instance, offer some incredible value add programs that can make a big difference to your career opportunities and outcomes, but you have to put the effort in to get involved.  Many universities are big on clubs and societies, others integrate work experience into learning. You have to decide which mix of services, teaching style and courses suit your needs best.

One way to find data on which environment is right for you is QILT  a site  that surveys graduates for their experiences, satisfaction and employment outcomes.  QILT has a comparison tool for different institutions. If I compare Deakin University, Monash, RMIT and Swinburne for example, I can see that from the last satisfaction survey that Deakin was rated the highest for graduate satisfaction overall and that Monash had slightly higher graduate employment outcomes for fulltime work but Deakin’s were highest overall. If I break this down a little more, I see Deakin’s support services are rated highest closely followed by Swinburne and Monash.  From a learner engagement perspective, RMIT rates as the place to be. The graduates with the highest median salaries were from Swinburne, with VU following closely.

Census Day

Decisions aren’t always cut and dry and for most of the time it’s trial and error.

Census day is your get out of jail free card.

The census date is when the University finalises your enrollment. If you withdraw after Census you have to pay fees or, if you have a HELP loan, you will incur a debt.  Mark this day in your calendar. You would usually have had about 3 weeks of ‘try before you buy university’ by the time Census rolls around. If you are loving it and can see a future then what can I say, fist pump, keep doing what you’re doing. If you have doubts about your course or Uni seek advice about what changes you can make, talk to someone impartial first off, a career consultant and then a course advisor who can assist with any course changes.

Good luck, happy decision making and 1st year of Uni!

Still unsure about Uni. Let’s chat.

Call Harvest HQ on 1300 363 128 to chat about your future career options.

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