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So you didn't make it into university

So many alternatives when it comes to study
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Perhaps you walked out of your last exam with the gut feeling that you didn’t do so well. Or you wish you spent more time studying biology than playing video games. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it can’t help you if you failed to get the HSC result you needed. Luckily there is more than one way to your dream career than the university route.

Yes, you might have to put in the extra hard yards, but if there’s a will, there’s a way! 

Studying at TAFE

Generally, selection for TAFE is not based on your TER or ATAR – you just need to have completed your Year 12 or Year 10 certificate. The relaxed entry requirements don’t reduce the value of your TAFE qualification. In fact, in many cases, a TAFE course will be more than enough to kick-start your career.

Traditionally, TAFE courses focus on practical learning for the workplace. Universities, on the other hand, spend more time on theories and building frameworks for analysis and problem-solving. Industries such as hospitality and floristry, and more skills-based fields such as textiles, hairdressing, automotives and construction, are dominated by TAFE-qualified workers. 

Think about where you see yourself. Are you a hands-on person? Perhaps TAFE is the better option for you. 

Many universities will accept a TAFE qualification as an entry pathway into their degrees – and in some instances, you may even be able to gain credit for prior learning, reducing the length of your course. These partnership agreements between TAFEs and universities make it easier for anyone wanting to continue their education from a VET course to a degree. 

Taking on single units

Some universities, such as Deakin, Monash and Swinburne, offer single units for study. This means that you’ll be able to study individual course subjects and ease your way into a course.

Studying at a unit level will give you a taste for the course and help you decide if it’s what you really want to do. This pathway doesn’t guarantee you entry into a course, but a strong performance can help your application. And, you may even receive credit for the subjects that you successfully complete.

Be aware that single subjects are considered non-award study. This means that they’re not recognised and do not lead to or count towards a formal award. Often, they’re not covered through FEE-HELP or HECS-HELP, meaning you will have to pay the course fee upfront.

What option should you choose when it comes to tertiary study?
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The online advantage

Online study can be a great alternative for anyone looking for university alternatives. Many universities, TAFEs and other private institutions offer a range of courses online – everything from certificates to master’s degrees.

Open Universities Australia offers a range of TAFE qualifications and university degrees online from many of Australia’s leading tertiary education providers. This means that you can study with a university from a different state without leaving your living room. You’ll have the flexibility to find a university that meets your entry requirements without the added stress of finding a location that also suits. 

Studying a TAFE qualification or even the beginning of a university degree may give you enough experience to transfer to the university of your choice with credit for prior learning.

Or, if you decide to continue on with your online study, online qualifications have the same value as their on-campus equivalent, meaning you’ll end up with the same qualification as if you studied on campus. 

Same degree, different university

Consider studying the degree you’re passionate about at a university with a lower ATAR or TER entry requirement. This way you can still get started with no detours.

A lower entry score doesn’t denote a lower quality degree or university. Often it’s a result of the course demand over the years, which can be based on reputation, location and availability. Some universities might have a lower entry score to counterbalance other entry requirements such as comprehensive applications, portfolios and interviews. 

If your heart is still set on studying at a particular university, you can apply for a transfer after your first year. While this won’t guarantee your spot, maintaining good results will help you get your foot in the door.