LearnFast logo with no background.png


Delivering the world’s best evidence based solutions for learning

The Learning Success Blog

How to Navigate the Transition from School Year 12 to Tertiary Study

Posted by Gordon Doyle on December 9, 2018 at 12:37 PM

Are you a recent school leaver?  Waiting for your results? Are you hoping for a university offer?

Gordon Doyle Careers Advisor

In my last article, How to Make Career Decisions at the End of Secondary School, I discussed a number of things Year 12 students needed to consider relating to their future.  By their “future”, I’m not talking about the rest of their lives,but I certainly am talking about the next stage of their lives – that is, the next study stage, and the working stage to which that naturally leads. 

So I’m looking at a period of time up to ten years out. 

After the HSC exams and registering preferences with your tertiary admissions centre (UAC, VTAC, QTAC etc), it’s time to take a break.  Hopefully, you have done, or are doing that. 

Now it’s early December, and it won’t be long before the first university offers for recent school leavers are made.  Here are some points I hope will help with the next steps.

Receiving and accepting offers

These are important.  It is possible to receive more than one offer, but you will not receive more than one offer in any given offer round. 

For New South Wales readers, if you receive an offer in December Round 2 for example, accept it, even if the offer is to a lower order preference. It may be the only offer you receive.  If you don’t accept it, you will lose it and run the risk of ending up with no offer at all. 

It is also possible to get a second, and even a third offer in the later offer rounds. 

Any subsequent offers you receive will be to courses that you have listed as higher order preferences when compared with the offer you have already received. 

If you receive more than one offer, that will give you some choice. Having choice is a good thing. 

Deferring your offer

If you decide you want to defer your offer for whatever reason, this is generally a fairly simple matter.  Not all courses in all institutions can be deferred, but most can. 

So, after accepting your offer, you can then apply to the institution to have the offer deferred for twelve months.  Some institutions permit a longer period of deferment. 

The following year you will need to reapply for your deferred place, but you will not need to compete for it.  The purpose of the reapplication is simply to indicate to the institution that you wish to take up the deferred place.

The Gap Year 

A gap year can be a very good idea for a whole range of reasons.  Often, a young person will simply “feel like a break” after twelve years of continuous schooling, before heading into a further period of commitment to study. 

The young person may choose to get some experience in the world of work by taking up employment.  They may wish to travel. Perhaps their gap year will embrace some combination of all these.

If the gap year involves some work and then travel, particularly if it’s overseas travel, the experience can really enhance a resume. The experience can demonstrate a range of personal qualities to a future possible employer that will be regarded as desirable and will help distinguish the applicant with travel experience from another applicant without such experience.

 So to the interested “gapper”, you will get only encouragement from me.

Some final points...

I am often asked to clarify certain things for young people planning on undertaking further studies after they leave school.  Here are some general explanations for common queries that may help to clarify things for you.

The difference between undergraduate, postgraduate, foundation studies and bachelor/ honours degrees:

1.  An undergraduate degree is effectively the degree that you would study upon having accepted the offer of a university place for the first time.The full time study of an undergraduate degree, depending on the academic area, usually will last for a period of three (Arts or Science for example), four (Engineering or Rural Science) or five (Law) years. The successful completion of an undergraduate program of study leads to the award of a bachelor’s degree.

2. An honours degree usually takes the form of one year of additional study after successful completion, usually with a credit average result or better, of a bachelor’s degree. It often comes by invitation of the head of department, but you could also request consideration for honours candidature.

There are some variations on this theme depending on the university and the course, but the principle outlined here generally applies.

3. Foundation studies can mean a number of different things depending on the context. It can for example, refer to pathway studies for someone who has not been successful in gaining entrance to a university course via conventional entry methods – the HSC and ATAR for example. It could also mean core subjects or required units that must be studied in order to qualify for the award of a degree.

4. Most diploma courses are offered by non-university providers such as TAFENSW. Be extremely careful if you are considering a “diploma” course or similar offered by a private post secondary provider. There are many of these around, and in my view, the majority are of questionable ethical and educational practice.

A diploma course can take between one and two years of study to complete. It will often provide a pathway to university study, generally with advanced standing, towards the award of a degree. This of course, assumes that there is a high level of compatibility between the content of the diploma course and that of the relevant degree program.

Some universities also offer graduate diploma programs. Entry to a graduate diploma program requires the prior completion of an undergraduate university degree.

5. Bridging courses: If the course to which you eventually accept an offer states Chemistry (or Physics or Mathematics, for example) as assumed knowledge, and you have not studied that subject at HSC level, I would encourage you to undertake a bridging course over the summer vacation prior to commencing your university studies.

Many of the universities offer these courses at a relatively small cost over a period of two to three weeks. There will be other options also. 

Good luck as you embark upon the next stage.

Gordon Doyle, Careers Advisor        0412 540 154

Professional member:  Careers Advisers Association of New South Wales,  Australian Association for Psychological Type,  Australian Training Officers Association

CAANSW Hilary Bolin Award for Outstanding Contribution to Career Education

CAANSW 2018 Margaret Gambley Award

Related Posts:

How to Make Career Decisions at the End of Secondary School

Career Planning in Secondary School: Start Early & Keep Options Open

After the NSW Higher School Certificate - What's next?

5 Common Causes of Anxiety About Transitioning from School



Topics: Careers

      Subscribe to Email Updates

      Recent Posts

      LearnFast Blog

      All about Neuroscience & Learning

      Are you interested in trends in learning, learning technology, education, neuroscience, or treatments for learning difficulties – including auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, attention, autism and others?

      Do you have children or students you want to help achieve more from their education?

      Does literacy enhancement or English as a Second Language interest you?

      Find out what’s happening on these and other topics related to neuroscience and learning, read comments on the latest research, and join the discussions.