University or TAFE?

If you’re in Year 10, it’s time to start thinking about your options for future study.

Big decisions

Now you’re in Year 10 and the big question has suddenly become more important: what are you going to do when you leave school? It might be three years away, but Year 10 is the time to start exploring your answer to this question, and to make subject choices that will affect your career future.

Sometimes university is seen as the best option for everyone after Year 12, but that doesn’t account for people’s different interests and personalities – or the employment market. 

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Deciding whether to go to university or TAFE should be based on your passions and hopes for the future. And, while family and friends can help in your further study choices, you must decide what’s best for you.

“If you are looking to learn a trade, TAFE is probably the best option,” said Cody Moore, a Student Recruitment Officer at RMIT University, “[but] if you want to be, for example, a scientist, you will need to go to uni and study for longer.”

If you like to be hands-on and practical – and prefer a supportive learning environment – then TAFE has you covered. But if you like to deep dive into research, can self-motivate and enjoy independent learning, then university would probably be more your style.

“Uni will generally have more theory in classes, and less hours on campus,” said Annika Forstmanis, also an RMIT Student Recruitment Officer. “TAFE involves more face-to-face class time, yet less theory.”

Pathways to success

RMIT offers both university and TAFE courses, and either can lead to personally and financially rewarding careers.

Even if you score a high ATAR, that doesn’t necessarily mean university is the right path for you, and if you score a low ATAR, that doesn’t mean TAFE is your only option.

“There’s no such thing as ‘wasting’ ATAR points,” said Ms Moore, adding that students who obtain high ATARs should be motivated by what interests them rather than any pressure to study certain courses based on what their ATAR allows them.

If you score a lower ATAR, that doesn’t always mean you are limited to TAFE for your further study. Some students start at TAFE and then pathway to a university Degree after completing a Diploma or Advanced Diploma. And, likewise, some TAFE students start at university and find the theory and bookwork doesn’t suit their practical skills and interests.

“What is considered a ‘low’ ATAR changes depending on what university you look at,” said Ms Forstmanis. “Different universities have different entry scores for a range of courses, so it is always worth looking around at all the available options,” she added, noting that the RMIT ATAR course finder is a helpful tool for finding out what ATAR scores are relevant for various university courses.

Start your search

Year 10 is the time to start looking at the TAFE or university courses you might be interested in so you can get a sense of the subjects you need to study in your final two years at secondary school. That bit of research will be vital in helping you decide if you should choose VCE or VCAL subjects to set you up for your future plans.

“Select the right subjects to keep all relevant doors open,” is the advice from Ms Moore. “And take every opportunity you can to visit university or TAFE campuses, talk to staff and current students, so you make sure you decide what is the best option for you.”The answer may be something you’re still figuring out or you may know exactly where you’re going.

While it may seem light years away, VCE is just around the corner for Year 10 students. This year is an important step towards VCE preparation and part of that is knowing which subjects to select.

Your future is important and you want it to go to plan, even if you’re not sure exactly what that plan is. Soon you’ll be asked which subjects you would like to study next year and it’s likely these subjects will influence what you study in Year 12 and beyond.

Before making your subject choices, take the time to consider a few factors that could make the task easier.

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.