The difference between high school and tertiary study

Starting at university after year 12 can be daunting

There is a whole new set of acronyms to get their head around, a lot of distractions accompanying their new-found independence and new ways of learning. We’ve summed up the most important changes to keep in mind, to help you give your teenager the best advice to give them a head start into the next chapter of their life.

1. Independence

The first major difference to school and university is that students are required to independently learn. There won’t be calls to parents for not attending lectures or chasing homework and assignments. Staying on top of subject assessments will be completely up to students to manage, and with new found distractions of university life, part-time jobs, and social activities, time management becomes increasingly important.

2. Contact hours

Whilst the time spent in class may vary from course to course, the average student spends around 12 – 20 hours a week at uni or Tafe: this could mean that students are there for 2 or 3 days of the week! Even though students may have to juggle a new part-time job and social commitments, it can feel like a blessing having so much flexibility, compared to the structured timetables of most secondary schools. Classes generally start closer to March, and finishing in November/early December, and don’t forget mid-semester and semester breaks, so there’s plenty of time for R&R in the extended breaks.

3. Adulting

Turning 18 is great. Your teenagers can vote, work, drive, go out to bars and clubs, move out, or travel while still being a full-time student. This also means they’ll probably have a lot more responsibilities with managing costs and may find themselves having to learn the difficult art of budgeting their life.

Students studying sharing a laptop

Support for students

Most universities, including RMIT, offer support students with accommodation, financial advice, mental health support, and study and time management advice. 

4. Travel

University with a great time to take advantage of al of the travel opportunities.  There are dozens of different exchanges, internships and study tour programs all across Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania and North and South America.

RMIT offers opportunities where your teenager could be trekking through Vietnam’s rice fields on an exchange, taking a fashion intensive class at LIM College in New York, or immersing themselves in the beauty of Mexico to learn Spanish. FYI these study tours and exchanges all count towards their study credit, and there’s a lot of loans and scholarships available.

5. Clubs and societies

Sure, high schools have sports teams and a few clubs in high school, but your teenager hasn’t seen anything until they’re at university or TAFE. The Games, Manga and Anime club, Snow Sports club, RMIT Movie Club, Funkadelics club and French club (for lovers of all things French) are just a handful of our favourite RMIT clubs and societies, out of the 50+ clubs you can join to meet a bunch of awesome like-minded people.

6. Hundreds of new faces

Chances are that your teenager won’t be going to the same institution as most people from their secondary school. Whether you’re thinking “thank god” or feeling anxious, they now have the opportunity of meeting hundreds of new people from completely different backgrounds, who don't know anyone either. And this is great, because uni or Tafe friends might be some of the best they make.

Looking for more information?

There's so much to learn about your teen starting their first year of uni or VE.

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torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of country

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. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer