Students should be aware of the latest trends in the constantly changing tertiary landscape. What are institutions looking for in prospective students? What skills, experience and qualities are highly regarded? What are tertiary institutions doing to attract the best students?
The good news is that a growing number of TAFE and university courses are considering more than ATAR scores. Interviews, application forms and other forms of assessment are also very important. Many attractive scholarships are being awarded to students who are not necessarily the highest achievers academically. Students need to know which skills and qualities institutions value so that they can prepare ahead of time and work to develop these. Institutions are also seeking to attract good students by making their courses stand out in some way.
Here are just some of the major shifts taking place.
Institutions are incorporating attractive elements into courses
A growing number of tertiary courses are seeking to attract talented students by incorporating attractive elements into their courses such as guaranteed and paid work experience and industry placements. Many institutions now offer specialised units and enrichment activities to make their graduates more employable. Students need to check whether tertiary institutions and specific courses they are applying for incorporate any special features which increase their employability upon graduation.
Students need to consider institution vibe
In choosing a tertiary course, students are choosing far more than a course of study. They are choosing a new ‘home’ for the next three to five plus years. All institutions are seeking to differentiate themselves, to be unique in some way. And they do vary greatly from each other. Students should look beyond reputation and really test the overall ‘fit’ of an institution for their own personalities. Some institutions are quite formal while others are far more relaxed, some are huge while others are much smaller and more welcoming. Some students thrive in the larger settings while others feel lost. Students need to look carefully at all of this rather than blindly following the crowd. It is now very common for institutions to speak about their overall mission statement and their value-add to a young person’s whole life and personal development rather than focussing solely on academic outcomes. Young people are discussing institution ‘feel’ more than ever before.
The ATAR is not the sole consideration in most courses
Increasingly, when selecting students, tertiary institutions are looking at the whole person rather than ATAR scores alone. They want to attract students who are confident, resilient, and able to think and work independently and thrive in new settings. This has come about because we still have an unacceptably high number of tertiary students who do well academically and socially at secondary school but who then drop out of tertiary studies once they are no longer in the protective secondary school environment.
All secondary students should grasp every opportunity to develop independence and build up their communication skills and ability to mix with new people and make friends. Most schools offer students leadership opportunities and leadership training. Participation in extracurricular activities also helps students develop self-confidence and the ability to make new friends. This is essential at the tertiary level.
Part time work and voluntary work are also excellent ways for students to step outside their comfort zone and learn how to interact with a wide range of people in new and challenging situations. This helps them enormously once they step onto an unfamiliar tertiary campus.
Tertiary institutions reward students who are well-rounded
Employers and tertiary institutions are constantly asking Careers Counsellors to tell students how important it is to develop employment, life skills and interpersonal skills. Regardless of the academic success many students enjoy at university, many graduates are failing to obtain the most highly sought after entry level employment positions because they lack essential skills. Just some of these skills and attitudes are:
- the ability to think, problem-solve and make decisions
- the ability to work in a team setting
- communication skills
- emotional intelligence – sensitivity – the ability to get along with others
- a willingness to listen and follow advice and instructions from experienced colleagues
- initiative, persistence and a sound work ethic
All secondary students need to think seriously about which skills they need to acquire or strengthen and then plan practical ways to address this.
Voluntary work is highly considered
Voluntary work deserves another mention. It is highly valued by tertiary selection staff as well as future employers. All students should look for opportunities to complete voluntary work. It looks wonderful on a student’s application for a place in a tertiary course or future employment. More importantly, it gives students priceless memories while helping them gain invaluable insights into themselves, others and life in general.
Deferring is more welcomed than ever before
Most tertiary institutions in most courses, are happy to allow students to defer their offered course for a year before beginning their tertiary studies. This is in recognition of the fact that some students are burnt out after completing their final school exams. Others are not emotionally ready to start tertiary studies or are confused and unsure about a career direction they might enjoy. Parents need to be open to allowing their teenagers to defer because this can be a unique chance to step back, gain invaluable life experience and have the time to clarify career and life goals.
TAFE is a great pathway to university studies
Most universities are giving students significant credit for relevant TAFE studies once they transfer (pathway) into university. Many university websites have information about recognised pathways and credit gained from TAFE to university. All of this demonstrates what Careers Counsellors have known for many years: TAFE courses are of a very high standard and students should no longer reach for the box of tissues if their ATAR score determines that they must begin post-secondary studies at TAFE.
TAFE is become more popular as a first choice
A growing number of students are choosing to begin their post-secondary studies at TAFE even if their ATAR score would allow them to go straight into a university course. TAFE classes are generally smaller than those at most universities and this allows students to find their footing before they are off and running toward success and transferring into university studies.
Community service and leadership are being rewarded
Many university scholarships are now being awarded to students who can demonstrate that they have contributed to their school or wider community as well as having leadership experience. Universities are recognising that all of this helps students develop the independence, confidence and time management skills that will help them succeed at university rather than fall in a heap in the new and unfamiliar setting.
Communication skills are vital
Both employers and tertiary selection staff expect students to be able to hold a conversation and perform well in an interview situation. While at secondary school, students should actively seek opportunities to gain confidence with public speaking and when meeting new people. Being able to confidently hold a conversation with a new person helps students develop the ability to ask for help, directions or advice in a new tertiary setting.
It should be good news for students that tertiary institutions are actively seeking to attract good students by looking at more than their academic scores. The secret is to actively work to acquire the skills and life experience that is highly regarded.