Higher education is highly desirable, but sometimes it's hard to commit to three or more years at university. If you need to boost your skills or keep your options open for your next move, consider using a diploma as a stepping-stone to a degree.
There are a number of reasons why high school students don't go straight from Year 12 to higher education. Occasionally it's the lure of a gap year. Sometimes it is due to indecision about what to do. Often students don't quite get the marks they need. While vocational education and training (VET) may not be able to tempt you from a year abroad, it can certainly address the other two reasons.
Keep your options open
A standard degree takes three years to complete and I can tell you right now that 'standard' is no longer standard as opportunities such as internships and international exchange often push a Bachelor's degree out to four years or more. Then there are the course changes: I've seen students start in a science degree and then transfer to finance and would-be journalists become would-be lawyers.
All this should tell you is that the higher education decisions you make at high school require a lot of commitment and that sometimes, when you've finished Year 12, that commitment doesn't always suit you. What VET does is allow you to commit to a shorter period to achieve a tertiary level qualification.
In a year or less you can complete a Diploma and then decide what to do with it. If you like what you've learnt and would like to pursue higher education, you can use that Diploma to gain credit for the first year of university. You could also use the qualification to secure employment in the industry and acquire valuable work experience while studying.
If it turns out that what you chose is not your thing, then you haven't wasted your time because you still graduate with a qualification. If you'd gone to university instead, you'd learn the same lesson at greater expense but wouldn't have the qualification to show for it.
When your marks fall short
It's common to have your best-laid plans shattered when your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) isn't high enough to get you into your chosen degree. Although there's more to education than university, for those who think a degree is the best route to a dream career VET can provide an alternative pathway into higher education.
Many diploma-level courses articulate into the second year of a degree. That's right, one year doing a Diploma can be equivalent to doing the first year of a degree. The best part is that the entry requirements for VET usually only require that you have finished Year 12. Not that the qualification standard is lower—you still need to do all the assessments and pass the units, after all—but it's one way of making sure a poor ATAR can be redeemed by enthusiasm for a particular area.
Tips to turn your diploma into a degree
- Check that the degree course you want to do has diploma articulation.
- Consider which university you'd like to attend. Often a university will have a special relationship with a particular VET provider so it's best to undertake your diploma with the pre-approved institution. If the university or course information doesn't explicitly state this, contact the enrolments office to ask.
- Ensure the units in your diploma match the ones you need to articulate into the second year of a degree program. Pay particular attention to choosing the right electives, if required.
- Check to see if there are any other requirements. You may need to maintain certain grades, or have a certain amount of work experience before you can enrol.
- Make sure both institutions are aware of your intentions early on as you will need them to co-operate with the paperwork, including providing academic transcripts.
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