Contemplating life after school: what you need to know about university

This article was sponsored by The University of Newcastle

Teenage heads nodded around the globe at MTV cartoon outcast Daria's deadpan realisation that her goal in life is 'to not wake up at 40 with the bitter realisation that I've wasted my life on a job I hate because I was forced to decide on a career in my teens'. 

Sometimes it feels like there's a growing pressure that starts as early as childhood to know what we're going to be when we're older. This pressure multiplies tenfold when you're seventeen and suddenly need to be thinking about university. 

But most adults look back on university as some of the best years in their lifetime. Suddenly you're not wading through the day's subjects waiting for your favourite class - or for hometime. You're not dealing with disruptive fellow students who don't want to be in class. 

At university, you're being treated like an adult. You're studying something that actually interests you and is going to be useful to you in later life, unlike algebra or the finer rules of grammar. And you're surrounded by people who genuinely care about the same stuff you do. 

But how do you know what to study? What about how to get in - and where to go? Lucky there are some easy ways to work it out. 

Do your research

Face it: the world is changing. Entirely new jobs are popping up, while old ones seem to be disappearing completely. It can be hard to know which job is the right one for you, but a great place to start is working out what field you're most interested in. 

Work out which of your subjects were your favourite at school, like geography, or art. Maybe you didn't have any favourites, but you always found maths kind of a breeze. Look for these signs. 

Also consider what you like doing outside of school, like writing code, or building things. What we do when we don't have to do anything can be very telling about our passions. 

Once you've got a list of things you're interested in, consider what careers match up with them. Ask your parents, teachers and even older siblings for advice on potential career paths if you're feeling lost or confused. 

Then it's time to consult the program plans to match the degree to the job. Future Students Team Lead at the University of Newcastle (UON) Michelle Hufton says start with the study areas like to narrow down your preferences.

“Make sure you have a plan B,” Michelle recommends.

“Use the program plans to pick some back up degrees with varying ATARs and similar first year subjects. And, if you can’t decide on just one, you may have the option to combine degrees and end up with two qualifications.”

Plan your way in 

You've developed callouses on your fingers from writing endless essays and sweated out more exam papers than you'd like to count. Does it really all come down to your mark? Not necessarily. 

There are lots of different ways to gain entry university apart from your marks, and regional HSC students can be entitled to bonus points and entry schemes. 

“You don't need to apply for this bonus – apply for your preferred degrees through the Universities Admission Centre (UAC) and the points are automatically added to your rank,” Michelle said.

“And if you don't think you have the right marks and qualifications to get in, you can always complete our alternate entry paths like the University of Newcastle’s Newstep and Open Foundation programs.”

UON's alternative entry paths are for motivated and talented students, regardless of their background or circumstances, not just to gain entry, but to help thrive in their field of study. 

Prospective students who aren't applying straight from school can also look at their entry options and check any credit they may be able to get. 

Explore scholarship opportunities

Michelle recommends looking into any relevant scholarships that may help manage the costs of studying for you. 

“We offer scholarships ranging from $500 right through to $15,000 per year. Scholarships can help you with all kinds of costs including textbooks, fees, accommodation and living expenses. 

“While many consider academic performance, we also award scholarships for travel, sport, specific degrees, and to Indigenous students. Many also offer the opportunity to meet with the donor and undertake internships and vacation work.”

Learn more about your university

Wondering about whether you should move for university? Your local university is worth looking into. 

This year, the University of Newcastle entered the top one per cent of universities in the world, ranked by QS World University Rankings. It also has 13 disciplines ranked in the world’s top 200.

“Look into our campus locations, including Newcastle (Callaghan), Newcastle CBD, Central Coast and Port Macquarie, for a better idea of where you will be studying,” says Michelle.

“Our state-of-the-art facilities are part of our engaged approach to learning, which feature programs that integrate study with practical experience, paid employment and research. 

“Our $95m NeW Space, which opened in the Newcastle CBD in July, is providing a unique platform for staff to develop and test ideas that use emerging technologies in teaching and engage students in new and exciting ways.

“You might also want to get a better idea of the fun stuff and what it’s like to be on campus, as well as the support and services available. If you are thinking about relocating to study, why not look at accommodation options?”

Submit your application 

Head to the website and click apply on your preferred degree to check out the application information. You may also want to check that you meet the requirements for Assumed Knowledge and Recommended Studies. 

Many degrees are applied for through the Universities Admission Centre. However, there may be some that you apply direct to the university.

Find out more here.

And most of all, don't sweat it. University is a time full of exploration, growth and fun. Get ready for the first day of the rest of your life. 

This article was sponsored by The University of Newcastle

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