My name is Bridie and I am 19. I graduated year 12 in 2021, then went on to complete a year of study for a Bachelor of Politics & International Relations/Bachelor of Communications & Media in 2022.
This year, I made the choice to defer my studies to take six months of academic leave to work full-time, and have now made a degree change to Bachelor of Primary Teaching at a different university.
This was, of course, a huge decision, and here I will guide you along my journey and offer some advice for anyone interested in university transfer, deferred studies, course switches and/or altering their academic path.
I have found that there is more flexibility in study than I thought!
When did you realise it was time to change your degree and course?
Mid-way through 2022 I began working as a classroom support assistant in primary schools. I had been struggling with the decision whether to pursue teaching and education or a journalism path for a few years, and after starting work in the teaching field, I knew I would face one of two outcomes: either I would realise teaching was for me, or it wasn’t.
I soon realised the former had won out! After experiencing first-hand the classroom environment, and watching the efforts of the inspiring, hard-working teachers around me, I became newly motivated to make the switch. Starting a new job actually inspired and motivated my degree and course changes!
Were you nervous about your decision to switch courses?
I found that I was much more passionate and excited by my work than by my university studies, despite the interest I did still hold in my current degree/s. However, I did find overlap between the two fields: strong writing focus, connection with people, etc.
I also possessed new knowledge of the practical reality and working world of teaching, and I enjoyed and became even more passionate about it, which told me it was time to change my tertiary study choices.
This made my decision-making process a lot more clear-cut and easy to navigate, with academic direction seeming less daunting and more exciting.
How did you build your confidence during this transition?
I valued particularly the advice and insight provided by the teachers I worked with, who held field-specific knowledge, and my friends, who knew me, my strengths and my interests; this was integral to my confidence-building. With encouragement and validation offered from people I trusted and looked up to, I grew more ready and keen to make the big change.
I also reflected on the satisfaction and drive I found through my work and envisioned how this would translate to my uni work if I went through with the transition, in contrast to the lack of motivation I felt for my current workload.
I was bolstered by the people around me’s reactions and response to the possible transition, as they were overwhelmingly positive, encouraging and supportive, which helped me feel more sure about my decision and highlighted the support network I had access to.
Which support services did you utilise to make your decision to change courses and universities?
Both informal and formal support services were integral to my decision-making process. When deferring and ‘pausing’ my old degree, I used my university’s support centre and had a meeting with a faculty adviser about my options; they helped me through the logistical elements of my transition.
As for the move, I used the more informal support service of the teachers at my workplace, who had completed the degree I wanted to switch to, at a range of different universities. This helped me to make my decision about which university I would choose, as I had access to a range of informed perspectives and opinions.
What factors did you consider when choosing a university, after experiencing a year at one?
In my first year of tertiary study, I attended quite a large university, which I found had – in my personal experience – strengths and weaknesses.
I had come from a fairly tight-knit high school community, so the scale of my previous university and my degree cohort was, honestly, a bit of a struggle. It felt more impersonal and isolating than I was used to. I did appreciate the independence and variety, but I also wished for more connection and community atmosphere that I had easy access to at my old university.
So when I made the decision to switch universities, size was an influential factor, and I ended up at a much smaller, more intimate institution. My chosen university also specialised in and was widely known for the degree I was changing to.
I did value my previous university’s emphasis on practical experience-based learning of theory-heavy content, so this was another factor I considered when making my decision. I also sought out current student experiences of the school I was transitioning to.
Did you explore alternative learning methods like remote, distance, hybrid or online learning?
I am lucky to live in Canberra, so I had a variety of close, accessible universities to choose from, so I was not restricted to remote or online learning. Hence, I solely considered in-person education.
While I do value self-directed and independent work and learning, I found that in-person learning suits my academic style and personality better. I have always been extroverted and thrive off collaboration, connection and engaging with my peers.
Teaching as a degree matches this, and I feel it is conveyed more effectively when you are in a classroom, communicating and connecting.
I also completed a significant portion of my year 11 and 12 years in lockdown through remote learning, so I had honestly had more than my fill of it by the end of those two years! It also helps with meeting new friends and building networks.
How will your previous studies influence your approach to this new course?
I think the communication skills I gained from my previous studies will translate well in my teaching degree, as words, both verbal and written, are such an integral part of a career in education.
Also, despite the different subject area, last year provided me with a great learning experience in terms of university course-structure and experience – I won’t be going in blind this time!
I know how important time management and self-direction will be, as well as being proactive with both my studies and making connections with people.
My approach will be one of commitment and passion, too, rather than just the classic ‘Ps get degrees’ mindset.
I will also have to undertake placements as part of this new course, so the work experience element of my previous degree will definitely be valuable in my approach to those.
How did finances play a role in your decision-making, whether or not to change degrees?
The financial aspect did play a significant role in my decision! I had accrued quite a bit of HECs for the units I completed last year, so I did have to fight against the feeling that by changing educational paths I would be ‘wasting’ that money that I would obviously have to still pay off later.
However, I reacted to this by seeking out transferable credit options for my new degree so I could still ‘count’ those previous units. Luckily, I am able to also apply my experience at work, being highly relevant to my study field, for credit towards my degree.
I also feel that there is no learning (however expensive!) that is ever truly wasted; I have gained great insight and knowledge from my degree last year that I will be able to apply and use in multiple areas of my life.
What final advice do you have for people who are about to enrol into a university course, or those considering deferring their studies, changing courses, transferring to another institution or returning to study?
You are the most important factor in your university decisions! Don’t prioritise external opinions, expectations or perceptions over what you want to do.
If you don’t feel entirely ready or sure, take your time and consider your options.
Also, you are never 100 per cent locked into anything! University and life are so incredibly flexible; you can change your mind at any point, and your prior experience will help you wherever you go. There is no shame in deferring or being unsure – this just shows you take your decision-making and career journey seriously enough to continually reflect and adapt.
If you do defer, take the time to work out what you are interested in, what your strengths and weaknesses are and what you are passionate about, whether that be through work, hobbies, etc.
There is no rush or ticking clock.