There s a lot to think about when making the decision to return to study what you ll study, where you ll do it and how you ll fit your studies into your schedule are just a few examples. So how do you sort through your options?
- Look into course options carefully:
Is it a VET qualification you re considering, such as a certificate or diploma, or are you thinking about studying at degree level? This all depends on your previous qualifications and on those needed for the career you want to pursue. In some fields, like engineering, students complete the same set of core subjects no matter where they study. Courses vary widely in other fields, so reading course descriptions is vital. Look at subject outlines to see what you ll be studying, how your course can be customised with electives or specialisations, and if there are any extra opportunities within the course (such as a student exchange opportunity).
- Investigate entry requirements:
Like courses, entry requirements vary greatly and require thorough research. Check whether the course you are considering has mainly academic requirements (such as your previous qualifications or assumed knowledge ) or if entry is dependent on non-academic criteria such as submitting a portfolio or attending an audition or interview. Having relevant work experience under your belt can also work in favour as it can be used to substitute academic requirements. In some courses, you may be expected to put together a written statement of your intentions why you re applying for the course, what your career goals are and how the course will help you achieve them. If you ve finished school in the last few years, check with the institution if your ATAR or OP will be considered. Investigate the application process too, as applications from mature age students are often taken by direct application rather than through the Tertiary Admissions Centres (as they are for school leavers).
- Consider the commitment required:
Before selecting a course, think about the level of commitment required. How many years does the course take to complete? Is flexible study an option? Common options include part-time study, online or distance education and mixed-mode study. The latter of these combines modes according to your needs. Block study may also be an option, and usually involves intensive periods of study (such as over a few weekends) rather than stock-standard classes throughout semester. If you re in a hurry to finish your course and get back into the workforce, find out whether you can speed up the process by fast-tracking your course. If you re worried about launching into a full course of study, consider single subject study , which allows you to complete stand-alone subjects as you please (often with credit if you enrol into the corresponding course).
- Research what different institutions can offer you:
The best way to choose an institution is to see what it offers you and how it sets itself apart from others delivering courses in your field. It may be that the institution is known for its practical and industry-oriented courses or has a strong tradition of academia and research, or perhaps there are some extra perks like a paid work placement. As someone who is returning to study, your needs will also be different to those of school leavers. Flexible study options may be necessary if you re balancing study with work or family commitments. Look into support services as well they can make all the difference when you re settling into your studies, and some institutions even tailor their offerings to mature age students (in particular, their social clubs and academic workshops).
For more information about mature age study, see I am returning to study as an undergraduate. Here you will find a helpful FAQ section as well as some guidance through related content on The Good Universities Guide website.