Studying; sometimes it can be difficult to work out which choice is the right choice. What to study, where to study, when to study? Whether you are a school leaver thinking about your future, a parent returning to work or aiming to change your career, there are vast options in multiple industries that you can pursue. When it comes to tertiary education, you want to ensure you choose the right direction and pick the best course available with the best provider. But with so many options available how do you narrow them down?
So, what do you want to do?
At one point, every person will ask themselves the existential question, “what do I want to do next?”. There are many factors involved in choosing a career, such as money, support, stability and enjoyment. Ultimately, the answer will come with time. Listen to your heart more than your head and explore a career in an industry you are passionate about. Nobody knows better what you love and enjoy than you. So, listen to yourself, make your decision and own it.
There are thousands of registered admissions consulting organisations with their own unique takes on their offerings.
There are thousands of registered training organisations with their own unique takes on their offerings. It’s extremely important to weigh up your options from different providers and find out what their focus is. From the moment you open the website or social media of a provider, you will start to gain an understanding of their mission, values and value proposition to you as a prospective student. Does their mission and values resonate with you? Is their value proposition clear? Is all information presented clearly and transparently or is the important information such as fees, payment options hidden away or not even mentioned?
Make sure you check out their “about” section and find out a little more on their background. How long has the provider been around, what’s their history, how well are they known in the industry and what’s their reputation with potential future employers?
When it comes to researching courses, ensure you find out which units are covered and if they will navigate you towards your end goal. Many courses can be offered with completely different electives and focuses; you may find a Diploma of Screen and Media will teach you how to operate cameras and direct movies, but the same course under a different provider will teach you how to apply special effects makeup preparing you to become a Makeup Artist.
These are the important questions you need to get answers for: Is it a nationally recognised course? How long is the course and how many contact hours are there with a qualified trainer versus online self-paced study time? What’s the balance between theory and practical components? How many students in a cohort? How much does the course cost and what is included, are there any hidden costs? Is the campus located nearby (Remember, a flash looking campus does not always mean quality of education)? How supportive is the learning environment, does it fit your individual learning style? What payment plan options are available? What are graduates saying about the course and their experience? What are employers saying about the quality of graduates? What are the job prospects of graduates?
Visit the campus
Once you’ve decided on a course and provider, it is extremely important that you visit the campus on an open day or personal tour prior to enrolling. This will give you a taste of life on campus and allow you to make an informed decision. You should walk onto the campus and be immediately impressed and welcomed with the presentation and friendly demeanor of staff. Walk around and speak with trainers and students, if possible. See what it’s like to study and ask students for their honest opinions. Lead the conversation, go in with a list of questions and make sure you have all of them answered by the time you leave. Don’t shy away from the hard questions.
Visit as many different providers as possible. Compare and see how different providers measure up against each other. This will allow you to better gauge the differences between them and will help you pick the school that makes you feel comfortable and eager to learn. Remember, it’s your life and future career, so you want to pick the provider you believe is best for you.
Money, money, money
Studying and getting qualified can be an expensive investment in your career, so take your time. Make sure that you ask yourself “is this place right for me?” and feel confident in your decision. Costs and payment options are often a deciding factor. Ensure that the provider you have picked will be supportive in their payment options. Perhaps they have state funding available. Do they offer payment plans, or have they partnered with a private student loan provider, such as Study Loans? Find out if they will be able to work with you if your circumstances change and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Be careful when state or federal funding is at play. State governments often provide funding for qualifications on priority skills lists. This is money available to eligible students to contribute towards their tuition fees, reducing the overall cost. It’s money you don’t need to pay back. This is very different to providers offering government loan options such as the old VET FEE-HELP or the new VET Student Loan (VSL) loan scheme, which is money you borrow from the government and you will have to pay back, often with high loan fees attached. All courses have loan caps in place, so you may need to pay additional gap fees out of pocket. Make sure you are absolutely clear how much state funding you may receive, how much government loans or personal loans you can draw on and how much is left for you to pay out of pocket.
Be suspicious if providers offer you gap free training. Often it means their course fees are significantly reduced to match state funding and loan caps to avoid you having to pay gap fees out of pocket. This can be an indicator of a lower quality of education, bigger class sizes and/or overall lower standard of support. Remember, you get what you pay for.
Take the leap!
Once you feel confident with your decision and excited about studying, then it’s time to enrol. Take that leap to learn something new. Most importantly, enjoy it along the way!