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Uni v College - What's the Difference?

Uni, TAFE, college or gap year? The options for the next step of your educational journey can be varied and confusing – especially if you’re feeling the pressure to pick a future career at the tender age of 18. Never fear! Here’s a rough guide to help you navigate your way through the tricky terrain of tertiary education.

 

University

How to apply:

Through the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) or Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC).

Requirement:

ATAR – each course has a different minimum entry mark based on your HSC or VCE result and some require additional material – For example, something like medicine requires an ATAR of roughly 95 (depending on the Uni) plus interviews, UMAT tests, a portfolio, written application…the list goes on

What to expect:

Big lecture-style teaching in auditoriums, smaller tutorials, labs, trecks across huge campuses where your library might be in one building, and your classroom in a totally different one ages away, assignments, three or four years of study for an undergraduate (Bachelor) course - and more, if you consider going on to do a Postgraduate, such as Master Degrees and PhDs.

What Universities lack in smaller, personal touches, they make up for with the opportunity for social engagement. The lectures are huge, filled with students, meaning personal interaction with lecturers can be limited. Smaller tutorials with your peers may give you more of a chance to speak with your tutors, but if you prefer learning from books and overheads, and aren’t so bothered if a lecturer doesn’t know your name, then Uni just might be the way to go for you.

Although the social aspects of education aren’t a sole reason to choose one tertiary institute over another, Universities come with the chance for on-campus accommodation, and numerous societies and groups to join. From obscure trivia groups, to theatrical troupes, to boot camp enthusiasts; it’s guaranteed there will be at least one group or activity to entice you into the more social side of learning.

 

TAFE:

How to apply:

Enrol via TAFE – there is no UAC involvement.

Requirement:

HSC, or Year 10 Certificate with additional conditions, such as proof of experience, and paid or voluntary full or part-time work. (Some courses may have additional entry requirements).

What to expect:

Average two years per course, practical learning with an emphasis on workplace learning and apprenticeships. Courses can also be completed online.

Unlike Uni, TAFE courses are more hands on, and take a more practical approach to learning. It can be useful on its own to learn the skills necessary for careers in animal care, construction, automotive repairs, carpentry, photography, engineering, plumbing – the list is huge. There is also the pathways option, which can assist in gaining admission to a university. There is some theory based learning, but TAFE is largely focused on giving you the skills to do the job from day one.

 

Private Colleges:

How to apply:

In New South Wales, you can apply directly to the College which lessens the burden of achieving a high ATAR, as most private colleges offer flexible pathways into your chosen degree; or you can easily apply through UAC. In Victoria if you are going through VTAC, make sure you preference the course number 1 for peace of mind and to secure your offer! Or if your chosen college is not in VTAC, you can also apply directly.

Requirement:

Requirements vary depending on the college. Like TAFE, private colleges are much more flexible with their entry requirements, with less of an emphasis on ATAR results, and more focus on individual achievements and experience relevant to your chosen course.

What to expect:

Small class sizes taught by working professionals in their chosen industry, along with specialised courses that allow for upskilling and broadening of potential career opportunities. You can gain the same level of qualification as you would at university in a more tailored manner that is unique to each individual’s goals. Private colleges often operate different study periods, meaning you get out into the world of work quicker; this generally means there is also chance for more one-on-one time with your tutors, with others focusing equally on practice and theory.

 

Gap Year:

How to apply:

Depends on what you plan to do!

Requirement:

A dire need for a break after 13 years of study (hey, Kindergarten counts); a thirst to discover more about yourself and your place in the world without deadlines and assessments; curiosity.

What to expect:

The unexpected! A very expected introduction to adult life via full-time employment.

Gap years can come in the form of taking a year to work, saving some pennies and gaining some vital life experience at the same time (experience that could count to a Uni application further down the track), or heading overseas to volunteer, or simply see the world. It’s a good time to take a breath after the stress of the HSC and spend some time thinking about where you want to go from here and what you want to do. Maybe you didn’t get the result you wanted for that course, or maybe you’re not completely sure what career interests you more. Gap years are the perfect time to get immersed in the real world, without expectations from teachers, parents, or even yourself.

 

When it comes down to it, the real difference between all these options is how you prefer to learn (theory, practical, or life experience), how you’ll benefit from the opportunities offered, and how best they can prepare you for your future in your chosen career. At Macleay College, we find that a lot of our students discover that university just isn't for them - but that they didn't know there were any other options, until they found Macleay.
Make sure you do your research and work out what is important to you. Is it the opportunity to do lots of extra-curricular activities? To not have the pressure of a super high ATAR? Or to kick start your career with great networking opportunities and work experience? It's up to you! Check out some information and open days for more info and to see which campus and institution is a better fit for you!

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