Applying to study your bachelors or masters can be daunting. For students transitioning from high school to higher education institutions, it’s easy to make mistakes. You’re maybe only seventeen – how do you know what career to pick for the rest of your life! Plus, aren’t you supposed to be focusing on your final-year exams right now?
Knowing the common pitfalls to avoid when applying for your degree and how to avoid them – could literally alter your future. If you’re in this situation and in the process of applying for your degree, don’t worry – we’ve all been where you are – and we can help. We asked a group of current students, from a range of colleges and higher education institutions, to confess the biggest mistakes they made when they were applying for their degree.
“It’s super important to get advice from other students who have been in your position before. Whether it’s just to ask questions like ‘What do you like most about your higher education institution?’ or ‘What’s something you wish you knew before applying for your degree?’,” advises Michaela Mayes, second Year Bachelor of Business (Marketing) student at the International College of Management, Sydney (ICMS).
“We often only look for advice from parents and our schools, but usually it’s the advice from other students that makes all the difference,”says Michaela.
All bachelors and masters courses are different and sometimes we only look at the title of the course before applying to a specific higher education institution. Without knowing and understanding the content behind a course, students may not find the course to be what they imagined or what they really wanted in terms of subjects or opportunities.
Grace, a second year economics student says, “I originally picked a course without doing any research into the level of difficulty or the choices it would offer me. I was doing a double degree with economics and business analytics.”, she said. After doing some more research and asking other’s for advice, Grace changed to a degree that she enjoyed a lot more – and suited her aspirations better.
Our Advice: When in doubt, go general and you can always specialise later and carry your credits over. You can’t go wrong with a Bachelor of Business for example. Core business subjects are a part of most other courses!
When applying to a higher education institution, think about how and where you will be getting that ‘real-world industry experience’ demanded by your future employers. Will the college or university offer you an internship as a core part of your degree? If it does, how will you be getting that internship? If you’ll be required to tap into your own connections, ask yourself if this is realistic.
“I initially picked a business course at a university that expected us to organise our own internships. And they weren’t a core part of the course either. Because I don’t come from a family with loads of business contacts I had no idea how I’d do that!” This story from Michael, a second year business student, is common. “Now that I am at ICMS, a higher education institution, I am speaking to the Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Team to get interviews with businesses that I’d never normally get connected with.”
Our Advice: When applying for your degree at a specific higher education institution, keep the end goal in mind. Yes, you need a degree – but employers also want to see relevant experience on your CV. Know how you will get this experience before you sign up for any course.
Ella, studying fashion business says,”I did what my parents wanted me to do, instead of what I actually really wanted to do.” Once Ella had the confidence to trust in her own choices, she switched to the course she had really wanted to do in the first place. She’s now thriving, studying an industry she is truly passionate about!
Whilst advice from well-meaning parents (who want what’s best for us) is very important and helpful, it may not always reflect our own goals. In the words of first-year student Samantha, “Above all, be true to you.”
Our Advice: Pick an industry – then a course. Choose an industry you think you can continue to grow and develop in for many years to come. Marketing for example is always evolving can offer career longevity. Entrepreneurship can set you up to run your own business, if you feel that’s the road you’d like head down when you have some business experience.
Applying for your course at a specific higher education institution through Early Entry is a great way for high achieving students to secure a University or College spot, before even sitting their final HSC results. It means your ATAR won’t determine your options and is a more holistic approach to the admissions process.
“I settled for an early offer for the wrong course, instead of looking around more. I dropped that course within a week,” said Michelle, who originally choose a psychology course but has now found her calling and switched to diagnostic radiography.
Our Advice : Early Entry – and a high ATAR ranking too for that matter – is not a gift voucher! Don’t choose a course, or accept an early offer, just because you meet the entry requirements. Remember, your results are not an indication of your level of interest and suitability for a sector.
Every student, no matter if they are planning on applying to study a degree or not, feels the pressure of final exams. It’s this stress that can lead to worrying about whether an ATAR ranking will be high enough for applying for your degree or if a particular subject grade will be impressive enough. Often this stress is unnecessary. Not all institutions admit students based on ATAR – some, like ICMS, look at how well you did in individual subjects and do a personal interview to assess suitability for your chosen course.
“The morning before my first trial exam, I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep and I was up sick all night,” said Michaela. “I was so worried about my overall rankings but thankfully around a month later Issey, a Student Advisor from ICMS, called to tell me I had received an offer! It was such a relief to know I was accepted into my dream college and course before I even had to sit my final exams”.
Our Advice : There are so many ways to achieve your goals. Speak to a Student Advisor to discuss your options about applying for a degree at ICMS.
There are a few options for applying to study at a higher education institution. Most students in New South Wales usually apply via the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) and some of the institutions on UAC, like ICMS, also allow you to apply directly. Whichever way you choose to apply, do it when you are relaxed and have time to go through the application carefully. Don’t do it the night before an exam just because you’ve realised all your friends have already got their offers.
“I heard my friends saying they were all already getting their offers and I panicked. I jumped onto UAC and picked a bunch of preferences. I accidentally made my top preference for a course I didn’t really want to do because it had a high ATAR and I thought I had to try for high. And then that’s the one I got the offer for. I have no idea why I picked that one,” said Cameron, now studying business. “I also incorrectly put down my old school email address, so I never got the emails.”
Some mistakes to watch out for are:
Our Advice: If at all unsure, contact a Student Advisor and have them go through the application form with you in real time.
When applying for your degree, it’s important for students to weigh up the differences between smaller and larger institutions. Whilst both might offer you the same bachelor’s degree, smaller communities are able to offer a more individual approach, for example:
“I chose ICMS because of it’s smaller community, which is similar to my rural home town. There are more opportunities to have one-on-one contact with lecturers and you wouldn’t get at anywhere else” said second year Bachelor of Sports Management student Zac.
Our Advice: Bigger is not always better. Think about what suits your personality. Are you sociable, or do you prefer to fly under the radar? Do you want a traditional old-school “uni “experience, or do you prefer to study online? Do you make friends easily in large groups, or are smaller groups more comfortable for you?
Check out the article below on ‘Why ICMS is different from a university’.