The upside of travelling before starting university

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For many Year 12 students the obvious first step on the path to independence is attending university. But for others, travelling the world calls first. Ella Richards, 23, was encouraged to travel and get to know herself and what she really wanted out of life before settling on a university course. She says she’s better for waiting, even if that did mean taking a different pathway to other members of her graduating class.

Pen down, passport packed

Ella worked hard in Year 12 and thought she wanted to be a physiotherapist. But even achieving an ATAR of 93.60 wasn’t enough to help her get into her dream course. Fortunately, Ella was encouraged to step back and looked at the bigger picture. ‘My parents kept telling me you don’t know what to do when you’re 18,’ Ella recalls. She found herself agreeing with them and deferring the offer she’d received for a science degree. ‘I worked and travelled instead,’ she explains and says it was the best thing she could have done. ‘I was so naive beforehand. I changed so much,’ she adds. But on returning to Melbourne, Ella spoke to a career adviser and realised her initial offer had lapsed and she needed to look at alternative options for getting into university.

Choosing a path with renewed perspective

A trip to see a physiotherapist confirmed that it wasn’t the sort of role Ella wanted. After meeting some students who’d studied commerce, she began to consider this instead. Ella enrolled in a Diploma of Commerce at Deakin College, which provided the opportunity to transition into a related university course, and gave her an understanding of the foundations of commerce and its associated fields. ‘When I studied business law, I realised how much I love law,’ Ella says. She’s now part of Deakin’s law society, which has enabled her to visit law firms and meet partners.

'I’m doing fewer subjects because I’m in no rush. A lot of my friends that went straight into university and into a job are burnt out. They haven’t travelled yet.'

Ella Richards,
Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws student, Deakin University

Avoiding rush hour

Although Ella is now confident of the path she’s chosen, she isn’t in a hurry to complete the Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws that she transferred into after completing the diploma. ‘I’m doing fewer subjects because I’m in no rush,’ she explains, adding, ‘A lot of my friends that went straight into university and into a job are burnt out. They haven’t travelled yet.’

She encourages other students not to place too much pressure on the ATAR and the degree because there are other ways to establish a career. By the time Ella started commerce, she knew she really wanted to be there and thrived because she was truly ready. ‘In school they make it seem like the choices are so finite and that one score will determine the rest of your life. It forces people to make the wrong decisions,’ she concludes.

Looking for alternative ways to get into university? Consider the range of pathways available to you.

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