There are lots of reasons students change their university course preferences. Some don’t get the ATAR they were expecting, others take a gap year and have a change of heart. We spoke to three students who made a switch on the way to careers in their chosen fields and found that change really can be as good as a holiday.
Ellen Zhang was devastated when she missed out on her first two preferences for optometry degrees with an ATAR score 0.5 points less than required. But she decided to accept the offer she received for her third preference, a science/teaching combined course at Deakin University. ‘I studied that for a year. I really enjoyed my course and with the high marks I was receiving I thought I’d apply to change to optometry,’ Ellen recalls. It was late 2015 and Ellen, now 20, contacted Deakin’s School of Medicine to see what was required to get in to optometry. ‘They told me I needed a high distinction average,’ Ellen says. Given she’d worked so hard in her first year, Ellen put in an application and was accepted into what had originally been her first preference, five days later.
But having to take a slightly different path had its advantages. ‘It allowed me to settle in to university coursework and understand the requirements and study load needed to do well,’ Ellen explains. This year, while studying optometry, Ellen has got involved with various clubs and embraced the full university experience. In addition, Ellen completed some optometry units while studying science/teaching, so she’s received credits and is on track to begin her dream career shortly after she otherwise would have.
Growing up on a farm, surrounded by animals and even breeding them himself, Tom Rochford was sure he wanted to work in the field of veterinary science. So, he allocated his university course preferences accordingly. But in 2013, after completing VCE, he decided to take a gap year so that he could save enough money to live away from home when he started studying. He also wanted to see Europe. ‘My change in course preferences progressed over a period of time. I found my values and beliefs solidified over the year and decided that veterinary science was not the right course for me to study,’ he says. Instead, Tom began to lean towards a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Laws at Deakin University, which was on his original list of preferences.
'My change in course preferences progressed over a period of time. I found my values and beliefs solidified over the year and decided that veterinary science was not the right course for me to study.'
Deakin University student
While travelling in Europe Tom made contact with Deakin and accepted his deferred offer. He also applied for residential accommodation at Deakin during the process. Tom gives this advice to students who might be unsure of which course offer to accept: ‘Not everyone will know what they want to do straight away, nor do you need to know straight away. It is important to know that you have time.’
Tenille Roberts was keen to pursue a career as a teacher and submitted her initial course preference list accordingly. ‘Originally I had courses from lots of universities for primary school teaching,’ she says. But an unexpected ATAR resulted in her refining her preferences. ‘I changed my preferences because my ATAR was not as high as I thought it would be, so I put in more courses as a back-up plan.’ Tenille stuck with her goal to get in to teaching, listing Deakin’s primary teaching course as her number one preference. But as she ultimately ‘really wanted to get in to Deakin’, she took the advice she received from Deakin staff at an event during the Change of Preference period to maximise her options. She included five other Deakin courses in areas ranging from arts to psychology to forensic science, as well as two TAFE courses that could have acted as pathways to her chosen teaching course. In the end, Tenille received and accepted an offer for her first preference – Deakin’s Bachelor of Education (Primary) – and hasn’t looked back.
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