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How to get into university without Year 12

By Jana Angeles

Whether you made the decision to leave high school because you wanted to get into the workforce early, or you experienced circumstances which drove you to exit your HSC studies almost immediately, you may think that your ticket to university has been taken away from you. 

While you may think like this, it’s possible to get into university without Year 12 when you consider other pathways that will help secure a place into your dream degree. Even if you think the prospect of studying may be a daunting idea, it’s still encouraged to take the challenge so that you can make moves when it comes to your career. 

Why aren’t some people completing Year 12?

  1. Taking care of an ill family member.
  2. Family is unable to pay for school fees.
  3. Not knowing what to do career-wise.
In 2015, it was reported on the ABC that a study found that 1 in 4 Australian students dropout of high school. This research was done by Melbourne’s Mitchell Institute and their findings also stated that completion rates were much worse in remote and economically-disadvantaged areas. 

With that being said, it may be a combination of economic and lifestyle factors which prevent a student from completing their Year 12 studies. These can include:

1. Taking care of an ill family member.

Students may have suddenly had one of their immediate family members falling ill. Depending on the severity of their illness, it may mean pitching in and getting a job to contribute money towards the cost of the medical bills or other ongoing expenses. 

They may also need to take on more responsibilities around the household, especially in the scenario where a parent is ill. Depending on the needs of the family, it may mean taking on full-time work immediately.

2. Family is unable to pay for school fees.

not saving money concept

With increased competition existing in the job economy, some companies may be laying off employees, leaving families struggling to get by when it comes to paying off the essential costs of food, housing and utility bills. It’s important to recognise that there are students out there who are forced to leave school only because their family is going through financial hardship and the student is required to take on full-time work to help support them. 

3. Not knowing what to do career-wise.

Being so young, students can often feel the pressure from their friends and family that they should have an idea of what they want to do as a career. However, there is still a stigma associated with taking a gap year or getting into the workforce immediately before deciding on what job you want to do for the long-term. Having this “majority rules” mentality can act as a drawback rather than a benefit with some deciding that finishing high school is not for them.

Take Anna for example. In an interview with the ABC, she shares why she decided to discontinue her studies in Year 11.

"I just couldn't do it anymore, being at a mainstream school, it was getting too hard, it wasn't the help I needed and whatnot,” she continues.

"It was more because I was still too young (she was 16 at the time) and I had no idea where I wanted to go in any pathways or future-wise and I needed that extra help."

From there, she continued to work as a cashier at the supermarket until she was 19 and came to the conclusion that she needed to finish off Year 12, so she returned to a specialised school that helps students complete a similar qualification to their high school studies. Anna revealed that her decision of leaving high school made her happier in keeping her options open.

Even if you identify as a high school drop out, it’s important to remember that some of the most successful business people, such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, still built rewarding careers despite not completing school (that’s not to say education isn’t important, they’re just exceptions to the rule). Exiting school earlier should not be seen as a failure but an opportunity to make a comeback when it comes to your studies.

There are still other pathways to consider that could help improve your chances of securing a place at university, even if you haven’t completed Year 12.

4 ways to get into university without year 12

  1. Build experience through volunteering.
  2. Study a VET course.
  3. Gain transferable skills.

1. Build experience through volunteering.

Volunteering is a great way to gain new skills and network with other people, especially if there is significant competition in your chosen industry. 

Not only is it an opportunity to connect with people authentically, you’ll most likely be receiving on-the-job training and developing industry-specific skills that are highly regarded by future employers. It also gives you the opportunity to expand your soft skills such as working in a team, communication and problem-solving. 

While there is no monetary benefit from volunteering, it’s an opportunity for those who haven’t finished Year 12 to build on relevant work experience they can add on their resume. They can then discuss these opportunities in a job interview, which can highlight their value in a relevant role.

Another great benefit of getting the best of both worlds when it comes to volunteering is to also study a course as well. Most of Upskilled’s community services courses have a compulsory work placement component and it can be beneficial to combine both practical and theory together. 

In most cases, volunteering opens up the opportunity for you to travel and establish key networks overseas, giving you the chance to live abroad and immerse yourself in the culture offered in another country. 

2. Study a VET course.

students studying

If you’re already aware that you don't have enough credentials that will help you gain entry to your desired university course, it’s time to consider your option of undertaking a VET course. While it’s no shiny bachelor’s degree, it may be key in helping you gain relevant skills that will help prepare for further study should you decide to undertake a degree at a university

One of the major benefits of studying with Upskilled is that many of the courses offered through the RTO have no, or very general entry requirements for students. However, if you’re looking into more higher-level qualifications such as a diploma, you may need relevant work experience to gain entry in these courses, especially when it comes to a more specialised field like information technology

Studying a VET course may suit you better if you haven’t completed Year 12 and desire to study something more specific that aligns with your career goals, which can then potentially help you get into your desired course at your chosen university. 

For example, you may not have the industry knowledge and skills in business but are interested in gaining these through relevant qualifications that may help you secure a place in a Bachelor of Business. 

3. Gain transferable skills.

Transferable skills are more important than you think and they can be used in any professional setting. Most high school students tend to work in hospitality and retail since these sectors offer more casual and part-time positions. They’re also highly valued industries that provide immense growth in developing soft skills, which can be used in future job roles

A list of transferable skills you can gain from simply working a retail job include:
  • Teamwork: working in the retail industry requires you to collaborate with other people. Since you will be working in high-pressure environments, being able to work with other people is important and sometimes necessary to do your job effectively.
  • Attention to detail: you’ll most likely be working with numbers, especially if you work at the cash registers which operate on EFTPOS. Having a strong attention to detail is a must, especially since most retail workers are operating machines to process transactions.
  • Time management: not only will you be working with customers face-to-face but you may be needed for other ad-hoc tasks, which means that managing your time effectively is a must. For example, you may be working at a supermarket and part of your job is to fill up shelves when a product is low in stock, or escalating a customer complaint to your manager while also resuming your essential duties as a retail worker. 
  • Interpersonal skills: being able to communicate effectively and at the same time being personable is a way to establish rapport with customers. This is an essential skill in retail and something that can be applied in your future job roles.
If you didn’t complete Year 12 but happen to work in an industry where you’ve gained transferable skills, this could count towards as work experience being relevant to your chosen degree as this may count as RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning), which can then reduce the time it takes to complete your chosen degree.

Study options to consider outside of university 

  1. Studying a nationally-recognised qualification.
  2. Undertake a short course.
  3. Consider doing a traineeship. 
Even if you weren't able to complete your Year 12 studies due to circumstances beyond your control, it's still possible to gain the skills you need for your desired career outcome. Depending on the industry you're looking to work in, you may not even need to undertake further studies at university if the only minimum education requirement you need is a diploma or certificate. 

Below are some suggested study options if you're looking to further develop your skills and knowledge that's outside of the traditional university pathway.

1. Studying a nationally-recognised qualification.

Upskilled has a great range of nationally-recognised qualifications across business, community services and IT. With courses being delivered online, this can help you balance both work and personal priorities as well. As VET courses generally aim to provide you with job-ready skills, you'll have a mix of both practical and theoretical assessments. The practical parts of the course depend on what you're studying.

For example, if you study a community services course, you may need to undertake work placement to fulfil the requirements of your qualification, or you may need to submit a role-playing task if you're studying business. 

2. Undertake a short course.

Short courses are a great way to learn new skills quickly if you're someone that wants to have a key grasp of specific skills in a shorter time frame. Upskilled has plenty of short courses in the social media marketing field, which could be a great starting point if you're intending on pursuing the role as a social media manager or similar. 

3. Consider doing a traineeship. 

Traineeships are a good way to learn new skills on-the-job while also studying a relevant qualification at the same time. If you have the opportunity to undertake a traineeship with your current employer, make a case on how it can benefit the company or organisation. This will also help you assess what skills and knowledge you need to truly thrive in your current role.

Traineeships are also highly practical and education costs are generally covered by the employer. Discuss your options with your manager and see if there are any government-funding options you may be eligible for if you're intending on doing a traineeship. 

Upskilled offers online courses in some of Australia’s most in-demand industries. With our flexible online delivery, you can balance both work and your studies without compromising your current schedule. If you’re ready to hit the books, get in touch with one of Upskilled’s education consultants on 1300 009 924 and upskill for the career you love today. 

Editor's note: This article was originally published in August 2019. Content has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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