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Transitioning from School

There is no one size fits all approach to post School transition

The role of a Careers Practitioner, approaching the end of a School year, is unlike the role of most other Year 12 teaching staff – I do not focus on end of year exams but rather preparing Year 12 students for the future of what lies beyond the final examination and the transition from School into further study or the workforce.

In a recent article by Professor Duncan Ivison, Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) at the University of Sydney he addressed issues relating to the daunting process of selecting the right University, the right degree. Professor Ivison discussed how “students and their families often focus overwhelmingly on only some of the crucial aspects of choosing the right university, often missing other equally important, but less obvious, issues.”

Selecting the ‘right’ transition post School is relative. What is right for one student will be wrong for another even though they have shared the School experience and completed Year 12 together – not only are the subjects they have undertaken different, so too are their levels of knowledge, motivation and interests.

“Keep things in perspective” – the girls will often hear my catch phrase, something that Professor Ivison articulates well commenting that “there are many ways to the top of the mountain, but the view from the top is the same.”

Many students can express anxiety and nervousness leading into the final push of Year 12. Catastrophising comments such as “If I do not receive a certain ATAR, I will be devastated!” demonstrate the pressures students can place themselves under in the belief that the ATAR defines who they are and their ability.

Whether this is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, is the question. To be honest I think it is both. How do we ensure our girls know that they are more than just an ATAR, and that, as Professor Ivison states, “your life will not be ruined if you don’t get the University degree of your absolute first choice.”

Professor Ivison comments “treat entry scores with extreme caution”– in my final session with our Year 12 students I remind them to be proud of themselves and their achievements, no matter the ATAR they receive. If they can walk away knowing they have tried their best as they rode the rollercoaster of Year 12 then that is all they can ask of themselves.

As a Dean, Professor Ivison says “there was almost nothing more depressing than hearing students being told by their parents or friends not to ‘waste their ATAR’. He says “that is bad advice.” The entry score for universities and their degrees is a function of the number of places available and the number of students who want (or expect to want) to do the degree. It is a supply and demand driven system. Therefore a degree with a lower entry score does not mean it is less prestigious or less rigorous.

I am a strong advocate for universities that look beyond the ATAR, providing students with the opportunity to highlight other aspects of themselves, such as their ongoing community service participation, and their motivations to want to study in a particular area.

Knowledge is power and I encourage all students to research, research and then research some more to help them make their transition choices. All students should dream big but “keep things in perspective” when making post School choices – our Year 12s will always hear me say, “great choice, but what is your back up plan?” Students must shop around, attend open days, speak to as many people as they can about courses, jobs and workplace experiences.

One very important element of the transition from School into further study or the world of work that I feel very strongly about is what Professor Ivison refers to as “remember job-specific skills aren’t everything.” We know the world of work is a constantly changing environment.

For our current Year 12 students many of the jobs they will hold do not yet exist. It is also predicted that young people today will have five to seven major career changes over their lifetime.

With this in mind it is imperative for schools, universities and individual students to nurture and develop strong employability skills that will transfer across industries for future employment success. Employers often make mention the kind of people they are looking for are those able to deal with change, who are perpetual learners, effective communicators, understand context and hold strong ICT skills – an ATAR score alone cannot demonstrate these skill sets.

Finding the right transition after School is unique to the individual. Students must invest time and effort into their transition plans to truly appreciate what they want, and what different education institutes or workplaces can provide them. It is not a one size fits all equation.

Mrs Pauline van der Poel
Careers Practitioner

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