After more than a decade of formal education, leaving school can be a genuinely big change – not only on your education, but on your social dynamics, your work situation, and your day-to-day life in general. As though getting through exams isn’t enough, more pressure is thrown your way with expectations of knowing what you want to do after school. There are so many options available to you, and those options can be confusing – even overwhelming. So how are you to know what you want to pursue, and what can you do if you’re just not sure?

What you might not know is that you don’t need to enrol in a degree, graduate by the age of 21 and own a house by the age of 24, despite how it might seem sometimes. Life just doesn’t need to be that linear, and if you want to continue studying, you should do so in a way appropriate for you – not for anybody else.

If you’re not sure what you want to pursue, here are some things you should be aware of.


You can test out uni – even while taking time off.

Lots of school-leavers consider taking a gap year, which has many benefits. You can learn a lot about yourself and the world, all while travelling the globe or gaining invaluable work experience (and cash!). But many students are, understandably, worried about being left behind, or losing momentum in their studies. The thing is, you don’t need to put study on hold to work or travel. In fact, you can fit university study around your existing timetable and commitments in a way that suits you.


Open Universities Australia (OUA) makes it possible to study online with leading Australian universities, providing a unique type of flexibility. Issy is just one student who’s been able to use OUA to fit study around her life.

“The thing that drew me to OUA was the flexibility. I was working shift work at that time, so being able to choose when I studied was really important to me so that I could say yes to any shifts that came up… Being able to study at home allowed me to work as much as I needed to. It allowed me to move cities, to travel freely, spend time with my friends – do all the fun things that you want to do when you’re just out of high school.”

After starting her degree through OUA, Issy is now studying on-campus at Swinburne University in Melbourne.


You can reduce some of the pressures of uni.

When you study through OUA, you are working toward the exact same qualifications as you would if you were studying at a university on-campus. However, many of the stressors that exist with traditional tertiary study can be reduced. For example, you won’t be confined by compulsory lectures or tutorials, but you’ll still be able to access university resources. Issy says:

“Through OUA, you can still access everything on-campus. You are a complete student of that university. But if you live on the other side of Australia, you’re still able to access resources online, so you’re not limited.”

And you’re not limited in other ways, too. For example, you can save time and money by avoiding the commute to campus. This sort of flexibility allows you to study toward your university qualifications without some of the regular rigours associated with university life, and this is an option many young Australians are taking in order to balance their study and other commitments.


You don’t need to achieve a mammoth ATAR.

One roadblock that tends to face school-leavers is high school results. Whilst achieving a high ATAR is a fantastic achievement, not doing so doesn’t preclude you from university study altogether. In fact, OUA makes studying at university level accessible to everyone by offering single subjects with full government funding. You can use these subjects to apply for a full degree, and get credit for what you’ve already completed. What that means is that anyone and everyone can get started at uni, regardless of their ATAR.

To recap: there are no ATAR requirements to study single subjects and start at uni, but you can still take advantage of government funding, and choose from a huge range of study options.


You don’t even need to know what you want to study!

Because you can study single subjects, you have a unique opportunity to play your degree by ear, and focus on what you’re most passionate about at any given time. In fact, there are more than 1,300 subjects available from leading Australian universities. What that means is you can suss out different study areas, without having to commit to a full degree.

Through OUA, you can study what you’re truly interested in without having to sacrifice your work or travel commitments. Studying official subjects from leading Australian universities all over the country, you can build an entirely personalised degree – and if you’re not sure exactly what you want to study, this is ideal.

So remember, even if you have no idea what you want to pursue, there are always options available to you.

For 25 years, Open Universities Australia has enabled students to start studying online with leading unis, regardless of their ATAR. Explore your options at or call a friendly student advisor on 13 OPEN.

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