The inside scoop on studying at TAFE
So, you’re finishing school, but you don’t know what to do next? If you’re looking for future study pathways, uni isn’t your only option. We chatted to Amy, who chose instead to go to TAFE, and got the inside story on what it’s really like.
Amy, 19, went straight from year 12 to studying a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care at TAFE in NSW. We chatted with her to get the inside story on what it’s really like to study at TAFE.
1. TAFE gets you on the job ASAP
One of the benefits of TAFE is that plenty of courses give you on-the-job experience within weeks of starting. Amy: ‘At my TAFE, we had an onsite “play session” facility, where local families would bring their children for a few hours, and we’d set up experiences and interact with them. I really appreciated getting a practical idea of what my job would be like while I was still studying.’
2. Entry into TAFE is really flexible
There are lots of different ways to get into TAFE. While entry requirements vary from course to course, in lots of cases you don’t need an ATAR. You can speak to a career counsellor onsite at your local TAFE, or find the TAFE website for your state and look up the entry requirements for your course. Amy: ‘I saw the TAFE careers counsellor, who more or less told me that I’d have no problems being accepted for the course, having completed Year 12 with an ATAR.’
3. You know well ahead of time whether you’ve got in
Depending on your course, you can find out if you’ve been accepted, even before you know your final marks for year 12. Amy: ‘There was much less stress associated with the exams than there might have been, because I already knew I had somewhere to continue my studies after school, no matter what my final mark was.’
4. The classes are generally small, with lots of face time
If you’re the type of person who benefits from personal and face-to-face learning, TAFE could be a good option. Amy: ‘This was a big factor in my decision. I struggle in large groups and don't feel comfortable if I don't have friends in a class or a teacher I know I can rely on and ask questions of. I really enjoyed the small classes and was able to build a connection with my teachers.’
5. TAFE suits practical learners
If you learn best by physically doing something (kinaesthetic learning), then TAFE is a great option because of the hands-on nature of many of the courses. Amy: ‘As someone who enjoys practice, discussions and questioning, I found that the classes at TAFE really suited me.’
6. It’s easy to get to know people
Because you’re studying with the same people in the same classes, you get to know everyone pretty quickly and pretty well. This is great if you get on, but not so great if you don’t. Amy: ‘There definitely are social advantages to TAFE. I was close to everyone in my class after the first two months. The smaller environments created lots of social groups and easy interactions.’
7. TAFE’s a good place to explore your options
If you’re not really sure what you want to do, TAFE can be a great place to suss it out. In the meantime, you can enrol in a six-month course that will give you a qualification and some work experience to help you make your decision. Amy: ‘TAFE can be a place for exploring and experiencing possible options. I'd definitely recommend it as a perfect place to gain experience, friends, qualifications and references, and even a career.’
8. TAFE can be a pathway to further study
Your TAFE course can open up pathways to further study at uni. You could:
- do an integrated ‘diploma to degree’ course
- get a TAFE qualification that gives advanced standing for a future uni degree
- do a TAFE course that will give you a Tertiary Entrance Score, which is a rank equivalent to an ATAR.
It was great to know that I could get a year or two off my degree course if I wanted to do further study. - Amy
9. TAFE gives you a helping hand into employment
TAFE organises work placements as part of many of its courses. This can lead you on to future employment. Amy: 'I did my work placement at a really great preschool near us. After I finished, they offered me casual work straight away.'
What can I do now?
- Hear more from Amy in this video about how she made the decision to go to TAFE rather than uni.
- Get stacks of info and practical tips about how to deal with exam stress.
- Make contact with your local TAFE and take advantage of their career counselling service.