Choosing a course and a place to study after Year 12 is hard. You’re gearing up to change most aspects of your life and it can seem quite daunting. The good news is that there are a lot of different places you can study and grow and work towards getting the job you want at the end of it.
Don’t underestimate how hard this decision is: one in five young Australians change their course, university or drop out completely in first year, according to a recent study*. So whether you’re considering a private niche college or a traditional public university, there are definitely lots of things to consider - especially if you want to make a decision before the census date.
I’m sure everyone has different interests, passions and career dreams, and also want different experiences and sometimes it’s hard to know until you try it. I was at a big public university when I left Year 12 and now I’m currently a marketing student at APM College of Business and Communication; I’ve found they are vastly different experiences.
My experience at APM College of Business and Communication is much more enjoyable than my (brief) time at university. These are some of the benefits I’ve discovered:
Small, interactive classes – not just boring lecture halls
One of my favourite things about going to a private college is the small class sizes and the engaging, lively learning environment that comes with it. Universities are almost always big, real big, and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Some of my first-year uni lectures had legitimately hundreds of students in them and I felt a bit isolated and disengaged.
All my classes at APM have around 15 to 25 students. Instead of being bored to death by lecturers speaking for two hours with neverendingly tedious slides and presentations, we have class discussions and ask questions as we go. This makes classes really fun, interactive and inclusive as we get to share our input and hear other classmates’ experiences.
APM lecturers are not boring academics; they are like mentors. They have all worked in marketing and business and are experts in their field, which makes class so much more interesting when they tell firsthand stories of experiences they’ve had in the field. When I was at university, I felt like the teachers never had the time to get to know me and really support me because there were so many students in their care. And because I felt so isolated, I can’t even remember a lecture from uni.
At APM, my lecturers know me by name and they are happy to give me career advice and tips on how I can improve my work. We also get individual feedback from the lecturers instead of red pen all over an essay. I always felt like they knew me and my work, and their feedback was always useful. It makes a huge difference knowing my lecturers are interested in my future and care about my learning.
Practical, hands-on assessment – way more interesting than theory
From day one I was writing marketing reports and developing my own campaigns under the guidance of my lecturer. This experience was instantly relevant to my career ambitions and I felt like my career had already started in a way. I was also able to choose specific fields and topics to focus my work on so I was never bored by trying to market something I had no clue about.
For one of my assessments I got to create my own brand, from designing the product, logo, business strategy and marketing campaign. At the end I had to present and pitch my idea to my classmates. It was great practise for the real world because I know have experience preparing and pitching a product campaign!
Industry experience – graduate job-ready
At APM there is an emphasis on gaining practical skills throughout the coursework and not just learning theory. This includes hearing the lecturers’ firsthand experiences, and extends to an Industry Placement that is part of our assessment – that’s guaranteed work experience before you graduate. All of a sudden I was practising everything I had just learnt in class. My practical skills and experience developed very quickly because of this and I was able to perform tasks during my placement that weren’t just photocopying and getting coffee.
At the end of the day, that’s what we all are aiming for, right? To be prepared for life outside the classroom.
Graduate faster – get a degree in two years
As I’d already spent some time studying at a public university, I didn’t want to be left behind compared to my friends. The Accelerated Study program at APM allowed me to pick up extra classes and work to complete a three-year degree in just two. Instead of just charging to the finish line, I chose to take a trimester off and travel. Because I had accelerated my study, I was still on track to complete my degree in less than three years… even with four months off!
And it’s a no brainer: the sooner you graduate, the sooner you can break out of the obligatory poverty of studying, earn some real bucks and start working in an industry you love – at least, that’s how things are shaping up for me.
Flexible study options – mixing up online and on-campus
Like accelerated study, we had the option of mixing online and on-campus classes as we liked. A girl I knew even spent a couple of trimesters studying online part-time because she had family commitments and couldn’t always make it to class. She returned to full-time study on-campus eventually and barely missed a beat. Studying from home is not for me; I need the obligation of attending class but if I lived a long way from campus it would be ideal.
Industry partners – work at cool events
One thing that separates a private college like APM and a public university is the industry contacts and partners. Because everyone there has worked in business, marketing, public relations or events, everyone has a network of contacts that they share. APM has several long-standing relationships with companies who know what they are getting when they need new staff or interns.
I was lucky enough to have to opportunity to work at the AIMIA Awards this year, one of the most prestigious advertising awards for the digital advertising industry. This was a fantastic opportunity to network with award winners, gain experience working at an event – not to mention enjoy some free food afterwards!
Government support for your fees – study now, pay later
Public universities have enjoyed HECS subsidies for their students for a long time, but this also extends to private colleges like APM too.
It’s called FEE-HELP and it’s basically the same thing. You study and repay the money once you start earning above a certain amount, which will probably happen after I graduate and start making some dollars in the workplace. You can still pay upfront if you like, or use FEE-HELP on certain trimesters depending on your situation. But it is nice to know that you won’t be weighed down by debt while you’re trying to complete your studies.
For me, studying at APM has been waaaaay better than university. I felt included and I felt I got the theory and practical skills to work as a marketing executive. I learned from some great stories told by my lecturers and was never bored. I got to study at a cool inner-city campus that was easy to get to, I feel confident to enter the workforce and get a job straight after graduation. And, most importantly, I actually had fun learning.
The thing that matters is to choose the place where you will learn what you want to the standard you expect. If you’re thinking about switching, my advice is to make a decision before the university census date so you don’t pay for the whole semester of classes.
*Study conducted by Think Education in 2015 of 1000 young Australian workers aged 18-35