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How to plan for a change of uni plans

This article appears in: High school to uni
Concept image using arrows to show a change in direction

We’ve all had to face quite a few changes in 2020. If you’re a year 12 student, maybe you had a pretty good idea of how you wanted 2021 to look, and maybe that’s no longer possible in quite the same way.

If you’re looking for advice on how to cope with a change of tertiary study plans, you’ve come to the right place for advice.

Trust that you are wired to adapt to change

In the midst of Year 12, a change of plans may seem  scary and frustrating. After all, we humans are quite attached to the idea of standing firm in our plans and beliefs.

There is a silver lining though: you have an opportunity to learn the critical life skill of adapting to change.

Yes, the feelings of disappointment and anxiety that come from these changes are real and uncomfortable. But you still have choices and an opportunity to channel negative feelings into making decisions for a positive outcome. And remember that adaptability to change is part of our DNA.

Trust that you have the power (and available choices) to make the most of this year’s unexpected circumstances, and still have a great study experience, good job prospects and make new friends.

In the wise words of Charles Darwin: "It’s not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change."

Do your best to manage the stress of change

Changing plans, aka pivoting, can downright feel like a loss. There is grief in having to shift an idea or plan that you’ve been holding dear for a while,  but that feeling doesn’t have to be lasting and paralysing.

One of the most effective ways to deal with the anxiety change brings is to focus on the things you can control. Acknowledge how you feel, journal, and talk to your close ones about it.

Gather accurate information on the things that are stressing you: ATAR, uni admissions during COVID-19, possible career pathways and choices.

CDU’s COVID-19 page is up to date, or you can always reach out to our Student Central team.

Take the time to unpack this information and make sense of it.

Tackle one thing at at time. You may find that things aren’t quite as stressful or different as you’d thought.

And make sure you spend some time doing the things you love and that make you feel good, be it some form of exercise, a hobby, a book or a podcast. Oh, and get plenty of sleep.

Choose your own adventure

Until now, your academic success has probably taken a fairly linear, structured path. Year 10, Year 11, Year 12. Uni opens you up to a lot more power to make choices, and that may feel a bit overwhelming.

But life doesn’t have a linear path and navigating its lanes is a very useful skill to develop early on.

You may not hear it very often, but history is full of people who have changed their paths (and minds) again and again. We only see a small section of their winding path.

Elon Musk studied physics, then business, then economics, then more physics. Eventually, all his studies and experience led him to launch Tesla and SpaceX, but it was not a straight path for him from studies to career outcomes.

Start by journaling about all the things you have an interest in, the things you’re good at, the things you want to achieve.

Then brainstorm some ways to kick those goals and spend more time learning about your passions, recognising that there is more than one way to achieve the same outcome.

Next discuss them with someone close to you - your friends, your parents, or CDU’s Student Central team - and map the different tertiary study options.

Remember to consider options for studying a degree, a vocational training and education course, doing an apprenticeship or even starting a university pathway program.

And remember, your path is yours only, it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. You can turn right or you can turn left, there is no wrong turn.

Take it one step at a time

In these uncertain times, the idea of getting a ten-year, fail-proof detailed plan in place is very tempting. But you don’t need that.

By all means, if that’s your thing, go right ahead and plan as much as it inspires you. But if big detailed plans scare you even more than change, there is another way. You can focus on the next step you can take.

From there, pay attention to opportunities, to your experiences and reactions, and your path will unfold itself, just like it did for Elon Musk.

You have choices every step of the way. You only need to worry about the next one.

And if you have any questions or need a sounding board for your change plans, we know just the people. Our Student Central team live and breathe pathways and options and they’d love to help you figure yours out. Get in touch.

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