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Choosing the right course

There are few decisions as important as deciding what course to do after finishing school, so take your time and do your homework before committing to anything

Universities, TAFEs and private colleges offer courses in everything from welding to water management to Wiccan theology. So how do you decide which is the right one for you?

Take your time

Taking a gap year after finishing school has become increasingly common and there's a lot to be said for it, especially if you're unsure about what it is you want to do next. It doesn't need to be a gap year – it can be a gap three months – but you should take all the time you need to work out what course interests you rather than feeling pressured to study for the sake of it.

Don't be swayed by others

There's no shortage of people doing a course they aren't passionate about because they got the marks to do it and/or because their parents pushed them to. Those people either end up dropping out or going into a career that never fired their imagination. Listen to others' advice but realise that it's your life and you have to make the final decision on what to do with it.

Work out what type of study suits you best 

If you're a hands-on, practical type, you may well find doing a TAFE NSW course more rewarding than undertaking a university course that's heavily theoretical.

Think about what the course leads to

If you're expecting to make a living on the basis of the qualification you gain, investigate what the market demand is for that qualification. Doing an acting course, for example, may be enjoyable, but offers few prospects of stable, well-paid employment once you've graduated.

Don't panic

Contrary to what you may have been told, it's not the end of the world if you fail to get into the course you had your heart set on. You can always do a related or bridging course then transfer, apply again down the track, or find a path into the industry you're interested in that doesn't involve doing that particular course.

In stark contrast to previous generations, today's school-leavers face a bewildering range of educational options. By making sure you have all the necessary information at your fingertips, you can make the right decision for your future.