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Athena uses TAFE NSW as a one-year-shortcut to university

TAFE NSW Wollongong

Athena uses TAFE NSW as a one-year-shortcut to university

31 January 2019


Despite living with a condition that leaves her crippled with pain, Athena Whithnall can’t wipe the smile off her face.

The 19-year-old from Kanahooka has gone from leaving school unfinished and facing uncertain future, to gaining an ATAR equivalent of 98 at TAFE NSW Wollongong. She is beaming.

She was forced to leave school in year 11 to establish a health management plan to cope with the symptoms of fibromyalgia; pain over much of her body, sleep problems, headaches, fatigue and anxiety.

It took about two years to establish a plan to a point where she could live day-to-day without pain.

Once her conditions were under better control she decided to find a way to catch up and complete her high school qualifications, in the hope of gaining entry into university.

“Once I had a stable health plan I was keen to get straight back to study with a goal of enrolling in linguistics.

“I had missed my HSC and was looking for options online, that’s how I came across the Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation (TPC) at TAFE NSW, which sounded perfect for me.”

The TPC is a year 12 equivalent qualification available to study full-time, part-time or online through TAFE Digital.

Athena said the teachers supported her through the course but she worked hard to earn her marks.

“To receive high marks has been good for my confidence and my happiness. It’s good for me to know I can push through my health issues to achieve goals.

“I remember getting my mathematics result and it was 98 per cent, it was such a relief. It’s not just about studying each subject we were also taught skills to use in further study.”

In providing Athena with the knowledge and practical experience she needed to successfully apply for tertiary study, the TPC also provided a one-year shortcut to university.

“My raw marks were so good I received a university offer before my scaled marks were in.”

Athena said she had talked her sister into enrolling in the TPC.

“For students who don’t do well in the HSC and want a higher mark, TAFE NSW is the one place where you’re going to find teachers who can tailor the learning around how you think.”

The TPC is offered at TAFE NSW across the state and online through TAFE Digital. For more information phone 13 16 01 or visit

Media contact: Adam Wright, TAFE NSW Media Officer, 4421 9895, mobile 0466 375 552.