This time last year, I was already thinking about which course I wanted to do as well as, which tertiary institution I wanted to attend. During this time, I kept changing my mind because although I knew that I wanted medicine above anything else, a part of me had that self-doubt of not getting in, so it was like I was deciding what plan b would be. I swear by the end of all of my application process, I’ve applied to five or even more different courses to four different institutions (I had applied to AUT, Auckland University, University of Otago and University of Waikato).
There are about eight universities as well as a total of 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics all over New Zealand. So you have a good range of options here in New Zealand. And if you don’t want to study in New Zealand, there are definitely a lot more options overseas; however you either need the money as you will be paying international fees (or domestic in Australia but you are not entitled to a student allowance/loan) or you could always apply for scholarships to study overseas but it is recommended to search for them while you are in Year 12 (oh how I wish, I knew about this). Nonetheless, if you do attend a university, it is more than likely that they do exchanges (where you only pay domestic fees) for a semester or a year; so there is always this option.
Anyways hopefully, the point of this post is to help you decide what YOU want to do in your life.
SHOULD I TAKE A GAP YEAR/BREAK?
To be honest, I wish I did. But everything I did last year and this year were in a rush so my thoughts were also in a rush as well. I didn’t stop to think; I mean realllllly think of what I should do. And most of you guys are in the same boat. Just know that at eighteen, it is okay for you to not know everything. It is okay to not know what you want to do in life. YOU ARE STILL SO YOUNG. What you want to do now, may not exactly be what you want to do in three years time and trust me, with time, things change and you will change too. I think that if I were to have taken a gap year, it wouldn’t necessarily be because I didn’t know what I want to do but more because I would appreciate taking a break from studying for a while (Asian five does this to you) and also because I wanted to travel.
However, if you completely have no idea on what to do, instead of wasting time and money, I advise you to take a gap year but make a promise to yourself and your parents that you will go to university after one to three years. AND ONLY ONE TO THREE YEARS for a gap year(s) or you going through with that promise, will most likely never happen. This is because you see the money coming in when you are working and so you think, ‘why bother?’ Unless you have a STABLE, good paying, ENJOYABLE job that makes you happy, it should bother you because it is restricting you from reaching your full potential. Life is too short to not do what you want in life; also you do have potential, just believe in yourself.
With the gap year, make sure that you have a job and SAVE money because your parents will not appreciate you doing nothing as an adult (remember you are eighteen) and also because going to university is not cheap and there will be times when you are actually poor (LITERALLY). If you have the money, think about TRAVELING or volunteering overseas. Better yet, work and save money for the first half of the year, and then travel somewhere within the next six months before you start uni. Make your gap year, a time to experience the real world as well as a time to think and maybe write those thoughts down as well.
Also, I just want to point out that you could always have a break from school/studying and do whatever for six months and then apply for the second semester.
WHAT COURSE SHOULD I DO?
Do you take the subjects you are taking now because they are easy or they are what your friends are taking or were they the subjects your parents wanted you to take? If you answered yes to any of them, then ask yourself this: ‘Do I really enjoy them?’.
YOU HAVE YOUR OWN MIND AND ASPIRATIONS. If you need to, dig deep to find out what those aspirations are. What do you find yourself doing in your spare time? What interests you? What is your personality like? (To have an idea of what your personality is, take this test and from there it also suggests jobs that you can do which are suited to your personality. https://www.16personalities.com/) Also have you taken a career test before? If not, I highly recommend you to take it to help give you some ideas (http://www.careers.govt.nz/tools/careerquest/.)Take control (or give a shit) of your own life and do some research and explore your options; if you have found a career you particularly like or see yourself doing, talk to or email someone within that profession (a simple google search will help and people ARE willing to help, I promise. The only reason why they won’t is because you didn’t ask in the first place). But what happens if you are stuck between two courses that you really like? Do a conjoint and you will get the best of both worlds (not really but you will have two degrees by the end of it).
Nonetheless, I want you to listen to yourself, just you and I want you to choose something that your future self will thank you for. Also food for thought: money will always come and go and it can NEVER buy you love or happiness. REMEMBER THIS IS YOUR LIFE . If you are willing to please everyone now, expect that you will also try to please everyone for the rest of your life. I guarantee that you won’t be happy at the end.
WHICH TERTIARY PROVIDER?
Again, do your research and check for all of the tertiary institutes that provide the course that YOU want to do. Ask these questions: Do I actually know where this is? Do I want to be close to home? Do I know anyone who goes there that I could talk to about what the place is like? What are the facilities or campus like? If you are introverted ask this important question (as I know that it is much more difficult for you to make friends and I would hate for you to feel lonely): ‘Do I have any friends going to the same place?’ WHAT IS THE VIBE LIKE?
I can’t stress how important the vibe should be. IT SHOULD BE GOOD. It should make you feel good and it should make you want to go to university. So how would you know? Go to that particular tertiary institution (not during an open day) and get a guide to show you around. Can you really picture yourself roaming around the campus for the next couple of years? This is a really good idea, especially if you will be away from home. I definitely wish I visited Dunedin before I came to my decision.
You could also take into consideration where the university is ranked at for the course that you want to do. Do they have a good reputation for the particular field?
WHAT IF I HAD I LEFT EARLIER BEFORE GRADUATING HIGHSCHOOL/COLLEGE OR DID NOT OBTAIN UNIVERSITY ENTRANCE?
Not to worry, just take foundation year and this will help you achieve UE or help you get into the course that you want to do. Also, call or email the university to double check on what your options are. If you don’t want to pay for foundation year, then go back to school and do what you have to do in order to start your course.
HALLS OR FLATTING?
HALLS. Networking and meeting new people is important, especially in the first year of university so later when you are flatting, you still have the odd friend that you could catch up with while walking around campus in the later years or something like that. I think the best part of university is making new friends, especially if they are from different backgrounds because it makes you more open minded. That’s the thing with university, you will meet a whole range of people and that’s the great thing about it. With halls, it’s much easier to meet new people and it makes you feel better because everyone is in the same boat of starting fresh at university so people could relate to you and the things that you might need to deal with. Also, normally everything is included with what you pay for. The downsides of halls is that the food may not always be great and that it could be quite costly (my one, Te Rangi Hiroa College at Otago was 15k a year (thank God for scholarships and student loans)).
Questions to consider while applying for a hall: Which hall do I really want to get in? Have this as your number one choice and make sure you have a really good personal statement or list of achievements/involvements while at school. If you go to Otago, apparently Arana is ‘THE ONE’ to get into (but Te Rangi is where it is at TBH) and those with a good reputation are more highly to get in; each year a lot of people have Arana as their no.1 choice and many are left disappointed to the point where they shout/chant “F*ck Arana!” especially during O week when they are most bitter (in other words, yes honey, there will always be somebody better than you but that’s life, accept it, be realistic, and focus on being a better you rather than being better than other people. WATCH YOUR EGO.). Nonetheless, other questions should be: is it within my budget? Is it close to my classes or campus? Do I want to stay at a hall with less or more people? Can they provide my dietary needs? Should I stay in an alcohol-free area?
If you want the cheaper option or to save some money, flat nearby the university or stay at home. I stay at home now and I’ve managed to save money (to travel of course) which makes my wallet and me happy. Since I already had friends at Waikato from school, I wasn’t scared of the idea of being lonely but I still managed to make a lot of new friends from lectures and tutorials as well as joining clubs or just by randomly talking to someone in an elevator.
If you want to flat, look on trademe or talk to the University’s student association for help in looking for a flat, or you could keep an eye on notice boards as well. Some questions to ask are is it well insulated or does it have good heating? What type of people could you stand flatting with (you don’t want problems with the people you are living with)? Can you cook or is there a flatmate that could cook? Is it close to uni? Am I independent enough to look after myself?
Sit down. Think. Listen. Plan. Write down. Achieve.
I really hope this helps you decide what you should do. After having experienced going to two different universities and doing two different courses I wanted to share something I wished somebody had shared with me before I decided on what to do. (Originally, at the start of Year 13, my ultimate goal for the year was to obtain a high rank score of 280 to get into Biomedical Science at Auckland University, I did; however, what made me choose Otago was because of a scholarship.)
Also in my psychology lecture we talked about how people around 18-30 were the loneliest in all the age groups and it’s because they are experiencing things that are new and daunting to them such as living in a different environment, going to university etc.. So I wanted to do my bit, even if it might be insignificant as I believe everyone deserves to live a happy life.
Remember that this is YOUR life, your decisions will ultimately affect YOU. Also, if you keep positive, you WILL amount to something, you WILL reach your goals and you WILL be the best that YOU could possibly be.