Karen Lomas
July 18, 2020

Applying for university or TAFE courses for 2021

Applying for university or TAFE courses for 2021 is going to be different to previous years.

It’s July 2020 and for many of us the past 5 months have felt like being in a giant washing machine, being thrown about. Everything is stop-start; topsy-turvy like never before.

There are so many uncertainties. With respect to course delivery in 2021 there is quite a bit we can’t be sure of just now. It is not clear whether the funding proposals will pass, but at the moment, it is looking like some courses are going to be much cheaper and others really expensive. Also, depending upon how we manage to control the Covid-19 pandemic in Australia, over the next few months, there may only be online learning in certain courses. It isn’t even out of the question that there might be a delay in the commencement of some, or all,university degrees, diplomas and TAFE courses, in 2021.

What we do know

  • We do know already that, for year 12s, the exam timetable has been moved. If you are in Victoria, you can refer to the VCAA website for information on this.
  • Again in Victoria, we have been told that VCE and VET results will be published on 30th December. Not only that, there is to be no December offer round this year.
  • The VTAC website has confirmed all of the key dates. Click on the next link for the details of each of the Australian admissions centres

Choosing a University or TAFE course for 2021

If you are, or your child is applying for a course at TAFE or University, for commencement in 2021, the cost and delivery issues will be concerning. My advice is that you must always:

Consider your preferred learning style

  • Do you like to learn by doing hands-on tasks, or by listening to lectures; reading and researching?
  • Are you happier in a class of people you can see each week and with a teacher who you will get to know, or does that not matter too much?

Consider what you love doing and what you’re good at

  • This is my advice for year 11 and 12 subject choices too.
  • If you are studying Math Methods, and you are enjoying it, what courses need Math Methods? Maybe they would be interesting to you.

Look closely at the details of the course content

  • Navigate your way to the Course Handbook on a university website, so as to get every bit of information on a course of interest.
  • Learn the “language” of higher education courses. EG: Majors, Minors, Units, Electives. I’ll cover this in another blog.
  • Course Maps, found within the webpage of courses, show you how each semester of each year might look in terms of what you will be studying. Once you have a Course Map open, you can usually click on a “Unit” of study to read more detail. A Unit of study is an individual subject within the course.

Do your research on the University/TAFE

Besides the courses of interest, consider the TAFE or university as a whole. Some of the aspects to consider are its:

  • size – would you be happier in a tertiary institution that is a lot bigger, or smaller than the school you are/have been attending?
  • location – how long will it take to you get there and by what mode of transport?
  • facilities – it’s a good idea to attend an open day (these are going to be “virtual” open days in 2020) to see the buildings, the cafes, library, environment.
  • clubs – are you going to be able to join a gym, for example, or a special interest group, such as a debating society.

Consider the university’s reputation

  • It is a good idea to check how the different universities compare.
  • They are ranked by different professional services and those rankings are published annually.
  • Filters include country, study areas, teaching and research.
  • Here is a reputable resource, the Times Educational Rankings.

Apply through the relevant Admissions Centre

  • Year 12s and recently graduated year 12s will apply for their TAFE or university courses through the admissions centre for their State or Territory.
  • If you are applying for a place in a course at an interstate university, you then refer to the relevant admissions centre.
  • Familiarise yourself with the information provided on the website of the admission centre(s) that is relevant to you.
  • Read the details regarding scholarships, special entry application schemes, etc.

Reference 2021 Education funding news updates using reliable sources

  • At the time of publishing this article, I have been able to embed a number of useful resources. Clearly, I will update the data as and when new information is released.
  • It is important to keep up to date on reliable information from university websites and media releases, for instance regarding the proposed cost of courses.
  • Here is a discussion from mid-June ABC Radio National program, The Signal.
  • Here too is an article from The Guardian (19th June 2020) in which there is a table providing the proposed cost of tertiary courses by category.

Understand course delivery options: On-campus,Online or Blended Learning?

  • The individual institutions are keen to ensure that students and prospective students are updated regularly. Their websites are the most reliable source of information.
  • Some universities are more experienced in the delivery of online courses than others. However, there has been rapid change in recent years and with technological advances, including the use of webinar platforms, lectures can be recorded and slides shared.
  • Where it is not possible for a course to be delivered online, for every aspect of the study, institutions are offering a mixture of both on-campus, where and when possible, and online learning. This is referred to as blended learning.


Year 12 students, and other further and higher education applicants, are understandably concerned about what 2021 will look like, regarding the delivery and cost of courses. Parents of year 12s are telling me that they are worried about their children. I have been able to provide support and reassurance by offering in-depth online student career counselling, throughout the first and second lock-downs in Victoria. Of course, I am now also supporting many more interstate students too. Most of us are now much more accepting of online delivery of coaching and counselling services; practitioners and clients alike.

I changed my business model in early March, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as I needed to be able to support my young adult clients. The year 10s in choosing their VCE and VET, or Vcal subjects. Year 11s, who need more clarity around how they can use their subjects and their strengths beyond secondary school. My year 12 clients, and non year 12 tertiary applicants for 2021, receive regular communication from me and they know that they can contact me as much as they need to. They follow an agreed action plan and we put the relevant and necessary targets/deadlines in place, so that they don’t forget or miss anything essential.

Every day there are reports and updates on Covid-19 and its impact on the education sector. Updates regarding courses in 2021 are my primary focus from now until the end of the year. To that end I am lucky to be regularly briefed by VTAC and each of the universities and TAFEs. I’m loving my work and I remain positive. We’re all in this together and we will come out the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic. All plans should have a bit of fluidity and flexibility, even at the best of times, so we are simply having to be a little more accepting of a degree of chaos.

As my mum would say, “It’ll all work itself out in the wash!”

Contact me to find out more about my work in student career coaching.

Similar articles

“There is nothing Clever about not being Happy” Arnaud Desjardins

That’s a pretty bold statement, Monsieur Some Gardens! I found the quote in a gorgeous book, Buddhist Offerings 365 Days, Edited by Danielle and Olivier Follmi, and published by Thames and Hudson. Alongside of each days’ quote is a stunning photograph, and against this particular quote is a photo of a horse lying on its […]

“Where there’s a Will, there’s a Way”

I heard myself saying this to a despondent young man the other day, and wondered how helpful I was being. Oh dear, questioning my own tips might be a troublesome habit, however it does serve to galvanise me into action to check on my sources and ponder the idiom.

20th March is International Day of Happiness

  “Each individual is master of his or her destiny: it is up to each person to create the causes of happiness” The 14th Dalai Lama 20th March is International Day of Happiness What a pity we need special days and coffee table books with images of smiling faces to nudge us into a happiness […]