Should I do Adult VCE?
April 29, 2010 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Considering taking an Australian Year 12 course as an adult in order to improve my prospects for getting into my course of choice... but I already finished high school in another country. Is the idea completely crazy and should I just settle for what I can get into with my current academic record?

Background: I completed high school in 2006 in a different country with mediocre grades and then did one year of university also with mediocre grades (both due to now resolved health issues that I don't want to get into here but will just say that special entry schemes are not an option due to lack of documentation). I moved to Australia for family reasons at the end of that year and have basically been working menial jobs since.

The primary issue with my current academic record is that I failed maths in both my final year of high school and my first year of university (where I should never have been allowed to enrol in maths but that is a different issue.) The failures were not a problem with aptitude but were due to a lot of missed classes in high school that then led to my not being very prepared for university maths. The lack of maths is preventing me from getting into my course of choice (Economics) while my generally unimpressive academic record is preventing me from getting into my first preference of university (Monash, if it matters...they have by far the most interesting subjects to me.)

While researching taking VCE Units 3 & 4 maths to meet prerequisites for Economics (pretty much anywhere, not just Monash), I began to think more about the idea of taking the whole of VCE.

Upsides as I see them:

- As far as I can tell, completing a VCE program will mean VTAC will consider me a current year 12 applicant, meaning the ENTER I get will be the sole criteria I am judged on.
- I honestly believe I am capable of getting an ENTER that would gain me entry into my first-choice course. This is pretty much never going to happen with my current academic record.
- I feel like doing VCE would help me to be more prepared for Australian tertiary education. To clarify this a bit, I applied for tertiary courses last year and was accepted into one that was very much not my first choice (in either program or institution), but because it was all I got into I enrolled. It seems clear to me that expectations here are much higher than in my home country (which is not third world or anything, but entry standards for tertiary education are low/nonexistent and I guess that really affects the standards students are held to). Particularly with regard to writing skills, which I suppose makes sense considering that English is a compulsory subject for the VCE. It was never a compulsory subject for me in high school and I didn't take it because it clashed with another subject I liked the look of better. Oh, hindsight!


- I feel like there is a giant stigma about people going back to do high school as adults. I mean, I'm asking this question anonymously because I have family that read Metafilter and some of them would never let me hear the end of it for even considering this.
- I feel like it might just be silly to take a high school qualification when I've already done one. If I do this, I'll be 23 by the time I'm applying for university. When I suggested this to my parents they were aghast and said I should just finish whatever university course I can get into as quick as possible because I'm already "too old." (I am no longer financially dependent on my parents so this isn't a big issue but I am worried their viewpoint has merit.)
- I won't be able to work much or at all while doing VCE. While my fiance is willing and able to support me while I do it, it is still a year of lost income.

Sorry this is much longer than I intended but: is this a crazy idea? Does anyone have experience with doing a high-school-for-adults program, especially in Australia? Is there a better option I'm overlooking?
posted by anonymous to Education (13 answers total)
The question of whether re-doing the VCE would be more optimal than any other educational option (ie. trying to get really good marks in another course, and then transferring) is almost certainly best by talking to someone at the Business and Economics Faculty at Monash, where you want to go. They won't be speculating about the requirements for their courses and degrees, unlike the rest of us here.

That said, let me have a stick at some of your downsides:

- There's no stigma to adults going back to do the VCE, that's what TAFE is there for---I'm assuming TAFE is what you're considering. It's not like an Adam Sandler movie, in fact, it's likely that you won't be even nearly the oldest person there.
- Australian university courses have a relatively high dropout rate, especially of people who have gone straight from high school into university. In some first year humanities subjects it pushes fifty percent. You're never too old to start a university course; in fact, the maturer, and the more motivated, the better.
- You might be surprised at how much part time work you could fit in around the adult VCE done through TAFE.

It's not a crazy idea. It might not be the best option for the particular course you want to do (talk to Monash!) but it's not crazy or unrealistic.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:24 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

that should read "at Monash, or where you want to go"
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:25 PM on April 29, 2010

I'm not in exactly the same situation but I did something somewhat similar. For various reasons (including several years on sick leave) I didn't get a stellar grade on my MSc degree and I couldn't get funding to do a PhD. So after working for a couple of years I took some more MSc level papers part time to improve my applications, and also because by that time it had been years since I did the original MSc papers and I just didn't feel prepared for more advanced study. I was the only non-degree student in the class but no one really cared (and I wasn't the oldest by any means), and if you're studying at TAFE then no one there will care either. Now I have close to one and a half masters degrees, something which doesn't really help anything on paper (still can't get a scholarship, am no more qualifed for the job I had). But it worked exactly how I hoped it would. Not only did I get a funded PhD project, more importantly I had the confidence and knowledge going into it to do well right from the start. That wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gone back to school. Oh and I was 28 when I started so your parents are just totally wrong, ignore the age thing, it's really not a problem.

So while I don't know if you should do another high school year exactly, doing some kind of preparatory course is a good idea. In NZ we have bridging courses which are designed to prepare you for University, run by the Uni or by a polytech. A bit harder and a lot more focussed than high school and possibly more relevant anyway (they do study skills as well as maths and writing etc). Talk to your various Unis and TAFE etc and see if there's maybe something like that around for you. I also agree that talking to the admission people at Monash is a good idea, they'll have ideas about the best way of moving forward as they know the specific requirements for their degree. Maybe you'd be better off working at a somewhat relevant job and doing maths at night class, maybe you can start with somethng else and transfer. Or maybe repeating the final year of high school really is the best option, and then you'd have that justification to give people who question what you're doing (your parents can't really argue when a University admissions officer OKs your plan right?).

Definitely don't just do any old degree just because you can get in. You'll find it harder to study and stay focussed and then you're stuck qualified for a job you don't want anyway. Better to spend a year getting on track now than end up half way through a career you don't like and wanting to change then.
posted by shelleycat at 9:41 PM on April 29, 2010

Two close friends are at uni doing undergrad degrees (one at Monash actually) and they're both over 25. It's seriously not an issue.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:25 PM on April 29, 2010

Have you looked into the Monash Alternative Entry Pathways? Doing the whole of VCE seems like overkill, when you could be focusing on doing intro-level college maths and english courses and getting acquainted with the university system instead of a separate one.
posted by jacalata at 11:01 PM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

That alternative pathway program is the equivalent of our bridging courses. I teach a few poeple that have come out of the one at my Uni and it sounds really great, they get a lot of support. And judging by the standard of the work I see the programs work. So definitely look into that one more!
posted by shelleycat at 11:29 PM on April 29, 2010

Dude, I'm 29 working on a college diploma (health reasons). I will probably be in my late 30s by the time I finish my undergrad, and I'm targeting 40 to do a Master's in OT. My aunt is in her late 40s, and she just started a Master's in Public Ethics after finishing her undergrad. You're never too old. :)
posted by purlgurly at 11:44 PM on April 29, 2010

I did HSC mathematics by correspondence at the age of 36 or thereabouts after finishing a law degree (just couldn't give up studying). You're never too old. Also, seconding checking the alternative entry pathways.
posted by Logophiliac at 12:04 AM on April 30, 2010

I did two undergraduate degrees in Australia (finishing the second when I was 25) and studied alongside people in their thirties, forties and fifties, as well as the requisite bunch of school-leavers. It's well known that mature-age students do better at uni, I guess because they are more motivated and know exactly why they're there and what they want to achieve. I am not aware of any stigma attached to being a mature-age student (at least outside the academic community; misinformed people who've never studied much seem to see being a student as being immature, which is nonsense of course).

I say go for it. The hardest part will be dealing with your parents. They're entitled to their opinion but no, I don't believe that it has any merit. I know, for example, three people who began studying medicine in their late twenties, one of whose fathers himself began studying med in his late thirties as a family man with several children. *shrug*

And of course, the answer to "Do you realise how old you'll be when you graduate?!?" is, "The same age I'll be if I don't graduate."
posted by different at 1:33 AM on April 30, 2010

Oh, and to answer the VCE question more specifically: Didn't need to do it myself, but I know several people, including one of my parents, who did year 12 again several years after leaving school with bad marks, with the specific intention of getting into university. It's the smart thing to do if it's a step on the ladder that will take you to where you want to go. Do it!
posted by different at 1:37 AM on April 30, 2010

Two stories:

A good friend repeated year 12 AFTER he was one semester shy of completing his undergraduate degree because he didn't have the required mark in one subject - he went on to do extremely well in his town planning course. He was in his late 20s at the time.

My brother repeated year 12 because he didn't get the marks to get into civil engineering. It was absolutely the best thing he could have done - it gave him time to really work out what he wanted, and his goal was clear by the time he got into university, and he's done well.

And yes I too studied amongst older students when I was an undergrad - I started university at 17 and in hindsight it was far too young. Those in their mid-20s were a lot more confident, enjoyed the course more, and did well.

Go for it!
posted by wingless_angel at 1:52 AM on April 30, 2010

To reconfirm:

From my opinion, zero stigma in mature age VCE, and zero stigma or any issue whatsoever in being a tiny bit mature aged doing an undergrad course. You won't be the oldest person in your classes, and your additional life experience will be valuable.

However, I'm not sure how much doing all of VCE would give you in terms of preparation for Uni. Not that much I would have thought.

As someone else said, there are people at Monash who will give you precise answers regarding eligibility.
posted by wilful at 5:14 AM on April 30, 2010

Are you eligible to do the STAT test instead? Quicker and cheaper, and no stigma attached. It's how I got into uni in Australia, after doing poorly at high school in England. It's basically an IQ test, from memory. I probably didn't need to take it really (my grades weren't THAT bad) but it meant I had more options at uni, as a mature-age student.
posted by indienial at 5:06 AM on May 2, 2010

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