Improving tertiary pathways by improving support for prospective students

What Should I Study?

Improving tertiary pathways by improving support for prospective students


With a better understanding of how contemporary students make decisions about career options and educational pathways, we will be able to better support them to be successful at school and at university.

Making a choice about what to study after high school is a major decision for Year 12 students that can significantly impact their future. A poor choice can lead to dissatisfaction, lack of engagement and, ultimately, withdrawal from study.

But what support do students actually get at critical times to assist them to make this choice? How can the university sector and secondary schools better support Year 12 students and enable them to make better choices? There is limited knowledge to date about how prospective students in Australia make decisions about post-school study.

Hossler and Gallagher’s model of ‘College Choice’ (1987) outline the decision-making behaviour of prospective students in three phases: Predisposition, Search and Choice. During the Predisposition phase, a student establishes whether to engage in further education. The Search phase involves exploring educational options and deciding upon a set of study options and institutions. During the Choice stage, a student refines decisions about where to enrol.

Our research has expanded the “Search” phase to explore how Year 12 students in South Australia determine what to study. It has also investigated and how secondary schools, universities, and government organisations engage with and support them.

This project sought to clarify the stages of the Year 12 Study Choice process and to create a student development framework for secondary schools and universities to use to support Year 12 students as they make plans for their future. It is hoped that the project findings, outcomes and recommendations will be a useful contribution to current practice.

Project Report: What Should I Study — Project Outcomes and Recommendations

For Year 12 Students: Study Choice Checklist

Publications: 2017 CDAA and HERDSA conference papers

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