Where to from here?

Where to from here?

Where to from here?

OP results are in and now it's time to decide what you'd like to do in the next exciting stage of your life. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, don't worry because you're not alone. 

Dr Anne Swinbourne from JCU's College of Healthcare Sciences shares her experience of the transition to university along with a few tips to help you plan for your future.

I hated going to school and couldn’t wait to get out of there. However as the leaving day came closer, the joy of never having to put on the uniform again was tinged with an increasing feeling of dread. For all the drawbacks, school was routine, familiar and I knew what to expect. All things that make human beings happy.

Leaving school also means moving out of your comfort zone. Something which makes human beings unhappy. In addition was the expectation from friends and family that I have a ‘plan’ for my future. At that point in my life ‘The Future’ was too big a concept for me to easily grasp.

How can you at the age of 17 make a decision which may define the rest of your life? What if you make the wrong decision? Where do you even start? Should you stick to your university preferences or should you change them?

Question marks painted on trees in a forest

Photo: Evan Dennis, Unsplash.

Well while I don’t have all the answers, from my experience in psychology here are some points you may find helpful.

1. What are your general life goals? Forget the greed and no you are probably not going to win the lottery. Have a think about what really matters to you. Is it family? Do you want to travel? Do you want to stay in the same area? Generally what would you like to happen? Write this down and keep referring back to this list.

2. Now think about the next 5 years. At the end of this time period where would you like to be? What sort of things would you need to have achieved to progress towards your general life goals?

3. What are your talents? What sort of talents have others commented upon or you have been rewarded for? Are these reflected in the decisions you have made about university education? If you are not sure, get some information from university websites, the websites of the bodies associated with the profession you are interested in or general career counselling websites.

Aerial view of crossing paths in a park

Photo: Mike Enerio, Unsplash.

4. How do your answers to points 2 and 3 relate to the life goals you wrote down earlier? Do you need to refine your goals? Do you need more information? If so then refine those goals or get more information. Then repeat the process.

5. What do you need to do to enact your 5 year plan? Do you need to rethink your preferences? Do you need to get more training before entering university? Do you need a gap year?

6. Turn your decision into action. This is actually the point at which many people get stuck. However you will never have all the information you want or all the certainty you would like that you have made the right decision. No one ever does. Accept this and put your plan into action.

Do not overthink this. Going to university is not a jail sentence. You do not have to ‘do your time’.

Universities are flexible places and it is totally understood that some students discover part-way through a degree program that they would like to change to another. This is possible with planning and consultation with university staff.

Conversely, universities are also places where you discover things about yourself and the world which will amaze and delight you. Despite hating school, after 30 years I still love university.

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Cover image: Heidi Sandstrom, Unsplash

Published 10 May 2019

Featured JCU researcher

Dr Anne Swinbourne
Dr Anne Swinbourne
Dr Anne Swinbourne holds the position of Senior Lecturer within the College of Healthcare Sciences at James Cook University (JCU) on the Townsville campus.