Returning to Study

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Returning to study can be a positive step forward in your career and personal life, but you might find it hard to adjust - especially if you haven’t been studying for a while.

Reasons for returning to study

Everyone has their own reasons for returning to study.

  • You might have practical experience but still need a formal qualification
  • You might want to take a new direction in your career
  • You might want to pursue a hobby or develop a new skill
  • You may not have had the opportunity to study until now

How do I go about returning to study?

There are different things to consider when returning to study, depending on what level of study you plan on returning to.

Returning to secondary study

If you haven’t completed Year 12 you can study for your VCE or VCAL at a TAFE institute or Learn Local organisation. The Department of Education’s Beyond School page (new window) has lots of info on the career and study options available to you.

If VCE or VCAL is the way you want to go, you can download Return to Study: A guide to VCE and VCAL (new window) from the VCAA website.

Returning to tertiary study

If you want to do tertiary study after a break from studying, you can apply for university and TAFE courses as a mature-age student through VTAC, the same way Year 12 students do.

If you're not currently enrolled in either

  • VCE
  • Another Australian Year 12 course 
  • International Baccalaureate  

in Australia or New Zealand, you're considered a "non-Year-12 applicant". Fees for non-Year 12 applicants are different, but the application process is pretty much the same.

For more about applying through VTAC, visit our VTAC page.

Other study options

There are other returning to study options available as well, including:

  • Distance education
  • Short courses
  • Private training providers 

To find out more check out our Other study options page.

What should I expect?

Your experience as a mature age student will depend on your age and how long it’s been since you last studied. The term "mature age student" sounds old, but it means anyone who is over 18 and has been out of formal education for more than a year.

Here are some of the things you might face when returning to study:

  • You could feel overwhelmed with work, family and other life commitments and find you don’t have much time to study
  • You might have some trouble with the coursework or assessment tasks and may need to brush up on your study skills
  • You could find it difficult to make friends if you can’t spend time on campus between classes
  • You might find it hard to relate to younger students or become frustrated with their lack of interest in their studies

Who can help me?

If you’re finding it hard to cope you can talk to your course advisor or a counsellor at your university, TAFE or course provider. Contact your student support service to find out what help is available.

  • There are courses you can do to make the transition back into study easier. Contact your closest Learn Local organisation to discuss what's available and come up with a return-to study plan.
  • Many universities and TAFEs also have programs for people returning to study. There may be a student club or society for mature age students.
  • The Better Health Channel’s Tertiary studies – mature age students page (new window) also has lots advice on the world of mature age study.

To find out more about study options and course applications, check out these pages on Youth Central: