Ask LH: Am I Taking Too Long To Qualify?

Ask LH: Am I Taking Too Long To Qualify?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m 21 and about to belatedly finish year 12 exams. I am also studying a Diploma of IT which leads straight into year 2 of a BA with a technology focus. I live out of home and work to support myself. In order to work enough to survive I can only study two units per semester.

Here’s the problem; come the last semester before I am due to finish the diploma I will still have three units to finish. If I split that up, I won’t start university proper until Semester 1 2015, which means I won’t graduate until 2019 or so.

This really scares me. Do you have any advice? Should I just bite the bullet and continue on? Or should I find an alternative path? Thanks, Education Dilemma

Bro student picture from Shutterstock

Dear ED,

It sounds like you’re determined to maintain your independence and not mooch off your parents. Well, good for you — you’ve successfully circumvented the ‘layabout student’ stereotype, which should serve you well when it comes to finding a future employer. Well done!

Our advice is to stay focused and stick it out — in the grand scheme of your life, an extra year isn’t really going to make that much of a difference. After all, plenty of people indulge in a gap year before entering university. Others wait for decades and enrol as mature-age students. It’s probably not as big a deal as you think it is.

That said, if you’re truly apprehensive about waiting until 2015, find out if your course offers midyear enrolments — this will allow you to get started in the second half of next year. Alternatively, you could try taking on one extra unit per semester to speed things up. Bear in mind that most schools allow students to drop units within the first few weeks without any penalties — so it can’t hurt to give it a trial.

If any readers have additional advice of their own, let ED know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].


  • If you can, make sure your work is relevant to your studies. By the time you graduate you’ll have a few years experience under your belt and you can continue your career at a higher level than those who come out as newbies in 2019. Plenty of people supercharge their career by working in relevant jobs during their studies.

    For those who are still in high school, my advice is to take advantage of the free (or cheap if your parents expects some contribution) room and board from your parents, get through year 12 and focus on passing those exams at uni as quickly as possible. I know the party life can be enticing, but your uni time will be the last chance you get to set your path before life and work grinds you to retirement. Remember that you’re paying for those lectures and tutorials – get your money’s worth and go to every one, and know that if you fail you have to fork out money again for the same thing – and who’s foolish enough to want that?

    • On getting your money’s worth, I remember when I was going through uni that according to the cost of the units and how many lectures each one had, I worked out that each lecture was costing me around $90. So every time I wanted to skip a lecture, I thought of it as having bought a $90 ticket for something, and then not going 😛

    • Of course, the flip side to that argument is that after university, there aren’t as many opportunities for meeting people and general social interactions.

  • I am pretty sure this is my question (there is some detail in here that I didn’t write, but other than one or two things it is my question with some judicious editing), so I will add a bit more detail.

    First; I’m not about to finish year 12 exams. I managed to use what secondary schooling I do have (year 12 all the way up to 2 weeks before HSC exams) to get access to a 13 week bridging course which gave me access to the above mentioned Diploma of IT. As a side note the reason I really like the idea of getting the Diploma is it will give me something to say I’m not just a dropout, which has been a real sore point with me (in my own mind) since I left school.

    Second; with regards to picking up an extra unit; I have tried this, but with the amount of work I need to do to pass and make rent and other expenses I burn out in about a month and a half. I know others can do it, but I find that the stress sends me into a spiral leading me to crash and burn like I did when I was forced to leave school. At 16 – 17 I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and I have worked really hard to become a well adjusted self sufficient adult, but it can become difficult or impossible if I put too much pressure on myself.

    However, because two of the three offending units are easy half units I am investigating enrolling in one of them next trimester and simply not attending classes, which will allow me to work the necessary amount and read the lecture notes in my spare time and completing and handing in assessments whilst rarely attending lectures. This would solve the issue.

    Third; if the above solution works and I can complete the half unit without attending lectures I most definitely intend to enrol midyear. I think that doing so is a brilliant suggestion and has been my plan since I dropped to part time study at the start of last trimester.

    Fourth; living at home while studying. Wouldn’t it be grand? Mum cooks, she cleans, she does the laundry. Sigh. Unfortunately ‘home’ if defined as ‘where mum and dad live’; is in Far West NSW. 3 hours from a regional Uni that doesn’t offer my preferred course. At least 12 if I study the course I want to do. So I had little choice but to pack up and move out. They still help me as much as they can, but with a little sister in boarding school (for similar reasons as to why I had to move), the help they can provide is somewhat limited.

    Finally; I have had some experience in my chosen field. I spent 12 months doing a few days a week in the IT office for a mine site near home. It was a great experience particularly during a corporation wide SOE update. I learned a fair amount about imaging machines, and you wouldn’t believe how dirty a machine can get underground.

    However my biggest hope which I have been told by the co-ordinator for the degree I will hopefully enter next year is quite common, is to be offered a job part way through my degree. If not, my current job at Bunnings is a far sight better than some I have had waiting tables, I don’t think I’ll mind having it for a while.

    TL;DR – Not finishing year 12; taking an extra unit sucks too much time off work, might try doing it in absentia; if that works I will definitely enrol mid year; impossible to live at home and study; have had some experience in the field, hope to get more.


    Dear Lifehacker,

    I sincerely thank you for posting this question, and for your answer. The fact that you picked it and took the time, really means a lot to me. I am quite isolated and alone out here, so the effort is really touching.

    Thank you,


  • Have you thought about taking some units online? You can take single units through OUA and be awarded creut for them into your Diploma. You can do the same thing when enrolled into your undergraduate degree. Discuss your options with the student administration team. There are many flexible learning options available these days that can be used to compliment your current and future course enrolment.

  • how about HECS (or whatever it is called now)? might relieve some financial pressure and you may be able to increase the study load

    • I’m already utilising FEE-HELP, though it changes to something else next year if I start uni proper. The financial stress comes from rent and other expenses. It is costing me just under $1200 a month in rent alone. I’m currently looking for cheaper alternatives. I intend to look into applying for on campus accommodation tomorrow when I go to class.

      I’m really not happy with my accommodation costs, but at the time it was the only place available before I had to leave my last flat.

  • You sound like a prime candidate for any number of scholarships and student funding programs:

    1. You come from a rural area, more than two hundred kilometers from your university, it sounds like. You might not see as a bad deal but in the scope of things is a MASSIVE disadvantage. Not only did you have limited access to educational resources and employment prospects, your parents are less likely to have the capital to support you in your studies.

    Things might have changed, but back in my day that meant an immediate qualification for youth allowance and rent assistance with a threshold for earning about $300 a week on top.

    2. You have worked what sounds like a large number of hours in the industry, which may qualify you for youth allowance and rent assistance and greatly improve your chances of getting a scholarship. You are exactly that they look for.

    You should also be aware that many businesses are able to claim education fees for employees as tax deductions, among other benefits. Employees in training are a risk to a business, but they are cheap labour and a great investment if they know who you are and trust them. I advise you to research how they can benefit from hiring you, as opposed to just how they can help you. It will give you ammunition in the interview.

    This is a link to a payment calculator for government services:

    I would also contact your institution’s student services centre. They have all the information on scholarships on offer, and in my experience there are plenty of spots to go around because students don’t bother applying. The scholarships go to students with enough nouse and drive to even apply.

    I learned that the hard way: i figured I wasn’t eligible for a long time, but when i applied I had multiple offers. It’s a few hours paperwork that can net your thousands tax free and a big weight off your mind.

    Don’t feel like a bludger for this: I came from a rural area too, and your story was and is very common. I struggled working twenty hour weekends in bars and clubs to cover food and rent until I got my act together and acquired a scholarship, followed by youth allowance. It wasn’t much, but it gave me an extra fifteen hours off work to study. More importantly, I began to enjoy my studies instead of suffering through them, which ultimately reflected in my results.

    Despite what the papers write about students drinking away their youth allowance, people like yourself are the reason the programs and not-for-profit scholarships exist.

    • That’s some great advice!

      Unfortunately my parents earn too much for me to be eligible for Youth Allowance. Which always made me think I was ineligible for scholarships as well. After reading your post I will look into applying for next trimester. Having said that, I am coming up on the end of the 18 month time employment period after which I am classified as independent and can apply for Youth Allowance and rent assistance (I think).

      While it seems like I did a large amount of hours in the industry, it was really only mostly one day a week and school holidays. Which means I can’t imagine I would have a shot of getting even an plebeian level job in the industry until I complete my second year (keep in mind two units at a time it will take me two years to complete; semester 2 2016 or semester 1 2017 depending).

      Thank you for taking the time to answer, you’ve given me some tasty food for thought. With my second trimester ending in 4-5 weeks and the last for the year commencing in October I will look into scholarships and a few other things. If it’s not necromancy by then I will try and post how it all goes.

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