Sydney Observer Contributor

Not receiving the ATAR needed to enter a specific course can be demotivating. After years of studying students may feel all their hard work has been wasted. Fortunately, this is not the case as there are alternative entries that can lead students to their desired course, one being the Foundation Pathway program. Sydney Observer previously had a chat with Lisa Bonnici from the Macquarie University International College Pathway Foundation Program, to discuss the importance of this initiative and how the program encourages students to pursue their passions.

Can you tell me about the Foundation Pathway Program and how this helps students who did not receive the ATAR they needed for a specific course?

A Pathway program enables students who did not receive the ATAR they desired to achieve the academic credits to gain access to the first year of university. Many of our students in the Foundation Pathway program at Macquarie University International College (MUIC) are local students who want an alternative pathway to their desired degree. It is an opportunity for them to be a part of a supportive and culturally diverse environment, where students can learn the structures and academic skills, mindset and language to succeed and gain entry into the first year of university.

Our Foundation program at MUIC enables students to complete all the study units intensively over 9 months. They focus on only two units at a time, in each 6-week term. This delivery structure enables students to focus deeply on their areas of study, with just enough intensity of learning to stimulate the development of their neurological pathways in the particular subject.

Our Pathway Programs are part of the wider university, which gives our students a chance to build a supportive network at MQ while they transition from high school to adult learning. The benefits include acclimatizing to university study life in smaller classes with personalised assistance from specialist teachers, focusing on the explicit development of study skills.

What do you think are the mental health benefits for students who take this path?

I believe there are mental health benefits when students learn how to cope with deadlines and university-style learning in a supportive, structured environment, with the learning environment matched to study and maturity needs. Students in our pathway programs are orientated to university study step-by-step and have access to wellbeing and other student services support along the way. It is less of a shock when students have a structured transition, rather than going straight from high school where you know everyone, to first-year university, where there is little structure and very high levels of the independent organisation required.

How would you encourage students to deal with HSC stress?

I would encourage students taking the HSC to dedicate themselves to their study and study strategically, but also to remember that there are alternative pathways to their desired destination. I would encourage them to remember to balance their time between self-care and study. It is important to structure study time but to also make space to enjoy social time with family and friends. As a break, exercise is great, and to make study fun record yourself reading your notes, draw pictures for study notes, create a study group with friends and quiz each other.

What are your tips to students who are about to finish their school journey?

My first tip is that if you did not receive your desired ATAR have a look at Pathway Foundation programs as an alternative. If you begin there you know that you are on a very supportive path to achieving your ultimate study goal and gaining access to vital academic skills.

My advice to students who are unsure about what they would like to do is to start in a program that allows you to dabble in a few different areas and interests- try not to restrict your specialisation too quickly as you never know where your strengths and interests may lead! You do not need to have everything figured out straight away.

There are many pathways into higher education now, and there are many programs in place to support you to get to where you want to go – and you can still have a life and gain valuable experiences along the way.

Lisa Bonnici is an Academic English and Research for University Skills Teacher in the Macquarie University International College Pathway Foundation Program.