Get ready to make the leap into design

By now you should be across the wide variety of roles in this profession. So it's time to sharpen the focus on your goal and how you'll get there.

Being prepared to study at university and making the right choices are two important final steps. From the hints and tips below, create a To Do list, add these tasks into your Career Action Plan, implement your plan and then make the leap.

Preparing to study at university

Some institutions don't need you to present a folio. They just make offers based on your ATAR score. Other university design courses are very competitive and  entry is based on more than just your ATAR. You may need to attend an interview and present a folio.  Check VTAC requirements and deadlines and give yourself options by applying broadly.

Thoroughly check entry requirements, including minimum English scores and the course guidelines, for the institutions and courses you are interested in - these may vary between courses.

Folio preparation and presentation

If you need to prepare and present a folio of your design-related work, here are some useful tips and hints.

Folio preparation

The word ‘folio’ is nothing to be afraid of but it can instill fear in any prospective university student. It is really just a simple word for a collection of images and designs which showcase your creative thinking and talents. Keep your folio simple and follow any directions provided by the institution.

As a general guide, the folio should comprise of between 10 - 25 pieces of original work. Only include your best work and select examples that reflect you and your design passions and interests, rather than just focusing on your school design subjects.

Prepare your folio to be viewed easily. You should be able to walk into the interview room, place the folio on the table and, if applicable, any large works against a wall, and do so within a few minutes.

Tip: labels should never be fixed or pasted on the work's surface or to the face of the mount board and should not interfere with the work on display.

Folio presentations

Folio presentations are conducted in a friendly and supportive manner and are normally expected to take approximately 10 to 20 minutes.

Include development work as well as finished work. We recommend you explain each piece in few sentences so the Course Selection Officer can understand their meaning and purpose. Keep it simple.

Examples of work you may include:

  • drawings and paintings
  • graphic designs
  • photographs
  • digital images
  • models
  • sculpture
  • video
  • scripting
  • short stories
  • 2D and 3D animation

In this LEAP video, university Art & Design School academics and students offer first-hand advice on preparation and presentation of a design folio.

Remember: don’t worry if your technical skills are not developed. Selection Officers are looking for creative people with open minds. You will learn the technical skills and how to harness them later.

The interview process

If you need to attend an interview with a Course Selection Officer and present a folio of your design-related work, here are some useful tips and hints.

  • Interviewers are keen to see your design and decision making process and how it resulted in final designs. Be prepared to discuss your design influences, including artists, designers, styles, and periods. Research your area. Have an opinion, and be able to back it up (to say why you like or dislike a work). Include work from outside of school. Visit relevant exhibitions and events so you are prepared. You may be asked to discuss the impact these have had on you and your work.
  • Interview formats vary and may include current students of the course as well as staff, or even group interview format where you interact with other applicants. Remember the interviewers are all human, they are really interested in you, what your broad interests are and how you might imagine yourself as part of their course.

During your interview

  • Make eye contact
  • Be confident and  positive about your folio - highlight your strengths
  • Be able to explain why you applied for the course
  • Be prepared to ask questions of your own
  • Have a positive outlook

What Selection Officers are looking for

  • Creativity
  • Skill
  • Passion
  • Innovation
  • Originality
  • Ideas
  • Problem Solving ability

They are NOT looking for perfection!

Final Tips

  • Read the instructions for your interview carefully
  • Allow yourself time to find the interview room
  • Do some mock interviews with family or friends
  • Prepare some questions to ask
  • Have opinions and ideas

In this LEAP video, university Art & Design School academics and students offer first-hand advice on preparation for a course entry selection interview.

Making the right choices

It's time to do some serious research to narrow down the university courses and pathways that best suit your needs and preferences. Our LEAP Partner universities websites all have a special LEAP landing page with shortcuts to their courses, entry pathways, scholarships & financial assistance, student support services and more...

Start by checking out generalist design courses - this can help you better understand the different disciplines (majors) available. This can help you to decide when and where to specialise.

If you've already decided on a  specific area of design, check out the course outcomes for those that will get you the right qualifications or professional accreditation in that area.

You may not be certain of your exact career goal yet but don't worry, universities and courses usually offer flexibility to change direction. It’s also important to remember that any decision you make about your course and career is not final. While it is worth carefully considering your choices and trying to make the best decision for your pathway, you can make changes in the future if you realise that there's a better option for you. 

Things to consider when choosing a course

  • What does the course cover?
  • What core and elective subjects are available?
  • What design specialisations are taught in later years at each university? Not all courses offer all specialisations in years 2 and 3, so if you want to study a particular area of design, make sure the choice is available in the course you choose. 
  • What flexibility is available to transfer from one course or discipline to another, in case you find you're not enjoying your first choice?
  • If your preferred career requires more than one specialisation, e.g. design and marketing, or visual communications and graphic design, which course combines these, or lets you study more than one specialisation as a second major?
  • Can you combine a design degree with another degree (for example a Law, Arts, or Business degree or even a Masters degree)?
    A double degree:
    - will broaden your expertise, give you an edge in the job market and more flexible employment options;
    - is usually completed in a shorter time and at less total cost than studying for two consecutive single degrees.
  • If you are short of time, or in a hurry to get going in design, are there intensive courses (where units are done full time for a number of weeks – rather than across a whole semester/ trimester)?
  • If you have decided on a specialised career, will the course you are choosing help you get the accreditations required?
  • If travel or living away from home are a problem, what distance study options are available, for example online learning.
  • University is more than just the study – universities are great social environments where you can make lifelong friends, so when looking at universities also consider the added extras like societies and clubs.
  • You can also expand your horizons by studying abroad for a semester in many university courses. If that appeals,  check what is possible in the courses you are considering.
  •  If you have special needs, check out the student support services offered.

Making the most of Open Day

University Open Days are a great opportunity for you to get a feel for a university where you may be studying. As well as getting to know the campus, you have the chance to meet current students, find out more about the courses you are interested in and learn about any clubs and societies at the university.

Go along with a list prepared questions. Try to talk to the faculty staff who actually teach the course you're interested in and the students currently undertaking it.

To make the most of Open Days, download the Open Day Hints and Checklist [PDF 100Kb] and consider the following:

  • Plan well ahead. Decide which Open Days to attend, based on the Universities you are seriously considering as a preference.
  • Remember it might be a weekend commitment. Consider your travel times and any accommodation needs, to maximise your time at the event.
  • As well as the questions in our Open Day Hints and Checklist, write a list of your own questions to ask on the day.

Final checklist, then it’s time to apply

Tick off these last few items and you'll be ready to leap into uni:

  • when choosing a course, think about how you’ll get to the campus;
  • if you need different learning options, to fit study in with work, does it offer these;
  • is there flexibility to change courses or disciplines if you change your mind;
  • with a wide range of courses on offer, different ATARs will apply to different courses. If you don’t think you'll get the ATAR you need for your first choice, look for other courses that may be available with a lower ATAR. Transferring back to your preferred course later on, if you are doing well, may be possible;
  • when offered a place in a course, make sure you follow the right steps to accept your offer and follow the university enrolment steps, which should be outlined to you with your offer. 

What if...?

Study pathways are not always smooth. There may be problems or barriers which you will have to overcome. There are many people you can talk to about any issues you have while studying (including counsellors, academics and administration staff). These are some common barriers that students experience:

...I complete the prerequisite subjects but my ATAR score isn’t high enough for the course I want?

  • Check the middle-band entry consideration for your course as it may enable you to get in. Alternatively, you could begin a similar degree with a lower ATAR at the same university, or a different one, and look to transfer into your desired degree later on.

...I complete VCE and get the ATAR for my preferred course, but I did not complete the pre-requisite VCE subjects?

  • Most universities will allow you to take a bridging subject or might offer you a competency exam. Contact the university you wish to apply for, to find out what they recommend.

...I’m interested in studying at uni but I haven’t got the marks and am unsure if I could even handle the material?

  • Some universities allow for “single subject study” where you can study a single subject from a course. Then depending on your results you can potentially be offered a spot in the full course.

...I find that the course or university I chose isn't for me?

  • Once you are in the university system, it is often possible to transfer from one course or university to another. Speak to an academic advisor about your transfer options and what credits you may get for relevant subjects already completed.

...I didn’t finish Year 12 but am now really interested in studying for a degree?

  • Some universities have “tertiary enabling programs” which allow entry into tertiary study. Alternatively, you could study a diploma course at TAFE and use this as a stepping stone to get into university.

...I'm doing a diploma course but decide I really want to get a degree ?

  • If you do well enough in your subjects, it’s possible that you could transfer from the diploma to the bachelor degree course. You may even get credits for relevant subjects completed. You will need to talk to someone in the future students area of the university offering the degree course you want to do, to see what your options are.

Useful Links

LEAP Partner Universities - our site's direct links to LEAP landing pages at each Uni website, where you'll find a helpful directory to their essential info.

Design Institute of Australia - heaps of info about the profession. Check out the About Design and Events sections.

Students - Beyond School has lots relevant information about the world of work, work experience, career planning, pathways and development, and occupations for secondary school students. (Victorian Government site)

Study Assist helps school students and their families understand what support they are eligible for if pursuing higher education, based on a range of study options available to them. (Australian Government site)

My Future has a guide to career development, to education beyond Year 12, videos by professionals and interactive career quizzes. My Future also has a new myfuture forum, a tool allowing you to talk to people working in a range of industries. (Australian Government site)

Bullseye posters - School subjects you like and jobs they can lead to. (Australian Government site)

Job Outlook is a careers and labour market research information site to help individuals decide on their future career. (Australian Government site)

My Skills - Online information about vocational education and training options. (Australian Government site)

Good Universities Guide - Online careers guide.

Get in touch

To enquire about LEAP activities for your school
please contact one of LEAP's participating Universities