Marnie Townsend is on her way to the career of her dreams, but the path has not always been straightforward. 

Key points:

  • At 27, Marnie Townsend is studying to become a midwife after taking a longer path to university
  • She says students disappointed with the outcome of their high school results have other options
  • Researcher Dr Kristina Sincock says there are career options that do not require university

The now 27-year-old from South Australia’s Riverland is in her third year of a Bachelor of Midwifery, but it was not the career she had planned when she was in high school. 

“I very much had no idea what I was going to do, and I had no motivation to study or really excel at school,” Ms Townsend said. 

“I worked in the family business and slowly started feeling like I wanted to get into healthcare.

“I did the STAT [Special Tertiary Admissions Test] — a literacy and numeracy test for mature-age students to get into uni. Although I didn’t get a score high enough for midwifery, I applied and got into nursing.”

Marnie Townsend was inspired to study midwifery when her sister fell pregnant.(Supplied: Marnie Townsend)

After studying nursing for a year and achieving a high enough grade point average, Ms Townsend was able to transfer into midwifery, a passion she discovered when her sister fell pregnant. 

She is telling her story as students across the country receive their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) results, for better or worse, and is keen to point out that high school is not the end of the road.

“If you are able to get the score that you need, then that’s incredible, but if you don’t, or if you don’t know what you want to do straight out of high school, there’s certainly ways to find what you want to do,” Ms Townsend said. 

“Definitely look at other options. I know that in terms of healthcare and that sort of thing it’s hard to get work experience but there’s cadetships. 

“There are other options you can do to try it out before you go into uni.”

University isn’t for everyone 

University of Newcastle researcher Kristina Sincock has been involved with a study examining the consequences of fixation on university education and, by extension, examination results

“Students feel pressure from their teachers, career advisors and from broader society that university is the best path that they could possibly follow and that anything else isn’t as good,” she said. 

“I think the aim has been to get as many people into university as possible.”

During the study, her team conducted a number of interviews that highlighted the consequences of the pressures to attend university. 

“There was one particular young person who we spoke to who was desperate to be a chef,” Dr Sincock said. 

“But he heard this message from his teachers [that university is more important]. 

“His career advisor said he was too clever and too smart for that and that he should go and do something more academic.”

Dr Sincock say ultimately finding passion and purpose in life outweighs easily measurable levels of success.  

“I think that we just need to support young people to follow the things that they love,” she said. 

“There are lots of careers out there that might be difficult to get into. Try and support young people to do the things they are really passionate about.” 

Marnie Townsend said she would not change the steps she took towards midwifery.( ABC News: Sophie Holder )

Back in the Riverland, Ms Townsend is grateful she has had the opportunity to study in her home town, and is looking ahead to wrapping up her studies and becoming a midwife. 

“I’ve always loved the idea of healthcare and helping people,” she said.

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