Since launching in 2014, La Trobe University’s Aspire program has provided early admission offers to a total of 6,614 Year 12 and mature-age students. From breakdancing to sport coaching, these students have each given back to their communities through volunteer work that demonstrates clever leadership.
Now, two graduates from Aspire’s first cohort share how the program helped enhance their university experience and sharpen their career skills.
Stephen moved to Melbourne from the Goulburn Valley. Through the Aspire Early Admissions program, he’d accepted an offer to study a Bachelor of Accounting at La Trobe. He brought his community sport volunteer skills to uni, which opened up a whole bunch of opportunities for him.
‘I saw that Aspire was offered to people showing leadership, community involvement and strong academic performance,’ Stephen says. ‘I’d helped out with cricket coaching and football umpiring in my community, and I was on the student council at Notre Dame College in Shepparton. I fit the criteria, so I applied.
At uni, Stephen volunteered his time with the La Trobe University Football Club as a goal umpire and water boy. This led to further roles and responsibilities.
‘I was approached to take on the role as Vice President of the footy club. I was only 20, so it was a pretty big deal. I attended committee meetings and league meetings, and helped get sponsors for our social memberships. I also helped coordinate the inter-campus football competition, running the day in conjunction with La Trobe Sport. And I occasionally helped out the treasurer.’
Stephen attributes this impressive list of community service work to securing a graduate job at Crowe Horwath, an accounting firm in Albury.
‘When I interviewed for positions, the majority of employers wanted to know about extra-curricular activities to see what sort of person you are and how you’ll fit into the culture of the company. You’ve absolutely got to stand out and have a point of difference.’
Having transferable soft skills is really important – it allows you to go down different career paths.
For Stephen, his volunteer leadership experience has given him the tools to enter and excel in his career.
‘It’s developed my soft skills and prepared me for employment. It’s helped me balance these sort of commitments with study, work and my social life. It’s also helped my inter-personal skills – for example, communicating with various stakeholders at uni.’
And Stephen believes this foundational skill set will help him gain a rich and varied career: ‘Having transferable soft skills is really important – it allows you to go down different career paths.’
Following years of involvement in the local scouts club in Cobram (part of Victoria’s Murray River region), Amabel decided to apply for Aspire. She was successful, so she packed up her bags to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at our Melbourne Campus.
‘La Trobe was my first choice from the beginning,’ she says. ‘I loved volunteering in the scouting section back home and thought, “If La Trobe rewards and upholds community values, it’s an appealing place to go.”.
‘Aspire was like having a security blanket. As an early entry program, it took the pressure off my Year 12 exams.’
Not only did the prospect of Aspire ease exam nerves, Amabel also appreciates the way it introduced her to uni life before her first day.
‘When I first got into Aspire, I came on campus for a few days before uni started. To meet students who were coming here was awesome. It meant things weren’t so foreign when I showed up on my first day.’
Amabel quickly settled into uni life by immersing herself in the campus community and taking on a number of volunteer leadership positions.
‘Living somewhere new and studying in Melbourne, I decided to become involved within the university community. I was a residential assistant for the on-campus residences, which meant I was the first point-of-call for any students living within our college – like a go-between for Accommodation Services and day-to-day activities.’
Like Stephen, this initial role led to more opportunities for Amabel to explore and develop her leadership skills.
‘I later ran a residential adviser health program for mental, physical and social health. And I was an academic mentor, so every second Monday night, first-year agricultural students would come to me for a study session.
‘I was also President of the La Trobe Agricultural Society, which involved organising fundraising events, the agricultural ball and end-of-year celebration events. And I still passed my studies!
Having recently returned from a six-month stint working on a large dairy farm in America, Amabel dreams of a career giving back to the community. Her goal is to land a position in animal nutrition, where she hopes to provide consulting services to the dairy industry.
‘Community work is ingrained in my personality; it’s part of who I am.’
Do you fit the bill for our Aspire Early Admissions program?