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The Footnotes

Sydney startup The Footnotes is an online magazine informing students to think beyond their degree

For school students finishing their studies and moving into university there are little resources to guide them down the right path. In fact, the right path is quite ambiguous and is a learning curve students are propelled into when they leave school and enter into higher forms of education, whether that be college, TAFE, or university.

Choosing the subject or career path that suits your interests is a decision often influenced by teachers, parents and peers who think they know what’s best. When students say, I want to become a doctor, what does that career path really mean to them? What is it about that industry that is particularly appealing? Is it so appealing because of TV shows like Scrubs or Grey’s Anatomy, is it appealing because of the potential money and the title, or is it appealing because they want to improve and save lives?

In 2015 research conducted by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) found the attrition rate of students dropping out of universities in Australia was at 26.4 percent, with 29.1 percent of that rate being males and 24.5 percent being females.

According to the Department of Education, Employment and Workforce Relations, in 2009 just under 40,000 students were enrolled in undergraduate nursing programs across Australia. At the end of 2010 it was estimated that only 30,000 students would be seeking registration nationally. That’s a dropout rate of almost 25 percent, giving nursing one of the highest attrition rates in Australia.

In the last few years universities have been increasing enrolments to boost revenues, however they aren’t taking into consideration the demand of industries, dropout rates or whether the degree will actually lead to jobs in the real world.

Sydney startup The Footnotes is looking to address the attrition rate of university dropouts through an online magazine that offers content on post-schooling study recommendations. Through collected information from universities and private college courses The Footnotes provides students with various levels of information and understanding into potential career paths with ‘the day in the life’ and ‘industry insights’ content pieces. These content piece also feeding into an on site course finder to show students what a particular industry really looks like and how to get there.

The Footnotes, founded by Sarah Warmoll and Samantha Devlin, looks to transform how career and study advice is delivered through tangible career and study recommendations on a platform that is highly accessible and easy to navigate.

“What you choose to study once you leave school is arguably one of the largest choices, both financially and personally, that you have had to make up until that point in your life. We believe that not enough young people are engaging with the correct advisory resources to shape these decisions,” explained Devlin.

To help students make more informed career choices, The Footnotes creates content based on research, real life experiences and industry insights from professionals.

“We’re addressing two issues, firstly the attrition rate of people dropping out of uni and also we’re trying to build aspiration in a younger audience, so that when they’re at school they’re thinking beyond their degree, into a career and we’re giving them the pathway best to reach that career,” said Devlin.

User profiles are aggregated via the engagement they have with any one of the 30 industry categories listed on the site. The Footnotes determines articles that best suit a student’s interests based on their former searches. The course finder path on the site is where students look to turn their intentions into actions and is where content is further customised to provide a deeper background to their career of choice.

The path finders asks a user their geographical location, what mark range is accessible to them and what their interests are. Based on the collected information, The Footnotes provides every course offered that fits within the user’s criteria. Users can further refine results with by adding any key terms that come to mind and chances are it will align with one of 1800 key search terms aggregated to the search engine.

Devlin said the idea for The Footnotes came from her own experiences with the transition between high school and further studies.

“I just wish that we had this when I was at school. I read the articles that come through that we publish and i think, ‘oh my gosh, this is an amazing career and it would’ve been accessible to me.’

“For example, the other day there was an insolvency investigation article about someone who looks for tax fraud and they talked about their job and as a 16 year old I would’ve thought that kind of job is boring, and it’s so unaccessible to me because maths isn’t my strong suit. But then we accompanied that article with a ‘how much maths is actually in accounting’ and we did these step-by-step tests and we de-mystified what that degree is,” she explained.

In a sense, The Footnotes tries to answer all those questions students have but only solve once they are either at uni or land a job in their chosen field – the ‘what I wish I’d known’s.

The pair state that the online magazine has an audience reach of over 200,000. Currently it is a free platform targeting high school students or anyone who wishes to further their career through study.

“This kind of information should be accessible to anyone who wants to further their career through study, so we’ll never be a subscription based site, but we would love to open doors to industry bodies and tertiary suppliers who want to use the site to promote content,” explained Devlin.

The Footnotes is currently bootstrapping and is looking for investment to scale nationally. The platform is soon to launch to extend its course finder and content to the entire Eastern seaboard.

The content is specific to Australians, however Devlin believes that The Footnotes has the potential to be applied anywhere across the world.

Devlin said she would love to see The Footnotes continue to grow rapidly and believes working closely with universities and industry boards will help propel the startup on a path of fast expansion across Australia and potentially international markets.

Image: Samantha Devlin Source and Sarah Warmoll. Source: Supplied by Callan Robison.

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