The Best Ways To Get Into Uni WITHOUT AN ATAR
What comes to mind when you hear the word ATAR? Stress? Pressure? Breakdowns? Endless Study? If so, you’re not alone. As someone who is about to start Year 12, and has spoken to many graduates about their Year 12 experience, it is the year you “hit rock bottom”. The entire year, every decision you make is leading up to that all-important number.
But is your ATAR really that important?
The short answer is no. No, it is not that important. And you’ve probably heard this from your parents and teachers a million times but it doesn’t mean anything until you find out the other ways you can get into your dream uni course without an ATAR. In fact, out of all the students accepted into the Bachelor of Pre-Medicine, Science, and Health at the University of Wollongong, only 22% were admitted solely on the basis of their ATAR (2020).
Every university’s early entry scheme is structured slightly differently, so it is best to check each institution’s website for specific information. The idea of Early Entry or Early Access is to send out offers a week or so before your final HSC exams in October/November. These offers are made based on a combination of your Year 11 results as well as an interview.
There’s honestly nothing to lose by applying for this, however, if you do not get an offer, your admission will be based on another entrance score (see below for examples).
Summer Master Class
Again, each university has a slightly different version of this. I recommend looking into your local university or college simply for convenience. These classes run as a university-level course over the 6-week summer holidays before Yr 12. They are usually in person, on campus, so they provide a great opportunity for you to check out the facilities.
The classes can also give you a taster of the course content as most universities offer a course from each department (e.g. one in health, community service, business, etc.) which will ultimately influence what you put on your preference list later on in the year.
One other advantage to participating in a Summer Master Class is connection. This also applies to Science Extension where I will go into depth a bit more.
Science Extension alone is a subject that can be taken in Yr 12, but what is less known about it is the doors it can open in terms of university entry. The course requires a partnership with a post-graduate student at a specific university throughout the year. In this, you will work together on publishing a professional scientific research paper.
The year partnership essentially acts as a long-term interview. You will be able to create a connection with the staff: show them your passion, personality, and your work ethic. You will be surprised at the power the staff you work with have on your application.
Academic Equivalency – my favourite UAC Hack. This is a way to enter into tertiary study on the basis of another score, other than your ATAR. To do this, you must first sit the SATs.
The SATs are the American standardised testing that is the main entrance requirement to US colleges (if you are thinking about studying abroad, check out this post). It is offered in Australia up to 4 times a year on set dates and at set test sites. You can book this exam here.
What I like about the SAT is that it is far easier than the HSC (or VCE, QCE, etc.). It can also be taken as many times as you like. The 3-hour test consists of only maths and English multiple-choice questions and can easily be prepared for on the Khan Academy website. This score out of 1600 will be transferred to an equivalent ATAR by applying through the Qualifications Assessment Service on the UAC website.
The other great this is that this will ‘scale’ really well. I, for one, got 1370 which translates to a 95 ATAR at UNSW (which is much, and I mean much, higher than my predicted ATAR).
The Tertiary Preparation Course via TAFE has the same application process as the SAT but is a very different path of study. The TPC is a year 12 equivalency course that runs for a year period, however, most people enter directly out of Year 10. This course provides a general education opportunity with Science, Maths, English, and HSIE as the main subject areas. The course is on campus and part-time, still with formal exams and assignments.
At the completion of these exams, you will be provided with a score out of 100. This will be assessed by each university as an ATAR equivalent. There are so many advantages to this course:
- Yr 11 and Yr 12 are condensed into one year
- You no longer attend a formal school (no more uniforms, buses, hours on end of study)
- The course is part-time, freeing up time for sport, jobs (or more study if you like)
- It is an adult learning environment that involves more freedom and responsibility which is often preferred by universities.
The Statement in HSC Studies via TAFE is simply the same HSC course that would be completed at school that is run by NESA. The only difference is that the course is an online, adult learning, and flexible environment. You will still receive an ATAR and be looked at by universities all the same. This option does take a lot of the stress off of you, simply by removing you from that ‘robot-like’ system.
The main thing to remember throughout your entire high school journey is that your marks don’t define you. If there is a course you want to get into, you will be able to get into it – whether that is through the front door (your ATAR, Early Entry etc.) or through a back door (a pathway course, TAFE, SAT, etc.)
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