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Tips for choosing your uni preferences

If you’re a high school student planning on applying to university, you’ll soon be making one of the first big decisions of your life – selecting your university course preference list. But it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here’s some useful tips to help you create your perfect preference list and (fingers crossed!) you’ll be accepting an offer in no time.

Familiarise yourself with the process and deadlines

For Victorian residents, most undergraduate applications for courses starting in Trimester 1 are submitted online through the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC), unless stated otherwise in the admission guidelines. VTAC applications open in August and late applications will continue to be accepted until early December (fee applies). Learn more about application closing dates and how to apply for courses through VTAC.

Note: Non-Victorian residents should refer to their state or territory’s tertiary admissions centre for relevant information regarding how to apply and application closing dates.

Gather as much information as possible

Browse university websites, read course guides, attend events like Open Day and talk to staff to get all the information you need about the courses you are interested in and what each uni offers. Universities have faculty and career advisers who are ready and willing to help, especially when it comes to choosing your course preferences.

Check entry requirements carefully

Most courses have at least one prerequisite subject that needs to have been completed to qualify you for entry and some courses have additional requirements like interviews, tests, folios or auditions. Note that entry requirements for similar courses can vary greatly so it pays to double check them to ensure you’re applying for courses you’re eligible for.

List the courses in order of preference

Regardless of whether you think you’ll get the ATAR required, course preferences should be listed in the order you’d most like them to be considered, not the order in which you think you’ll get in to them. That is, enter the course that you’d most like to study first, followed by the course you’d next prefer to study, and so on.

Consider the finer details to help you prioritise

When you’ve got a whole bunch of courses you’re interested in – many of which are probably quite similar – it can be tricky to prioritise them. To help you decide, you might like to dig a bit deeper into what each course comprises – does the course offer specialisations you like the sound of? Can you undertake internships or work experience as part of the course? What facilities do students have access to?

Remember this is your life

Choose courses you like the sound of and that lead to careers you are interested in, not necessarily those that other people may think you should study. It is a great idea to discuss your options with friends and family but ultimately the courses and universities you choose to apply for should be your decision.

Take your time and be thorough

When filling in your preference list, allocate enough time so you can review your application and ensure you’ve included all the documentation you need. Double check your personal details, as well as the courses you have selected, particularly course codes – note that the same course at different campuses of the same university will usually have a different course code.

Have a back-up plan

Even if you have your heart set on one particular course, you should list as many courses as you can on your preference list. Including similar degrees with more flexible entry criteria (e.g. a lower ATAR) further down your list will give you pathway options in case you don’t get your top preference. You might like to consider a different campus – if a uni offers a course at multiple campuses, the ATAR will likely vary from campus to campus based on demand, even though the course is the same.

Know that you can change your mind

Don’t worry if you’re not 100% sure when you initially choose your course preferences – you will be able to change your preferences as many times as you like during the Change of Preference period later in the year. But remember, it’s never too early to get started on your research.

Still unsure about what to do when you finish high school? Kickstart your course and career exploration with Deakin’s unique digital app, Explore.

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