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How to get into uni no matter what your ATAR is

A university degree can give you the skills and qualifications you need to reach your dream career. But not everyone is automatically eligible for entry to a university course.

That’s why there are pathways, which provide alternative entry options if you don’t quite meet the requirements. Whether your ATAR isn’t quite high enough or you don’t meet the subject prerequisites, here are some of the most common pathways you can take to ultimately get in to your dream university course.

Pathways through other courses at the same uni

If there’s a particular university you want to study at, but you don’t meet the entry requirements for your chosen course, you could apply to study a different course that has similar subjects or major sequences, but different entry requirements (e.g. a lower clearly-in ATAR).

After a year of study you may be able to use this as a pathway into your chosen course, gaining credit for the subjects already completed (subject to availability and academic performance). Pathways between courses at the same institution can also include moving from a single degree to a combined course or from a general degree to a specialist one.

Pathways through other campuses of the same uni

Many universities have more than one campus and the entry requirements and clearly-in ATAR for the same course can vary based on which campus it’s offered at. If the clearly-in ATAR at the campus of your choice is too high, you may be able to apply to transfer from one campus to another after your first year of study, and take your course credits with you (subject to availability and academic performance).

Remember, a course’s clearly-in ATAR is not necessarily a measure of the course’s quality or difficulty – clearly-in ATARs are determined based on the course’s popularity relative to how many places are available at that campus.

Pathways through TAFE

A TAFE or private provider qualification can be a stepping stone to gain entry into your chosen university course. It may even give you credit for prior learning, enabling you to fast-track your university degree, saving time and money. Many universities have guaranteed entry pathways with certain TAFE courses, meaning that as long as your study performance at TAFE meets the required standard, you’ll be guaranteed a place at the university in the relevant course after completing your TAFE course.

Check with the relevant institution as to what guaranteed TAFE pathways are available. To give you the best chance of entry to university and the most credit, ideally, the diploma you study at TAFE will be in a subject area that’s related to the course you want to study at university. Check out Deakin University’s recognition for prior learning tool to get an idea of what credit certain TAFE courses could get you.

Pathways through other tertiary institutions

If another university offers the same or a very similar course to the university you ultimately want to attend, and it has lower entry requirements, you may be able to switch to your chosen university and receive credit for your completed studies (subject to availability and academic performance).

Unlike taking a TAFE pathway, where you usually need to have completed a minimum of one year of study at TAFE before you can transfer to university, if the course at the university you want to change to has a mid-year intake, you may be able to transfer after only three or four months.

Pathways through the workforce

First-year university students are not always straight out of high school or TAFE. If you decide to start working after high school rather than going straight to university, your work experience or industry training could gain you entry to or credit towards a university course at a later stage. In assessing these applications, the university will look for significant and relevant experience that will demonstrate your capability to complete a relevant bachelor’s degree.

Other pathways

Some universities offer courses that act as transition courses into a bachelor’s degree. For example, Deakin University offers associate degrees in arts and education that provide a supported entry to tertiary study. When you complete a Deakin associate degree you’ll get up to 18 months’ credit and guaranteed entry to certain Deakin courses.

If you want to get a taste of a university study before you commit to a whole course, some universities offer the opportunity to study single units, enabling you to start pursuing your personal or professional interests. If you enjoy the experience, you can apply to study a course and, if your application is successful, your unit may be credited towards your degree.

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