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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 6, No. 1 - January/February 2014

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What to Do If You Don't Get the ATAR that You Had Hoped

By Tim Laurence

Admission to Australian publicly funded Universities is based principally on the applicants ATAR. While many would like to see selection criteria based on attributes aside from those demonstrated by a Tertiary ranking score, the current system seems to be the easiest and fairest way for Universities to make their decisions on whom to offer places in their coveted degree programs.

For the last couple of years the Federal Government has been using a demand driven funding model for Universities. This has meant that many more University places have been made available. So the odds of receiving an offer of a University place are pretty good if you don't mind where you study.

The reality is however, that most students have set their sights on a particular course at a specific University. Often their aims are out of reach and many students treat the preference based UAC application system like a lottery. The odds for a win are not as high but the reality is that entry requirements rarely fluctuate too much from year to year. It is therefore essential to do your research to make sure that each of your University preferences is realistic.

The minimum ATAR cut-offs published by UAC are the best starting point. As you have up until early January to make changes to your preferences it is wise to go online and make sure that you have nominated courses that come near to your likely ATAR score. UAC will endeavour to offer you a course from your preference list so make sure that each preference is meaningful. If you start your preferences with three or four unrealistic choices and finish off with realistic ones in programs that you have no interest in, more than likely you will receive an offer for the latter.

Another sensible piece of research is to check-out all the pathway options to your top preference programs. It's wise to have this information before the universities make their final offers.

Many University programs offer advanced standing to students who have successfully completed either a TAFE advanced diploma or Higher Education Diploma form a University pathway college. The courses are either two or three semesters in length and offer similar subjects to the first year of University. Once you are a non-recent school leaver, your admission to university is based principally on your post- secondary study, not your HSC.

So once you complete one of these courses you may well be offered a place in your university course you initially dreamed of with substantial advanced standing.

TAFE and Higher Education diplomas differ in terms of their learning objectives and their educational models. TAFE programs tend to be more prescriptive and use a competency based model of learning. This suits many students who may want the option of a para-professional job at the end of their studies. The University pathway Diplomas more closely resemble first Year University and focus not only on subject content but on developing students critical thinking abilities that are essential for successful University study.

So come January you will have ensured that your preferences to Universities are realistic and if you don't get the university offer you want you will have your options ready to get there eventually.

About Tim Laurence

Tim is the Dean of Studies at UTS: INSEARCH, the premium pathway provider to UTS. He is responsible for the delivery and quality assurance of all UTS: INSEARCH pathway programs both locally and internationally. He has 26 years' experience in higher education teaching and management. With a background in design, he is also an Adjunct Professor of Design at the University of Technology, Sydney and a Fellow of the Design Institute of Australia.

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