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Entry requirements depend on the course and your particular situation. You are at high school or never completed it, you have a low ATAR or haven't studied for years. There are special admission policies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, overseas citizens and those from regional areas. You can find specific advice here.
I'm still at high school
If you’re a current Year 12 student, admission to most tertiary courses is based on your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). Most institutions require you to have achieved a specified minimum ATAR – also called the cut-off or entrance rank – before you can be considered for that course. Some courses, especially creative courses in art, music or performance studies, may have additional selection criteria that are considered either together with, or instead of, the ATAR. These include presenting a portfolio of work, attending an interview or audition or completing a questionnaire or test.
If you’re interested in applying to TAFE or the Canberra Institute of Technology, you will be selected on the basis of your entire application, not just your ATAR, but you will need to have completed the New South Wales Higher School Certificate or another Year 12 qualification.
Many independent or private colleges, institutes or training organisations also require you to have completed the HSC or its equivalent if you want to study higher level courses such as diplomas, associate degrees and bachelor degrees. However, if you have the Record of School Achievement (RoSA) – previously the School Certificate – many places will allow you to study lower level courses that will give you credit for entry into the higher level courses.
I didn't finish high school
If you don’t have Year 12 qualifications, many independent or private colleges, institutes or training organisations offer other pathways to study. For example, you may be able to study a lower level course to the one you’re interested in. Once you’ve completed this successfully, you’ll be able to move into the higher level course, often with credit for the subjects you’ve already studied.
Many universities also offer tertiary preparation courses as stepping stones to tertiary study. These vary from institution to institution but they generally build your academic skills and your knowledge in the subject area you’re interested in. Some institutions will also consider you on the basis of your results in a test such as the Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT), which measures your ability to think critically rather than your knowledge of specific academic subjects.
If you don’t have any school qualifications at all, you can complete a tertiary preparation certificate or Certificate in Matriculation at TAFE or CIT. This is recognised as an entry qualification by most institutions for most courses.
If you left school before you finished Year 12 but have Year 10 qualifications – that is, the Record of School Achievement (RoSA) or School Certificate – you can gain entry to certificate-level courses at TAFE or CIT. If you successfully complete a certificate course, you can use this to apply for a higher level course.
My ATAR wasn't high enough
If you apply for tertiary study as a Year 12 student and your ATAR doesn’t meet the cut-off requirement for the course, you won’t necessarily miss out that year. Some institutions may make you an offer to a ‘slipback’ course. This is a course at a lower level of study than the one you’ve applied for. For example, if you applied for a Bachelor of Marketing and didn’t meet the entry requirements or weren’t competitive enough, the institution might offer you a place in a Diploma of Marketing course.
You may also be eligible for bonus points. These points increase your rank for a particular course or institution, making you more competitive for entry. Bonus points can be awarded for your performance in the subject area of the course you’re applying for or because you live in, or go to school in, a particular region.
You may also be eligible for Educational Access Schemes including early offer schemes, flexible entry schemes, rural student entry schemes and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicant schemes. Check with your chosen institution for details.
If your ATAR is too low for the course you’re interested in and you don’t receive a slipback offer, most institutions offer ‘pathway’ options. Pathway courses offer further support and preparation before you study at degree level, usually by studying a lower level course. This could include anything from a bridging course to a certificate, diploma, advanced diploma or associate degree.
Some institutions will even guarantee you entry into a degree course if you complete their pathway course first – check with the institution to see if this would apply to you. Otherwise you can use your pathway course results to apply and compete for admission to degree courses at another institution. You may also be awarded credit for some of your pathway courses, which decreases the number of courses you need to complete as part of your degree once you are accepted. Each institution has its own criteria, so make sure you check on its website or contact its student support centre directly.
If you’re interested in studying at TAFE or CIT in ACT, your HSC is used as the basic entry qualification. Selection isn’t based on your ATAR, so don't worry is you think it is too low.
I've been working for years
If you’ve been working for a while, the skills and knowledge you’ve gained in the workplace could count towards your application for tertiary study. Work experience shows commitment, reliability and a range of skills that point to success in higher education.
Many universities and colleges will consider employment experience as part of their entry requirements, usually in conjunction with other criteria such as a personal statement or your results from the Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT). Contact your chosen institution for the details.
Because TAFE and CIT learning is focused on vocational education and training – that is, training to do a particular job – work experience can often help you gain entry to a course. For example, if you’ve been working in an office and helping with the accounts for at least six months, this may go as credit towards a Certificate in Business.
I'm of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent
Most institutions have an admission scheme specifically for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students who don’t meet regular entry criteria. Some also offer scholarships or awards to Indigenous applicants.
Like other applicants, you may also be eligible for the Educational Access Scheme (EAS), early offer schemes, flexible entry schemes, principals’ recommendation schemes and rural student entry schemes. You often apply for these schemes through your chosen institution, so check the details with the student support centre or Indigenous centre at the institution.
In addition, the Australian government funds scholarships for Indigenous students to help them access higher education. You can apply for this financial assistance through the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC).
I'm from a rural or regional area
If you’re from a rural or regional area you may be eligible for the Educational Access Scheme (EAS), early offer schemes for students from eligible low socioeconomic schools, flexible entry schemes and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicant schemes.
In addition, some institutions apply bonus points, known as 'regional bonus points', to your selection rank if you live in or attend school in certain areas. Bonus points change your rank for a particular course or institution, making you more competitive for admission.
You may also be eligible for a rural student entry scheme, particularly in health sciences. Institutions that offer these schemes set aside a limited number of places in certain courses for school-leavers who live in a rural area and who have an ATAR that is within range of the cut-off.
I'm from overseas
If you’re not an Australian or New Zealand citizen or an Australian permanent resident, you can apply for tertiary study through the Universities Admissions Centre if you are completing one of the following qualifications:
- an Australian Year 12 in or outside of Australia
- an International Baccalaureate (IB)
- a New Zealand National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) at Level 3.
Admission to most tertiary courses is based on your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) – or its equivalent if you’re studying an International Baccalaureate. You usually need to achieve a specified minimum ATAR – also called the cut-off or entrance rank – before you can be considered for that course.
If you’re from overseas and haven’t any of the qualifications mentioned above, you should apply for tertiary study direct to the institution you’re interested in attending. As well as meeting the eligibility requirements of the course, you will need to supply original or certified copies of academic transcripts – and translations if they’re in a language other than English. You may also need to prove your English language proficiency if you have completed studies in another language.
If you’ve completed tertiary studies overseas you may be eligible to apply for credit recognition or advanced standing in your course. Your chosen institution will decide on your eligibility for credit.
TAFE NSW and CIT also offer a range of courses for international students, including intensive English language courses and pathway courses to university. Check with TAFE or CIT for further information.