Pathways to success: Alternative ways to get into university in Australia

Getting into university is a goal that many young Australians share. To reach it, Year 12 students work hard to be at their best as they end high school. But what happens if you don’t get the results you were yearning for, like if your ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) doesn’t quite cut it for the course or school you want to get into? Should this happen, don’t get too down—it’s not the end of the journey! You can still move forward with your dreams through various available pathways. These alternatives are designed to support you as you take another shot at your dream.

What are pathways?

Pathways are alternative routes that students can take to better transition between high school and university. They’re designed to bridge the gap in education for students who were unable to achieve the entry requirements for their desired university or degree.

Pathways are great for students who would like to explore, expand and discover their future goals with support and feedback from mentors and advisors.

Alternative pathways to university in Australia

From preparation courses to portfolios to access schemes, there are multiple ways for students to get into university despite not meeting the ATAR requirements. Here’s a quick look into your options.

Enabling courses

Enabling courses, also known as preparation courses, allow you to qualify for undergraduate courses by helping you build the necessary skills to succeed in university. These are focused on topics like research, writing processes and numeracy, and can help you adjust to the university environment.

Enabling courses are often offered over one semester, with completion typically guaranteeing entry to your course of choice, plus credit for one unit upon admission.

Bridging courses

Bridging courses are similar to enabling courses, except they focus on prerequisite areas of your chosen course of study. For example, if you’d like to get a Biology degree but don’t have the assumed foundational knowledge for the course, you may take science-related bridging courses.

Certificate, diploma or associate degree

You can finish a program that awards you a certificate, diploma or associate degree to bulk up your chances of getting a competitive university course. These academic achievements show that you have the foundation for tertiary study, plus have the basic knowledge to take on higher education.

Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT)

The Special Tertiary Admissions Test is a series of tests that assess if you possess the competencies needed to succeed in university. This is available for those of “mature age” (most universities require applicants to be at least 19 years old, but it varies so it’s best to check your desired school) and have no formal qualifications on which to base their university application. It can be used instead of an ATAR in applying for a course.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Technical and Further Education (TAFE)

Many universities consider completed Vocational and Educational Training and Technical and Further Education as a ticket to admission to a specified university-level course. Both VET and TAFE are education and training courses that focus on building skills for work, except the latter is generally offered by government-owned institutes. TAFEs are offered in every region in Australia; for example, there’s TAFE SA for South Australia and TasTAFE for Tasmania.

Both VET and TAFE programs employ a practical approach to learning, allowing you to get hands-on experience. There are six levels Certificates I through IV, Diploma, and Advanced Diploma. You can start with a Certificate III or IV, continue to the Diploma level and then get into a degree program after completing course requirements.

Credit for Recognised Learning

Credit for recognised learning (CRL) acknowledges previous study or work experience. If you can demonstrate certain skills in the field related to your chosen course of study, you may be able to apply CRL. It’s best to contact your desired institution to know how this works as it varies per university.

Portfolio or experience-based entry

Students can enter some undergraduate programs with a portfolio of academic achievement, work qualifications, skills and capabilities and suitability for tertiary education. You can supply resumes, training certificates, letters of support, etc. to make your case.

Educational Access Scheme (EAS)

The Education Access Scheme helps students who have experienced uncontrollable disadvantages during their Year 11 and/or Year 12 studies, which have affected their ability to gain the qualifications they need to be admitted to an undergraduate course. This is only available to Australian or New Zealand citizens or permanent residents of Australia; international students can’t apply for EAS.

University courses with no ATAR requirements

Students may opt to forego their original degree choices for university courses with no ATAR requirements, instead. This is a great choice if you’re more flexible with your career goals. This may also be a good way to get your foot into the university of your choice. You can use your first few semesters to earn general credits, then later on transfer to the degree program that you prefer.

Pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students

Several universities offer pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to get into university. For example, Edith Cowan University has an Aboriginal University Readiness Assessment (AURA) that allows Indigenous students who have completed a Certificate II or lower credential to be considered for university entry.

Find your own pathway to success

Success is different for everyone, and each person has his or her path to achieve their definition of it. These routes are not linear; there are many ways outside the norm to become successful. Getting a high ATAR is only one method to getting into the university and degree program of your choice. There are many other pathways that you can take if you don’t get the ATAR you expected.

PathwaysToUni can help you access a new route to success as you study in a way that suits you. Speak to us today to learn how our pathway programs work and how we can help you reach your dreams for the future!

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