Applying for Uni…

boredI am going to attempt to describe (perhaps I am slightly unhinged) in broad strokes and simple language, (AND without boring you to tears!) the wonderful processes for applying for entry into University (Victoria, Australia) and how Selection Panels at University make decisions about your application for their courses.

Seriously? Yes, I think I AM un-hinged! There is nothing simple about explaining this process... But, here goes....

unknownThis article is primarily targetted at parents and students who have NO KNOWLEDGE of this unnerving process.

For, those #experienced_uni_soles out there, you are welcome to contribute to this conversation, or pull me into line if I stray too far from the truth.

Full, fun and factual explanations of university application processes can be found (often in sublimely curvaceous routes) via the various links supplied here:

startAre you ready then? Right, here we go….

When do you apply?

The majority of Year 12 students will apply for uni courses in August/September* in preparation for commencement at University the following year (March).

Uni applications are made online** and applications (the data) must be entered into the online system by the end of September, (well, you can apply later but the longer you leave it – the more it costs).

Offers (for university placements) are made in January and February.

asteriskAsterisks… these mean…

  • *If Year 12s are undecided and need a few extra months to decide – there are mid-year university intakes.
  • **Some universities – particularly private institutions – have a ‘direct-entry’ system, however, you should still be applying – or making enquiries – to these institutions during the same period of time (August/September).
Every Year 12 student (and parent/s) will be invited to attend an information session regarding the application process - at their respective school - at the appropriate time.

bored2Are you still with me???

VTAC – Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre

This is where the online application happens – on the VTAC website.

VTAC will, through collaboration with University’s and TAFES, place all course information and institute details on their Website.

I prefer to liken VTAC to a dating service, they gather data from two separate entities (institutions and students) and from this data they procure a list of possible matches. Woop!


Hello…. The VTAC website is designed so Year 12s (and younger) can ‘pre’-explore and find suitable courses.

An excellent way to familiarise yourself with their website!

A fisheye image of mean teacher yelling and waving a ruler.Are you still reading???

How the application process works…

Starting in August, you can log onto VTAC and apply for up to 12 courses, with your ‘most-wanted’ at the top of the list. I call this your ‘wish list‘!

  • Each course on your ‘wish list‘ will (or may) have special conditions attached to them:
    • special requirements (these will be listed in the Course Description on VTAC  and can include things like holding a portfolio of work or attending an interview) or
    • pre-requisites (for example you might need a Study Score of 25 in English).
    • both special requirements and pre-requisites are non-negotiable entry requirements.
  • Your ‘wish-list‘ selections are held, or stored, on the VTAC database.
  • After your ATAR is released (mid December), VTAC will release your application/s details to ALL the institutions on your ‘wish list‘.
  • Each institution will look at your application/s and consider whether to make you an offer, or not (in January).
NOTE: The VTAC system will not forward your application if you have not met pre-requisites

lostHave I lost you? Please hang in there…

How do they decide on the ATAR for a course?

When institutions have all of the applications in front of them, their first task is to establish a ‘Clearly-in‘ ATAR for that course.

  • How do they decide upon the ‘Clearly-in‘ ATAR? The criteria for establishing the ‘Clearly-in‘ figure is based upon:
    • demand for the course (is it high or low? competitive, or not competitive?)
    • results of the applicants (ATAR and/or Study Scores) and
    • background of the applicants (perhaps there a large cohort of disadvantaged students?)
  • Taking all of these factors into consideration, a ‘clearly-in’ ATAR is established.
    • Usually (not always) the ATAR is similar or close to the previous years score.
  • Approx 80% of Students whose score is above the ‘clearly in‘ will receive an offer.
    • Well, the Selection Panel place this offer in the online queue ready to be forwarded to VTAC, then to you, at the appropriate time.
  • 8020SOME (approx 20%) of students who have an ATAR under the ‘clearly in‘ will ALSO receive an offer. What-tha?
  • How does this work? The Selection Panel will look at the SEAS Applications (Special Entry Access Scheme) – this is a part of the VTAC application process. SEAS is there to help disadvantaged students.
    • eg. Rural/Remote, socio-economic disadvantage, poor health, difficult circumstances etc.
  • So with approx 80% ‘clearly in’, and roughly 20% under the ‘clearly in‘,  offers are locked into the queue on the VTAC system – ready to be sent out to students.

Of course, not all courses operate on the 80/20% scenario, some courses will select their students using a different method such as interview, portfolio or specialised tests.

Sometimes the 80/20% rule morphs into totally different figures by the time uni courses begin... but, that is all I have to say about that!

are we there yetAre we there yet…?

Here’s a point to ponder…

  • Remember that ALL universities on your wish list will be looking at your application/s simultaneously, and will or won’t place an offer into the system.
  • It is imperative that your list is in the exact order of preference because you are automatically sent the offer highest on your list during round 1. (There are three rounds)
  • What happens with the next round/s? If a student does not accept an offer then this creates a vacancy that can be offered to somebody else, so the panel will re-visit the applications and make offers in subsequent rounds.

owlSome words of wisdom

Understanding the selection processes of Universities, although not essential, can optimise your chances of getting into the course of your dreams. Remember:

  • enter your 12 courses IN ORDER – with your most wanted at the top
  • make sure that you dot all your ‘i’s and cross all your ‘t’s when you make your VTAC application/s,
  • don’t leave your application to the last minute and ask questions if you don’t understand something
  • use your diary to plan, there are many dates and timelines to remember
  • your Career Practitioner or VCE Program Manager is a fantastic resource!
Whew! Done! Thanks for staying with me to the end!
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