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How to get from high school to university

Applying for university in Australia doesn’t have to be stressful. Start early to ensure you meet all timelines.

What is your ATAR?

Your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is a percentile figure that shows your academic achievement ranking in relation to other students. It’s calculated using the marks from five general subjects, or four general subjects plus either an applied subject and a completed certificate III/ Higher Level VEL Qualifications. English needs to be one of the subjects, and it must be completed to a C grade or higher.

How do you apply for university?

Each state and university will have a slightly different process. Each state has a tertiary admission centre that receives, collate and forwards applications to their institutions.

When you apply, you need to provide:

  • Personal details
  • LUI (Learner Unique Identifier)
  • Details of your current studies and qualifications
  • Proof of ID, particularly if you have changed your name
  • Proof of educational history
  • Contact details including an email address other than your school address
  • Any admissions tests you have taken
  • Authorisation for someone else to log in and help with the process
  • Documents in PDF format that support your application, such as: Evidence of qualifications and academic results, personal statement, CV, portfolio, and ID proof.

You will then be required to list the courses you want to study, in order of preference. These can be changed later on. You can also apply for scholarships through your tertiary admission centre.

If you meet all eligibility requirements, you’ll proceed to the merit round. This merit uses your ATAR ranking, previous qualification and courses completed, and any other standards of education that you’ve met.


Create a VTAC user account. and follow the process. You can then apply for up to eight courses. Pay the fee ($41 for current year 12 students) and submit your application by the appropriate date.

Offers are usually made in the first month of the year. Watch this space for updates.

New South Wales

If you can apply via UAC, visit their website and click on the Apply or Log In button on the top right of the page. Choose which application type it is, and then enter your personal details. Accept the declaration and pay for your application.

The first round of offers will be made on 20 December 2021. The next round of offers are on the 10th, 21st and 31st of January 2021.


You can only apply through QTAC if you are an Australian citizen, permanent resident, a NZ citizen or if you hold visas 201 or 202.

If you fit this criteria, create a QTAC account. Then, follow their criteria and select the courses you wish to apply for. Pay the fees, which range between $45 and $182.

Ensure you apply within the correct date ranges in order to start study when you want to. Watch this space for key date updates once the information is released.

South Australia

Check that you are eligible to apply via SATAC, and that you’re applying within the date ranges they outline. Create a login on their website. Follow the process as per their step by step online guide, choose your desired courses and pay the fees (From $45 to $225).

The main offer rounds are finalised between mid-December and early January.

Western Australia

You can only apply through TISC if you are an Australian or NZ citizen, or you have PR. If this is the case, you can start the registration process on their website. Provide the information they need, and ensure that you apply by the dates outlined. Pay the fees, which range between $55 and $170.

Watch this space for key date updates once the information is released.

What are prerequisites subjects for each course?

Pre-requisites for courses vary. They may include:

  • English requirements, over and above ATAR
  • Subject requirements
  • Interviews
  • Portfolio
  • Personal statement
  • Admissions tests, for instance, medicine and dentistry may require UCAT It is advisable to research this yourself through your university and course details online before submitting your application.

What do International Baccalaureate students need to do?

IB students do not need to register for an ATAR portal. Your IB score is converted into a ‘combined rank’ and that is then converted to a tertiary entrance rank for your state.

How do early offers work?

You can be offered an early enrolment into a course. These are made to exceptional secondary school students prior to the release of ATARs or equivalent.

As 2020 was an irregular year, early offers were brought out in July and August. Year 12 students can submit early applications, using their Year 11 school reports as evidence of achievement.

In general, there will be a 14 day window of opportunity to accept or reject the offer. These offers are conditional on entry requirements being met.

How do you accept or reject an offer?

If you have been able to apply through your state’s tertiary admission centre, once you have successfully submitted your application, you can log back in and check on the progress and result of your application.

Note that each course will respond to you in different timeframes, there are multiple offer rounds. These offers will differ according to the course and the state, so ensure you understand the process before accepting or rejecting a course. You can conditionally accept a course while waiting for your more preferred course to respond.

Once you have been offered a place, you need to accept or reject within the required time frame. In your TAC account, you can accept, reject, or defer the offer. If you accept the offer, all other offers will be withdrawn and other applications will be closed.

You can conditionally accept an offer, but reorder your preferences. This means you can accept that offer, but wait for other offers that are higher in the preference list.

If you don’t get an offer, you can change your preferences, look to see other courses aren’t full and apply for them, or look at pathway options. Speak to IDP to discuss what could be best for you. There could be an alternate pathway to get into the course you want to do.

Tips for dealing with stress at offer acceptance time

  • Consider your future if you’re considering permanent residency 
  • Consider regional for migration purposes (gain more points)
  • Consider which regional options are best for your chosen field. Will you be able to gain work in the field after completing your studies?
  • Needs to be done for each state.
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