The Alternative Ways To Get Into University

Posted October 13, 2011, by Helen Isbister

There is a traditional way to get into uni: study hard in high school, neglect all social interaction and ensure your final mark is higher than that of all your peers so you can get into the program you want.

However, if you’ve fallen short of the cut-off, there are some alternative pathways you can take to end up with your desired degree. Some of these are designed to boost your mark, while some will take factors other than your mark into consideration.

Choosing the best uni pathway for you is an important and sometimes complicated decision. Don’t hesitate to talk to your school career counsellor or ring up and talk to the university about what’s on offer.

Keep trying

If at first you don’t succeed – wait for the second or third acceptance rounds. If demand isn’t as hot for a course as anticipated, you may be accepted in a later round. If you miss out on those, there’s still the option of waiting until mid year to reapply when the acceptance criteria are different. If you don’t have all the prerequisites needed to enrol in a course, spend the summer holidays doing a bridging course so you have the required credits.

Educational access schemes (EAS)

If your mark is within five points of the one needed to get into your course, you may be able to apply for flexible entry. EAS programs are designed to provide assistance to students who have faced educational disadvantage through their final years of high school. That may be a disability, living in a remote area, financial difficulties, or a death or illness in the family.

Fee paying courses

If you are prepared to cough up some cash to bridge the gap between the mark you have and the mark you need, full-fee paying courses (rather than HECS) could be your ticket to enrolment. It will cost you more money, but it will prove to be money well spent if it serves as the conduit to your dream career.

Study online

Another option is to study a degree or other qualification online. There are a plethora of online courses available, many of which do not have prerequisites. You can study with a university, TAFE or other type of education provider depending on what qualification you’re after. To see the full range of online courses available, browse our courses here.

Open Universities Australia, for example, offers vocational, undergraduate and postgraduate courses from leading universities and other tertiary providers in Australia through online and distance education.

OUA courses are open entry, meaning there are no prerequisites. You could obtain a degree from a university such as Monash or RMIT University by studying online – or you could study the first-year units of the degree online and then apply to study on campus in second year. And Australian citizens are eligible for the Government loan FEE–HELP, which means you do not need to pay unit costs upfront. If you’d like to know more, fill out an enquiry form for the course that interests you.

Go the back road

A good way to get into the degree you want is to enrol in another course at the university and then apply for a transfer. Go for a course in a similar stream but with a lower entry mark and if you study hard and get good marks in that, the university may be willing to transfer you over.

Also, don’t rule TAFE out of the equation. A diploma can be counted towards credit at university, and many private colleges also have agreements with universities so you can transfer over once you’ve started your course there.


The Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT) is a national test designed to access competencies such as the ability to understand and think critically about issues considered important for success in tertiary study. Many universities use STAT as part of their admission procedure, so you can use it to supplement your mark.

Non-award courses

Non-award courses or foundation studies are run by universities and are similar in content and assessment to units offered in its degrees. Satisfactory performance in a set of these units can be used to apply for entry into an award course.

Back to school

If you were unable to resist all the not-so-academic temptations high school had to offer, then maybe you can learn from your mistakes and do better second time around. The option is there to go back to school (as appalling as that idea might initially seem) and sit your final exams again. The good news is that you can go through TAFE, so you don’t necessarily need to jump back into your old school uniform.

Leverage your experience

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) takes previous study, employment experience and life experience into consideration and can count them towards credit at university. If you jump into the workforce straight after school, uni may be more than happy to have you enrol as a mature age student in a few years time.

Helen Isbister

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