You should start discussing tertiary options with your child when they are in Year 9 or 10, before they have to select subjects for their senior school certificate. Subject choice is very important if your child wants to take the traditional entry path into a particular tertiary course. The other factors that determine entrance are how well they do and what ATAR or OP they achieve.
The ATAR is calculated on the basis of the study scores earned in the student’s chosen subjects. It is a percentile ranking (given in increments of 0.05 between 30.00 and 99.95) reflecting the comparative performance of an applicant amongst the relevant age group in a given year, and is the basis for tertiary selection. Queensland students recieve an Overall Position (OP) between 1 and 25 or a selection rank.
Some courses (medicine and law, for example) require a very high ATAR or OP. Other courses, such as nursing, teaching or the humanities, are generally easier to get into. International Baccalaureate (IB) students receive a score out of 45 that can be converted to an ATAR by the relevant state admissions centres.
The subjects a student chooses in Years 11 and 12 are very important because certain courses (such as engineering, medicine, accounting and science) set prerequisites. This means that students won’t be admitted to the course unless they have completed certain subjects — typically maths and science subjects. Courses in the performing arts will also require some background or talent in the relevant field and may require the student to submit a portfolio or attend an audition or interview. General humanities courses will not usually have prerequisites.
Depending on their interests, or how much thought they have given to tertiary study, some students choose a broad range of subjects — perhaps mixing maths, science and humanities. Others, who already have their mind set on a particular study field, may choose very specific subjects (those that will ensure entry into their chosen course). Design courses, for example, require students to have completed subjects such as art, design and visual communication.
In New South Wales, many courses admit undergraduate students on the basis of an ATAR; however, some courses require additional (or, in some cases, alternate) entry requirements, such as a portfolio or an audition. Applications for university must be made by the end of September to the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) through their online ‘Apply’ system.
Queensland students apply online through the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) before the end of September. Students intending to progress to university study generally undertake studies that see them awarded an OP, however OP ineligible students may still gain entry into a tertiary course based on their selection rank.
For Year 12 students in Victoria, admission to most tertiary courses is based on the ATAR (as discussed above). A student’s ATAR is confidential information provided by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) to students and any universities to which they apply. Applications for university admissions are made to VTAC before the end of September. Details on admission processes and procedures are provided in the VTAC Guide, released in July each year.
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