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University offers: what to do if you didn't get into your first preference

With most course offers out this week, there’s plenty to be excited about. But for some students, it can also be a time of stress — particularly if they haven’t been offered a place in their preferred course. If this sounds like you, now is the time to consider your plan of action.

Before you panic, consider these three tips.

Don’t lose hope after the first round of offers
While it’s normal to be upset if you weren’t offered a place in your preferred course, it will put you at ease to remember that you still have a chance in later rounds. But remember, the number of additional places offered will vary between courses, depending on how many spots are available and how many students accept, reject or defer their offer. Check with your state or territory’s Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC) for further information about offer rounds and how to accept or ‘hold’ a place before the next round. If you have applied to an institution directly and did not receive an offer for the course you were hoping for, it’s best to get in touch with the admissions team.

Research your lower preferences
When caught up in the stress and excitement of finishing school, it’s easy to set your mind on one course — and one course only. Many students concentrate the bulk of their research on their first few preferences, spending very little time researching those further down their list. If you haven’t gained entry into one of your preferred courses, you should start to research some of the other courses (especially the one you have been offered a place in). You may find that some of the courses you chose as a last resort, perhaps because they were offered by a lesser-known institution or required a much lower ATAR/OP, in reality have a number of strengths, such as a greater focus on applied (practical) learning or a better subject offering with electives more suited to your interests. The Good Universities Guide website — with our University Ratings , Institution Search and Course Search — is the perfect place to start your research.

Think about your pathway options
Try to remember that all courses offer pathway options, whether this includes starting out with a lower-level qualification (such as a diploma of business before progressing into a bachelor of business) or pursuing your preferred specialisation through postgraduate study (such as entering a bachelor of arts and then gaining a law qualification later on through a master of laws or juris doctor program). You may also consider a foundation studies program, many of which grant students entry into the second year of a degree; studying a similar qualification at another provider and then attempting to transfer into your first choice later on; or attempting to gain entry into your course through mid-year entry for the July intake. If you’re unsure about the best pathway for you, it will help to have a chat to student advisers on campus or to give the institution a call. Before you decide on a pathway, it is important to ensure that it is recognised by your institution for entry into your preferred course.

Further information