ATAR Q&A: What next?

January is just another month in the summer break for current tertiary students, but for recent school leavers it means one thing — university offers. If you’re one of the many students nervously waiting for offer day, check out our Q&A below.

How will I receive my offer?

You can view your offer online by logging into your user account on your state’s Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC) website. It will be available at the specified release time. You will also receive an email confirming your offer. If you applied directly to the institution, you can expect to receive your offer via email or post.

How do I accept my offer?

To accept your offer, you will need to follow the enrolment instructions provided by the institution. If the offer is noted as ‘provisional’, you may need to meet conditions such as providing additional documentation. You will need to enrol by the specified deadline — usually around a week after the offer is made — to ensure your offer does not lapse.

Will I receive more than one offer?

You will only receive one offer each round — the highest preference for which you are eligible. If you do not receive an offer in the main round, or if you are offered a place in a preference lower than your first, you may receive an offer in one of the further offer rounds. Check your state’s TAC website for offer round dates.

How can I defer my offer?

If you’re heading off on a gap year — or just need some time off before you continue your studies — you can defer your place for a set period of time (usually a semester or a full year). When you receive your offer, you should be given instructions for accepting or deferring your place. This is usually done through the institution’s online system or your state’s TAC. You will need to make sure you defer before the deadline to enrol, as outlined in your offer letter.

Remember that not all courses allow students to defer their place, so it’s best to check with the institution before making alternate plans for the year.

My ATAR was higher than the cut-off score from last year — why didn’t I receive an offer?

Cut-off scores vary year on year depending on the demand for courses. If there is greater demand for the course this year, the cut-off score may increase. If you missed out on an offer in the main round, you may still be offered a place in the further offer rounds — so don’t give up hope if you were just below the cut-off score.

While some courses will always require sky-high scores, such as medicine, cut-offs vary in most fields of study and fluctuate year on year.

I’ve received an offer for a lower preference — what now?

If you have received an offer for a lower preference, you still have the opportunity to gain entry to higher preferences in later offer rounds. Most TACs will allow you to keep your original offer as a backup, meaning you will be considered for higher preferences without forfeiting the original place. Some TACs permit you to simply ‘hold’ your original offer, while others require you to accept the first offer then withdraw your enrolment if you end up with an offer for a higher preference.

What if I’ve changed my mind about my first preference?

If you are offered a place in your first preference, you will not be considered for other preferences in further offer rounds. This means that if you’re having second thoughts about your first preference you’ll need to update your preferences before the next offer round, ensuring your desired course is listed above your offered course.

I received an offer for a course I didn’t list as a preference — why?

If you didn’t receive an offer in any of the offer rounds, you may be offered a place in a course not listed as one of your preferences. If you’re applying through VTAC, you can choose to be eligible for supplementary offers, where you can be considered for all courses with vacancies — even if they are not listed as one of your preferences — after the offer rounds are complete. With UAC, you may receive a ‘slipback offer’ to a course at a lower level than one listed in your preferences. This is usually a program that can offer a pathway to your desired course (a diploma to a degree, for example).

What are pathways?

Pathways can help you gain entry to your preferred course if you don’t initially meet the entry requirements. To boost your chances of receiving an offer, it’s a good idea to list a few pathway options in your preferences. You might consider including courses at a lower qualification level (such as a diploma if you’re keen on a degree); courses at institutions other than that of your first preference; or related courses at your desired institution that may have a lower cut-off score (a Bachelor of Arts with law electives instead of a Bachelor of Laws, for example). If you receive an offer to one of your pathway options, you can transfer to your desired course after a semester or two, or progress to further study after completing the lower-level qualification.

Further reading:

Useful links:

A A practical guide to university preferences
Accepting Accepting your tertiary offer
Don't Don't fear the university preferences selection process