The tertiary application process

Before you begin applying for courses, it is best to have done a little research and to map out a rough outline of the process. First, it's important to know that course application methods can differ between institutions, provider types and states. Some institutions may also deviate from standard application procedures, so it is best to check with each institution you are considering before you begin the application process.

There are two methods for applying:

The method you use will vary depending on the requirements of institutions you are considering, so it is best to check with each provider to see which methods they use.

Most applications for undergraduate courses are taken through the local TAC, but this is not always the case. Some higher education institutions may take direct applications, and many mid-year and honours applications are taken by direct application only. Mature age students may also have to apply directly. Most private colleges and TAFE institutes take direct applications for undergraduate study, but some may also be taken through the TAC.

Like undergraduate university applications, the process for VET courses varies. Some VET providers may take applications through the local TAC, while others will only take direct applications. It is best to contact individual institutions offering VET courses to check how you will need to apply.

As for postgraduate study, direct applications are the most common method, but certain courses (such as graduate entry teaching) may be administered through the local TAC and certain states also allow students to apply for postgraduate courses through their TAC.

As you can see, the rules here are many and varied. Our advice? Check with your institution!

Tips for applicants

Get organised

This means keeping track of dates (for submitting course applications, receiving offers, accepting offers and so on) and getting hold of all the necessary documentation, including academic transcripts from previous study and copies of personal identification. Some courses will require you to submit a portfolio or attend an interview, test or audition that will need to be scheduled with the institution. Earlier in the year, you will also need to look out for open day announcements (which usually begin in May or June) or, if you are at school, information sessions held at your school. See our Open days page for more information. Programs run by schools will vary but may include anything from seminars to help you transition to further study to guest speakers (usually past students) speaking about their experiences after finishing Year 12.

Look out for entry requirements

Taking note of entry requirements is very important. This includes the ATAR/OP required for entry, subject prerequisites and additional requirements such as attending an audition or presenting a portfolio. Remember, these will vary between institutions and, in some cases, between different campuses. Remember, too, that you should be realistic about your course choices. Don't get hung up on a course if you know that you will not be able to meet the requirements; look into alternatives that provide more flexible entry (including foundation courses and VET pathways). Keep in mind that some fields may have very strict prerequisites, while others may be more flexible (stating just one prerequisite or sometimes none at all). In some cases, you may be able to complete a bridging course.

Choose your preferences wisely

If you are submitting course preferences, you need to think about how you will order them to your advantage. You can consider your preferences in three tiers: courses you would love to enter, even if you're not sure you'll be selected; courses you're more confident about and have almost a guaranteed chance of being accepted; and, finally, courses that can act as a pathway to one of your more desired preferences. This also applies to direct applications, where some institutions will allow you to select two or more courses that you would like to be considered for should you not gain entry into your first choice. You should submit as many preferences as possible — if you can select ten, do! It is better to have a full list of options than to pick just two courses and miss out on both.

Consider a back-up plan

Even if you're fairly certain that you'll be accepted into your first choice, it's important to have a back-up course in mind (or several if your first choice is particularly competitive). Know that you have two choices — using a lower-level qualification or foundation studies program as a pathway or applying for a similar course at a different institution where entry is less competitive. See Pathways into your course for further information. If you're worried that you may not meet the prerequisites of your first choice, contact the institution to discuss preferred pathways.

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