With so much emphasis placed on one result, at one specific time of your life, wondering how to get into university without an ATAR can be a daunting prospect. But hundreds of people do it every year.
Several factors may have prevented you from receiving an ATAR. Perhaps you took non-ATAR subjects in high school and have changed your mind about wanting to go to uni, or you’re a non-school leaver looking to pursue higher education after multiple years in the workforce. Whatever is the case, your first question is bound to be...
Can you get into uni without an ATAR?
The answer is yes – there are multiple non-ATAR pathways to uni. You just need to find the one that best suits you and your circumstances.
What if you’re finishing Year 12 but didn’t take ATAR subjects?
In Queensland, to get an ATAR, you need to complete 1 of the key English courses and 5 general subjects OR 4 general subjects, plus an applied subject or VET course (Certificate III or higher). If your high school subjects didn’t fall into one of these categories, then you won’t receive an ATAR.
But don’t panic. If you’re finishing Year 12 this year and you’ve changed your mind, deciding you want to go to uni after all, you still have options.
Most universities offer bridging programs that allow you to undertake study to gain a selection rank which will help you get into uni. UQ College offers a 32-week Tertiary Preparation Program at St Lucia campus that will give you a selection rank and prepare you for your university studies. Alternatively, you can also complete a Certificate IV in Adult Tertiary Preparation online through UQ College, or in person through other providers.
You may wish to use the year after you graduate high school to undertake tertiary education at a certificate or diploma level. If you choose to study in the same field as the uni program you wish to enrol in, you may even be able to gain credit for some of your courses down the track. It’s also a good way to get a ‘taster’ of the study area, to see if it’s something you’re keen to pursue at a university level.
Just keep in mind that the level of study you complete will affect the selection rank you can secure to get into university using your certificate or diploma-level qualifications. For example, the selection rank you can attain by completing a Certificate III will be lower than the selection rank you can get by completing an Advanced Diploma.
Find out more about the maximum selection rank you can get to gain entry into UQ, using a certificate or diploma.
If you’re a current Year 12 student, you can’t use vocational education for entry to UQ in the next year after you finish Year 12. You may be able to use this study for entry in later years.
What if you take a gap year?
Many Year 12 students choose to take a gap year after high school to give themselves a break from study so they can approach their university education fresh.
If you received an ATAR and an offer from a university, you can defer your studies for up to one year through QTAC.This means your offer still stands for you to study the following year, and you don’t have to re-apply to your program of choice – just enrol in your first semester courses by the due date.
There are terms to your deferment, however. During your gap year, you can’t enrol in study at bachelor level or higher at any tertiary institution (including the institution your deferment is with) if you have already deferred your studies through QTAC.
What if you’ve been out of high school for several years?
If you’ve been out of high school for several years and would like to commence or recommence your first bachelor's degree, we’re here to help you figure out where to start. As a non-school leaver (sometimes also referred to as a mature-aged student), you may have a few options for getting into uni.
How to get into uni as a non-school leaver if you didn’t get an ATAR
The first thing you probably want to know is how to get an ATAR. But an ATAR isn't actually what you're looking for. If you didn’t get an ATAR, OP (Overall Position; the ranking method in Queensland before ATARs were introduced) or similar ranking for your high school exams, you'll want to know how to get a QTAC selection rank to get into uni in Queensland. Here are a few of the most common ways to obtain a selection rank.
There are a number of bridging programs you can study to attain a selection rank which will help you get into uni. UQ College offers a 32-week Tertiary Preparation Program at St Lucia campus that will give you a selection rank and prepare you for your university studies. Alternatively, you can also complete a Certificate IV in Adult Tertiary Preparation online through UQ College, or in person through other providers.
You can be assigned a selection rank based on Vocational and Education Training (VET) study if your highest level of study is a competency-based or graded:
AQF Certificate III (completed)
AQF Certificate IV (completed)
AQF Advanced Diploma
sub-bachelor level study (based on the level and duration of study, and your grade point average).
Find out what your highest attainable selection rank can be at UQ, based on your VET study, work and life experience, and/or STAT (Special Tertiary Admissions Test) results.
You can be assigned a selection rank based on previous secondary education, post-secondary professional and para-professional qualifications and services or employment experience. For example, the following qualifications or experience could help you obtain a selection rank:
some creative arts, language and civil aviation qualifications
memberships of professional associations that have qualifying exams
Different universities have different policies regarding the STAT – you can read them on the QTAC website.
How to get into uni as a non-school leaver if you received an ATAR or OP
If you've been out of school for a few years and your Year 12 exams seem like a distant memory (or fever dream), you may be wondering 'does ATAR expire?'. The good news is, your ATAR doesn’t expire. HOWEVER, if you’ve undertaken (even if you haven't completed) tertiary studies such as a bachelor's degree, diploma or certificate since finishing high school, the university may calculate your selection rank from your grade point average (GPA) for these studies, rather than your ATAR or OP (Overall Position; the ranking method in Queensland before ATARs were introduced). Contact the university you wish to study at to find out how to attain your selection rank if you have an ATAR or OP but you’ve also previously enrolled in tertiary education.
For those who graduated in Queensland in 2020 or later, you can access your ATAR through QCAA’s MyQCE website, just hit 'student portal login' button at the top right of the homepage.
For those who graduated in New South Wales, you can find your ATAR by visiting the UAC website.
When you ask yourself “How can I get into uni without an ATAR?”, think about your circumstances, experiences and strengths. This will help you choose the right pathway to university, and the option that will assist you to achieve the highest selection rank you can.
Remember, obtaining a selection rank is just one part of what you need to get into a university program. You’ll also need to meet subject prerequisites, any program-specific requirements and inherent requirements (if applicable). Find out more about entry requirements.