BlogUniversityThe Ultimate Guide to Applying for Early Entry to Universities

The Ultimate Guide to Applying for Early Entry to Universities

Thinking about early entry into university? Wondering if you should even fill out an application?

For Maitreyi, it’s a definite yes!

Find out how the Pathfinder Mentoring Program helped Maitreyi get early entry into her dream course and how you can too!

Meet Maitreyi!
Step #1: Research early entry programs
Step #2: Check your eligibility
Step #3: Narrow your focus for what to include
Step #4: Limit your key achievements/activities listed
Step #5: Draft your application and have it reviewed
Step #6: Apply!

Meet Maitreyi!

  • Maitreyi was a 2020 graduate of Riverside Girls High School
  • She is one of over 70 amazing Art of Smart Pathfinders in NSW
  • Maitreyi would love to work in diplomacy, journalism or international relations in the future
  • She is currently studying a Bachelor of Media and Communications at Macquarie University which she received early entry into!
  • Maitreyi also received a scholarship worth $30k for international students from Macquarie University
  • In her spare time, she likes to read and play classical guitar

As an international student, Maitreyi was pretty worried about her university options.

Not even sure she would be able to stay in the country, Maitreyi wanted to know what her options were ASAP.

Due to the higher fees for international students, she was also looking for a scholarship!

Through the Pathfinder program, Maitreyi was provided guidance throughout the whole process. 

From where to find early entry schemes to how to write an amazing application — there was a Pathfinder intensive to help!

Maitreyi was initially mentored by Amelia Taylor and later on Daniel Dummer throughout the Pathfinder program. 

Step #1: Research early entry programs

Nearly every university has an early entry program and scholarships for students regardless of their ATAR, because they know that their ATAR is not all that matters! 

No matter what, you should have a look and consider applying to a bunch of these schemes. 

Here are some of the more common early entry schemes offered by universities in New South Wales:

UniversityEarly Entry SchemeAbout
ACUCommunity Achiever Program (CAP)- Viable for students who are extremely active in their community
- Must be able to demonstrate you have completed extensive volunteering in an ACU-approved category
- CAP is an application-based scheme and does not account for your final HSC/IB score
ACUSchools Recommendation Scheme (SRS)- Available to all students completing Year 12 or their IB
- SRS applies differing prerequisites and criteria depending on the course you choose to apply for
- Unconditional and conditional offers are made during the November round
- If the offer is unconditional, you are guaranteed a place in that course, regardless of your final HSC score
- If the offer is conditional, it becomes unconditional upon attaining a minimum ATAR and/or completing a prerequisite subject or additional criteria
Macquarie UniversityMacquarie Leaders and Achievers Early Entry Scheme- Open to all Year 12 students completing the HSC or IB
- Scheme assesses your Year 11 academic performance
- Requires you to demonstrate up to three examples of your involvement in leadership and service during Year 12
- If successful, you are guaranteed a place at university regardless of your final exam marks
Macquarie UniversitySchools Recommendation Scheme (SRS)- Open to all Year 12 students completing the HSC or IB
- Scheme assesses your Year 11 academic performance and your school’s view of you as a student
- Successful application guarantees you a place at the university regardless of your final exam marks
University of SydneyEarly Offer Year 12 (E12) Scheme- E12 scheme is assessed by UAC through their Educational Access Scheme
- Additional scholarship of $5950
- To be eligible, students must be experiencing financial hardship, residing in an area of socio-economic disadvantage and/or attend a rural or regional school
University of WollongongUoW Early Admission- Students assessed on four criteria: academic readiness, motivation and passion, communication and collaboration and, planning and persistence
- UoW will also look to the marks the student has earned so far in subjects relevant to the desired degree
Western Sydney UniversityHSC True Reward Early Offer Program- Early entry based on HSC results, rather than the scaled ATAR
- Operates on research that indicates subject performance as a robust indicator of student success
University of Notre DameEarly Offer Program- Distributes results within 2-4 weeks of applying, meaning the earlier you apply, the earlier you can receive a potential offer
- Students will need to fill out an application about themselves, and submit their available Year 11 and Year 12 reports
University of Newcastle
Schools Recommendation Scheme (SRS)- Based on Year 11 academic performance and school recommendation
- SRS offers for all undergraduate degrees (excluding B Medical Science and Doctor of Medicine and B Midwifery)
- An application must be submitted via UAC and if successful, does not consider your HSC marks
University of Newcastle
Year 12 Subject Spotlight Early Offer Program- Awarded to students who excel in HSC subjects that relate to their desired degree
- For degrees that are eligible, students receive an early offer by achieving the marks required for their subjects
University of Newcastle
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program- If you identify as Aboriginal or as a Torres Strait Islander, an early entry can be achieved by indicating such on your application and attending an interview on campus
University of Newcastle
Indigenous Early Entry Scheme (Law)- Offered by the University of Newcastle Law School
- Indigenous students can fill in an application including their two most recent report cards, letter of recommendation from the school and an expression of interest outlining why they want to study law
- If successful, students are guaranteed entry without HSC exam marks

Did you know early entry isn’t the only way you can get into university? Read up on alternative pathways into university here!

Early entry has a ton of benefits. For Maitreyi, receiving early entry would mean she could stay in the country and be able to stress less about the HSC. 

A lot of the time, early entry automatically comes with scholarships, which is obviously a major plus and something Maitreyi desired.

Thanks to a Pathfinder program intensive Maitreyi was able to find out the options available to her and get excited about what could come of it!

Since there are so many choices available, you’re bound to find a way into your dream course or university so be sure to have a look. You can start here!

Applications are typically open from May and generally close in September at the latest. It’s unique for each university so note down those important dates!

Early entry programs typically have two outcomes. You’ll either be given:

  • An unconditional offer that guarantees you a place regardless of your ATAR; or
  • A conditional offer that guarantees you a place as long as you meet a minimum ATAR that is usually significantly lower than the actual requirement!

These offers can come out from August up until November, so in some cases, you’re not totally off the hook before the HSC!

Step #2: Check your eligibility

Before you get too excited, be sure to check that you’re eligible for the program or scholarship.

Some early entry schemes are exclusive to students living in certain locations, socioeconomic conditions or academic levels. But don’t worry, you will certainly be eligible for some!

This is something Maitreyi had to watch out for as an international student. She was looking for a program that could provide her early entry in addition to a scholarship.

The Pathfinder program will find and recommend these opportunities to students to make sure they aren’t missing out!

Once that’s done, get keen and start thinking about what things you might want to include in your application.

Step #3: Narrow your focus for what to include

While it can be hard to think of things off the top of your head, everyone has something they can talk about. 

It doesn’t have to be academic or well known — it just has to have helped you learn in some way. Don’t discredit all your hard work, okay!

With her mentor, Amelia, Maitreyi was able to narrow down what she would be talking about in her application and what its focus would be.

As she was applying for Macquarie University’s Leaders and Achievers Scheme, she conducted research into the institution’s core values and made sure to note down key buzz words she could incorporate.

To figure this out, Maitreyi and her mentor developed 6 key questions to answer that would help her structure her application and address the uni’s concerns!

Step #4: Limit your key achievements/activities listed

Maitreyi started listing out everything she’d done and initially wanted to list them all off — but sometimes less is more.

One thing to note is that these applications will have a character or word limit you have to abide by. 

This means it’s not actually about the number of activities you’ve done, but really about the quality and value they provided and how well you can communicate that! 

We recommend sticking to 2-3 key events/situations to discuss and then talking about them more in-depth.

The STAR technique

This is one way you can discuss the things you choose to focus on so that you can effectively convey your experiences and growth!

Check out how Maitreyi used the STAR technique in her application below!

Maitreyi STAR technique in MQ University Early Entry Application

The STAR technique allowed Maitreyi to determine what she should and shouldn’t include — which is super important for early entry applications that need to be concise and specific!

Using this structure ensured she was able to provide adequate context and logically convey the value of her involvement.

Something else that Amelia got Maitreyi to do was actually point out a weakness of hers. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t what she was intending to do but is something that can really make you stand out from the crowd when everyone is simply showing off! 

Maitreyi also made sure to participate in some more unique extracurriculars such as the News Champion Forum to pique the attention of judges.

As much as popular extracurriculars are great, they lose significance when every applicant has also participated.

Step #5: Draft your application and have it reviewed

Maitreyi started drafting her application in March as soon as she found out she could apply! It’s really great to get a head start on these things as you only end up getting busier throughout the year. 

This gave Maitreyi time to polish and perfect her application whenever she checked in with her mentor, which led to three major revisions!

While that sounds scary, she was super happy with the changes that were made as the Pathfinder program helped her effectively present herself in her application.

This included tailoring it to the purpose of the early entry scheme and taking out unnecessary anecdotes or experiences that were eating up her word count!

Something else Maitreyi did was create a group chat with other students she met through the Pathfinder program applying for the same thing.

This was super helpful for her as she found people who could relate and provide support and advice on the process!

Step #6: Apply!

Now, all that’s left to do is apply!

You never know what could’ve happened if you don’t apply — Maitreyi would’ve hated to know that if she didn’t she’d be missing out on $30k.

Relax and focus on your studies for the next few months until you get accepted into an early entry program or two with Maitreyi’s tips and tricks!


Gabrielle Wong is currently the Digital Marketing Assistant at Art of Smart. She is a second year student at the University of Sydney studying a Bachelor of Arts/Advanced Studies majoring in Media and Communications and Marketing.

 

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