Homeschooling and University Without An ATAR
Do homeschooling and university go together? Yes
Can you even go to university if you’re homeschooled? Absolutely
Do you need an ATAR to go to university? No
Although many schools and universities are quick to suggest that you need an ATAR to go to university, research shows otherwise. In 2016 the Department of Education and Training showed only 26% of university entrants got into university using their high school ATAR qualifications. The other 75% used alternative pathways.
This non ATAR entry is a growing trend with many students getting early entry into university before their ATAR results are even received.
- In 2019, pre-pandemic, 60% of undergraduate applications, offers and acceptances were non ATAR applicants.
- In 2021 during during the pandemic, 36% of undergraduate applications were non ATAR applicants and this was when Australia’s borders were closed to international students.
Not all homeschooling children want, or need, to attend Australian university however many will want that. And for several professions a university education is their ticket to ride in their chosen field.
Often parents fear that homeschooling will lock their children out of university studies. It won’t!
Here are some stories and advice for those of you who think your child may be university bound.
Our Homeschooling and University Stories – Begin With The End In Mind.
Once you get an idea of what your child wants to do then you can start looking at university courses. Not all courses are created equal and so you need to become a detective and research specific course requirements and speak to course administrators of specific degrees. You need to make a plan for your application to university.
Dan the Doctor
My first son wanted to become a doctor. He had been homeschooled until he was 13. In Year 10, we were trying to decide if he should stay at school to do the HSC or come back home and try to get in to medicine via an alternative method. We contacted the University of Newcastle to see what the requirements were for entry. He needed high marks in the UMAT (now replaced with the UCAT), a high ATAR or a year of a university with a high grade point average and then pass an interview. At 16 he chose the alternative pathway of Open University (which he spread over two years). He was accepted into medicine a 18 years old without an HSC. He is now working as a doctor.
Beth The Teacher
My oldest daughter began a Bachelor of Arts at 16. After graduation she worked for a while for a charity, and then went to do her Masters in Education.
Tim the Animator
My youngest son is creative. After completing one subject at Open University in digital communications he decided that subject was too hard to do online so he went to TAFE with another homeschool friend. He completed a Cert3, Cert4 and then a Diploma in 3D animation there. But he wanted to study more. He and his friend applied to do a Master’s Degree in 3D Animation with their portfolios and TAFE diplomas. I thought they didn’t have a hope at all (and said so) but they wanted to do it. To my surprise, he and his friend both got in and totally skipped doing degrees and applied with their TAFE qualifications and portfolios. At 21 both these boys have Masters Degrees. One works for Netflix the other Disney Plus. Some of his designs are found here.
Sarah The Entrepreneur
My youngest daughter wanted to have her own business, she now has two. She began her business degree at 16 with a scholarship. These are her businesses:
When You Are Homeschooling and University Entry is Important – Start Assessing Options
Children love to dream about what they want to be when they grow up. But it’s not always obvious what career path they will take when they leave school. Throughout the course of a child’s life they can often decide that they want a range of careers. One of my children wanted to be a zoo designer, another a famous singer, another a hairdresser. Preparing for these dreams in the primary years is not often necessary as their ideas change with time.
The time to start looking for clues is when they get to high school. Now you can begin to help them discover what they like doing and what their gifts and talents are. You can facilitate this by taking your children to career expos and arranging work experience, sometimes your child will just know.
You can also try a Careers Advisor Quiz to get some ideas.
Alternative Pathways To University Without An ATAR
Year 11 and 12 Qualifications
When you choose to homeschool in Australia for Year 11 and 12 your child can’t get a formal qualification. However, your children can get an ATAR to use for university entry if needed, or they can continue homeschooling up till the age of 17 – without seeking a formal qualification. After the age of 17, you can follow your chosen course of study without any government restrictions. You can stop homeschooling altogether if you like.
Getting Proof Your Are Capable Of University
When you homeschool there is no official transcript from an independent/external educational institution that will provide an academic comparison to prove your child’s ability to work at university level. And in most cash universities want this proof. Therefore homeschooling parents have had to look for alternative ways to prove to universities that their child has been educated adequately to cope with university level study.
Applying To Open University Without An ATAR
You can gain a full university degree from one of seven leading Australian universities through Open University. I know of multiple homeschooling families (including my own) who have used this pathway for gaining a full degree or used it as a Year 12 alternative to get into a university course. Eight course units are considered to be a one year full time. Some university courses only require two units to apply to transfer to another course, others require eight units.
There are a wide range of degrees available, including Law, Accounting, Commerce, Science, Information Technology, and Education. Although you can’t study medicine at open university, I personally know of three students who used this pathway to get into medicine at Sydney, Newcastle and Queensland university.
Here are a few facts you should know.
- There are NO prior qualifications needed to start a course – you don’t need to finish school. (However come courses may have assumed knowledge that will be stated as a prerequisite.)
- You do NOT need to be a particular age. If there is mature content (a novel with adult themes for example) in a course and a child is under 16 then they are required to get parental consent to do the course.)
- You do NOT need to leave home to do the course. Tests are set up at many locations and you choose a location convenient for you. Some courses, like science, have a week of on campus requirements for practical assessments.
- Australians do NOT need to pay up front – there is a government loan system very much like HECS.
Portfolios and Auditions
Some homeschooling kids have been accepted into Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (Edith Cowan University in WA) using a STAT test but they also showed a portfolio and had an audition for the music or dancing.
Lis who homeschooled in Western Australia said, “Our second daughter used a combination of work samples (some essays, and photo copied pages of other work) and also table of contents’ of the books she used for the different areas she studied. She did music at University of Western Australia. They also required her to do the STAT and she had to pass a piano audition. We included a letter our moderator wrote for her confirming the department being happy with our standard of education (incidentally, it was a very nice one). “
Tim completed his Masters of Animation at the University of Technology at age 20. He applied with a TAFE Diploma in 3D animation and a portfolio.
Macquarie University offers a leaders and achievers scheme for early entry. They use portfolios and evidence of prior learning.
Getting Into University With STAT and SAT Tests
The Standard Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT) and the American Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) are two tests that some families have used to gain entry into homeschooling without an ATAR.
STAT tests are used by a number of universities to give a ranking used for university admission when someone doesn’t have a Year 12 leaving certificate and ATAR. However it is really set up for mature age students and may not be allowed for some applicants if they are under 19 years old. Therefore you must check with the course administrator if a STAT or a SAT test will be acceptable.
Certificate III, Cert IV and Diplomas
Obtaining a CERT III or Cert IV can also be used as an ATAR alternative. When using a Cert III to apply for a university course you need to check that it will be accepted. It helps if the Cert III is related to the field that you are studying. For example a Cert III in music will not necessarily get you in to nursing.
A Cert IV is usually considered to be equivalent to an HSC. A Diploma is usually equivalent to first year university.
These can be obtained in various ways such as:
TAFE is available in all states. Homeschool students can often be accepted after the age of 15 or when they have completed Year 10 equivalent studies. Queensland applicants can do subjects through TAFE Schools program. It can be done online with NSW TAFE digital. South Australians can apply through TAFE SA.
- You can Cert III and Cert IV in Business, Child Care, Aged Care, Disability
- These usually take at least 12 months to complete and cost under $3000. Some have clinical placement requirements.
- You usually need to be 17 to apply but sometimes you can begin earlier
- You can also do a pathways to university course through TAFE that is a Cert IV but in my opinion Open University or university pathway courses are much better options.
Susan’s son was accepted into a Bachelor of Information Technology at the University of New England and Flinders University, He applied using a TAFE Cert III.
My son (doing the Masters in 3D animation as mentioned before) went to TAFE at 17 and completed a Cert 3, Cert 4 and Diploma (in animation) at TAFE.
There are Cert III Discipleship training schools in a few locations around Australia. These are six month courses that require your child to live in on a YWAM base. Many of the courses focus on different types of ministry like sports, music, health, and the arts. After completing their basic discipleship course you can go on to earn other Cert IV course.
Joanne was homeschooled in South Australia and completed a Teaching English as a Second Language Course (TESOL) Cert III through YWAM. She applied to do a Teaching Degree at Newcastle Uni and was accepted – age 17.
Zac was homeschooled in NSW and did a Cert III in Retail Operations through McDonalds. He then got a pastry chef apprenticeship and ended up winning a NSW award.
University Pathway Courses
There are a number of universities that offer pathway courses to allow students a second chance into university. These courses often give students an ATAR and are usually free. Quite a few homeschoolers have used these courses as their stepping stone into their desired course. They are a good introduction to university because they tend to give students extra support. They also can apply for this course without prior academic studies.
In 2021 a homeschool graduate came first in the New Step program run by Newcastle University. Other homeschoolers in Newcastle have used this Open Foundation pathway before excelled. University of New England offer a similar course.
Meg was homeschooled in Queensland an 18 year old homeschool girl who started by doing a Tertiary Preparation Pathway Course – a 6 month free course. After completing that she went on to study a Bachelor of Social Work at Sunshine Coast University.
Universities with pathway programs include.
International High School Graduation Qualifications
What is the International GCE A Levels (General Certificate of Education)?
The International GCE A Levels is an accredited qualification widely taught around the globe and it is accepted internationally by many universities. The academic year follows the UK school system with classes commencing in September and finishing in June.
The International A Levels are different to the UK domestic A Levels in content. In essence the International GSE A Levels are more suited to a global student market where many of their learners come from a more culturally conservative background. Subjects have international content and are not specific to the UK.
Will These Qualifications Be Accepted For University Entry?
The International GCE A Levels is the most common high school qualification studied globally. Many international students use this to enter universities around the world. If you’ve never heard of them before don’t worry, universities have, and they understand them. Whether you are applying to an Australian university, or to one in another country, you will find most have a pathway to entry using the International GCE A Levels.
Here are a few leading universities in Australia who accept the International GCE A Levels as a qualification for entry.
Please Note: Each university has different entry requirements and you will need to contact an Admissions Officer to check specific prerequisite qualifications needed for a particular course.
Institutions That Offer This Service
Please Note: My Homeschool has no specific enrolment arrangement with these institutions. All enquiries need to made with them. However we’d love to hear about your experience.
Making The Application To University
When you are applying for university without an ATAR or OP you usually need to apply using an alternative pathway.
In each state there are different bodies that handle university admissions.
- UAC – NSW & ACT
- SATAC – SA and NT
- QTAC – Queensland
- TISC – WA
- VTAC –Victoria
- UTAS – University of Tasmania
You can also apply directly to some universities especially when you are applying without an ATAR. My son applied directly to University of New England and my daughter Beth applied directly to Avondale.
For those of you looking for accredited high school qualifications that can be used for university entry in Australia and overseas, achieving an International GCE A Levels may be the perfect formal qualification for your child.
Cracking The Code To University
As more and more homeschooling students apply to university we are seeing that some evidence of prior learning is very helpful when making an application. It gives the university an academic marker. The more popular the course the greater the competition to get in and although applying without an ATAR requires more thought and preparation it is possible.
I have given one example of my son getting into a difficult course such as medicine at Newcastle University but I have also heard many other cases where homeschool students have got into courses such as engineering, dentistry, vet and law.
I hope that this article has encouraged you that homeschooling will not limit your child’s possibilities of getting into university without an ATAR.
My Homeschool Assistance For Beyond Year 10
Year 10 is the last grade we provide at My Homeschool. However we do offer resources to help you explore possibilities – and there are many – after you complete Year 10.
- Selecting The Next Best Step – This guide helps you navigate the various pathways available to students who have already completed their Year 10 studies. We look at: university entry without an ATAR, DIY Year 11 & 12, TAFE, apprenticeships, and gaining international qualifications.
- Curating A Senior High School Course – Here you’ll get ideas on how you can prepare your own DIY curriculum for a non-accredited Year 11 and 12 course of study. We have information on: when you can stop homeschooling, how to put your own curriculum together, and what subjects to choose. Our curated subject lists include English, mathematics, science, geography, history, foreign languages, technology, creative arts and PDHPE. You can craft an individualised curriculum from these lists.
- Preparing Academic Transcripts – We teach you how to prepare your own professional transcripts to demonstrate your record of learning. We also provide examples, a template and tips on creating portfolios.
When you finish with My Homeschool Year 10B you’ll have many options. You and your teen can create your own strategy and make informed decisions for the future.
This resource is part of our Year 10B course and is only available to families who have purchased our Year 10B curriculum. It is not sold separately.