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Why all of your UAC preferences matter

7 tips to help you finalise your preferences
Learn how UAC preferences work and how to make them work for you. Read these tips to help you make the most of your uni preferences.

When you receive your ATAR, you may have the urge to rethink your university or study area of choice. Usually, over 25,000 students change their UAC preferences between receiving their ATAR and the change of preferences closing date.

The decision-making process can feel overwhelming, so we've compiled these seven tips to help you make sense of your UAC preferences.

But first, you may want a quick recap on some key terms we use.

Your ATAR, or Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, is a number between 0 and 99.95 – a rank which tells you about how you’ve gone in the HSC overall compared to other students.

Learn more about how the ATAR is calculated.

Your selection rank is your ATAR plus any adjustment factors (previously known as bonus points).

Adjustment factors are used to increase your selection rank and can be accessed through some of our admission pathways.

If you are not eligible for adjustment factors, your selection rank is equal to your ATAR.

Some of our courses have Guaranteed Entry. This means that if your selection rank is equal to or above this number and you list that course as your first preference, you’re guaranteed an offer in that course.

You can view our student and ATAR admission profiles from the previous intake which shows the lowest, median and highest ATARs and selection ranks received by students admitted to our courses.

1. Be true to yourself

Choose a course based on what you enjoy and are passionate about, not because you don't want to waste your ATAR. Back yourself and your interests.

Your dreams and goals will not disappear if you don't reach that elusive mark. After a year of study, your university results are what counts – not your ATAR. Follow your passions and interests, and success and fulfilment will follow too.

2. Look at more than the degree

Resist the urge to fixate on your ATAR and course selection ranks. You might lose sight of the big picture; you are about to enter an exciting new phase in your life.

Once you have an idea of your course preferences, consider the full experience. Think about campus locations and what transport and accommodation arrangements you’ll need to make, and what you can experience outside the classroom.

University is a time to experience new things and make life-long connections. Ultimately, if you are offered a place in a course that wasn’t your first preference, you can still reap the benefits and enjoy your student experience until you can transfer into your preferred degree.

3. Do your research

Check if your ideal course has a Guaranteed Entry which will secure your place at the University of Sydney. To be offered a place in a course with Guaranteed Entry, you’ll need to list the course as your highest eligible preference when you apply.

When choosing your remaining preferences, look for similar courses – those that will allow you to take similar subjects in your first year.

After one year of study, you can then apply to transfer and have those subjects credited to your new degree. This isn't unusual – up to 30 percent of students at the University transfer their degrees during their time with us. This is a good option if you’re applying for a competitive double degree.

4. Understand how UAC preferences work

UAC preferences are designed to give you the chance to list your dream course, with the reassurance of a few fallback options.

You can list up to five preferences across institutions, and you'll be assessed based on the ATAR you achieve, alongside any additional admissions criteria.

5. Use all 5 of your preferences

UAC allows students to select up to five course preferences. However, the average student only lists one or two preferences on their application. Remember that every preference is an opportunity to gain admission into university. The more options you have, the more chances you have of securing a place. 

Start with your top degree and include others that are similar and interest you. Select degrees with a guaranteed selection rank that you have achieved or, if they don't have a guaranteed rank, look at including degrees where the previous year's ATAR is within reach.

Many students believe that the lower a course is on your list of preferences, the lower your chance of getting into that course. This is not the case. You will receive an offer for the first course in your list that you are eligible for.

6. Check and change

Take full advantage of your application and reshuffle your preferences to be considered for an additional offer in later rounds.

While not all courses or institutions have places available in the later rounds, you can receive an offer in more than one round. This is useful if you change your mind or want to keep your options open. Your previous offers are not impacted.

7. Join us at Info Day

Speak to current students, academics, and staff to explore your options and get your questions answered.

Join us on campus for Info Day, held in December, soon after ATARs are released. 

Last updated: 17 November 2023

13 September 2017

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