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Why all of your UAC preferences matter

7 tips to make sense of UAC preferences
So how do UAC preferences actually work – and how can you make them work for you? We spoke with one of our recruitment experts to find out the top tips for making the most of your UAC preferences.

For many students, receiving their ATAR results will prompt a rethink of their university and subject choice. More than 25,000 students are expected to change their UAC preferences between receiving their ATAR and the change of preferences closing date.

Our resident student recruitment expert advisor, Kaveh Ghezel, shares his top tips to help prospective students make sense of UAC preferences and find the right path to university.

But first, let's recap how the ATAR is calculated.

What is the ATAR and how does it work?

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

2. Look at more than just the course alone

It's common for students to become so fixated on the ATAR that they lose sight of the big picture. Academic life at university is important, but you stand to gain so much more from the next three to five years than book knowledge alone.

Once you've added in your ideal preferences, look at where you would most like to study rather than what you'll study. Think about campus locations and what transport and accommodation arrangements you’ll need to make.

University is an important time in your life where you’ll be allowed to make valuable connections and engage in student life with other like-minded people. If ultimately you're offered a place in a course that wasn’t your first preference, you can still reap the benefits and engage in the wider student experience on offer until you make the change to your preferred course.

3. Do your research

Check if your ideal course has a guaranteed ATAR which will secure your place at the University of Sydney. To be offered a place in a guaranteed-ATAR course, you’ll need to list the course as your first 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 look at having 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 benefit students so that every student has the opportunity to list their dream course and still include options that are more realistically attainable.

Each UAC applicant can list up to five preferences across institutions, and they will be assessed based on ATAR achievement and if there are any additional admissions criteria. 

5. Use all 5 of your UAC preferences

Every preference is an opportunity to gain admission into university – the more options you have, the more chances you have of securing a place. But on average students only list one or two preferences on their UAC application.

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

A lot of students believe that you have a lower chance of getting into a course if it is further down your preferences list, which isn’t the case. You'll receive an offer for the first course in your list that you are eligible for.

6. Check and change

While not all courses or institutions have places available in the later rounds, take full advantage of your application and reshuffle your preferences to be considered for an additional offer in 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. Attend an event

Brochures and websites only give a limited view of what to really expect at university. So why not seize this chance to speak to current students and staff and explore the full range of options ahead?

Register for an online event and have all your questions answered!

Last updated 23 April 2020
13 September 2017

Facts & figures

Understanding UAC

  • up to 5 As a domestic student, you can select up to five course preferences
  • 1+ You can receive an offer in more than one round

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