Homeschooling and University
Not all homeschooling children want, or need, to attend Australian university however many will. 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.
Start Looking At Options In High School
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.
Begin With The End In Mind – What Will They Study?
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.
My son wanted to become a doctor and we began planning when he was 15. We contacted the University of Newcastle to see what the requirements were. He needed high marks in the UMAT, a high ATAR or a year of a university with a high grade point average. If he passed these criteria he would then be offered an interview and that would be the determining factor. He chose to do one year of Open University instead of doing the HSC. He was accepted into medicine this year, age 18.
My daughter wanted to study music. She needed to be 6th grade level AMEB to qualify and Grade 4 Music Theory equivalent and have an audition. Without an HSC she had a range of options to qualify for academic admission. This included having a Certificate 4 or 4 Open University subjects for Newcastle Uni or 2 for Avondale. She started this year, age 17.
Record of Learning
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 cases 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.
Here is a short list of some of the alternative ways homeschoolers have successfully applied to university.
Applying To Open University
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.
Anyone can start a degree with Open Universities Australia.
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 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). “
STAT TEST ALONE
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 children if they are under 19 years old. Therefore you must check with the course administrator if a STAT test will be acceptable.
My son sat the STAT test when he was 16 (2012) and although he did very well in it when we tried to use it to apply for a Science Degree at the University of New England- Armidale NSW, he was knocked back and told to apply again after he has done the HSC. We appealed with no success. After being refused entry he chose to go to Open University instead.
Certificate III, Cert IV and Diplomas
Obtaining a CERT III or Cert IV can also be used as an ATAR or OP 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.
My son skipped a degree and got straight into a Masters in Animation at UTS (2019) after completing a Cert 3, Cert 4 and Diploma (in animation) at Tafe. He used his portfolio.
These can be obtained in various ways such as:
- 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 (from Victoria) was accepted into a Bachelor of Information Technology in 2014 at UNE at 17yrs with a TAFE Cert III. They deferred and applied to Flinders Uni, SA at 18yrs with the same TAFE Cert III while still living in Vic. .
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 and completed a Teaching English as a Second Language Course (TESOL) Cert III through YWAM In 2010. She applied to do a Teaching Degree at Newcastle Uni and was accepted – age 17.
One of my friend’s homeschooling son is doing a Cert III in Retail Operations through McDonalds.
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.
Meg was 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.
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 for Queensland
- TISC – WA
- VTAC –Victoria
- 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.
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 other cases where homeschool students have got into courses such as engineering and dentistry. I’ve not heard a vet or lawyer story yet.
I hope that this article has helped you and if you have stories of how your child got into university without an ATAR or OP please share it here.