Homeschooling And University

homeschooling and university

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 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.

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.

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  1. Cheryyl  August 23, 2019

    Hi Michelle,
    Thank you for sharing those alternative pathways to university.
    I am planning for my daughter to do one year at open university too. But I was wondering about those prerequisites. For example, if there are Math and science prerequisites. Will that be a hurdle for those who choose to do one year open university then transfer to regular university degrees?

  2. Abbey  May 3, 2019

    Hi Michelle,
    I am wanting to be homeschooled, but I want to be a vet when I am older do you reckon I can get into a uni to be a vet if I am homeschooled?

    • Michelle  June 14, 2019

      There are many pathways to uni. Many vets get in after some post graduate study.

  3. Margriet  January 24, 2019

    Interesting read. We are homeschooling and live in Victoria. My daughter has done a cert 2 and 3 as part of this journey. I have enrolled her in tafe to do cert 4 this year, however tafe is questioning if this is legal as she would be studying full time at tafe. We do not apply for any government funding and I am still schooling her on the days she doesn’t attend. Any advice?

    • Michelle  February 21, 2019

      These things can depend on age. If she is over 15 you should be fine.

  4. debbie duncan  May 30, 2018

    This is such an informative site. Thank you Michelle!

  5. Verity  April 24, 2018

    Hi Michelle, what course did you son study at Open University. Im interested in medicine swell.

    • MR Morrow  May 1, 2018

      He did one of their science degrees but it wouldn’t have mattered what he did really.

  6. Owen  February 3, 2018

    Hi Michelle,
    I feel very motivated when I read this because I’m a 16 year old homeschool student and I’m afraid that I won’t get a good job in the future because I have made the decision to not do year 11 and 12. Instead I plan to do open uni. I want to study medicine in the future and I’m kinda scared that universities will not allow me in because they’ll want me to have an ATAR. I think if I study open uni really well and get a good GPA, I will be allowed to study medicine. Do you think this is possible?

    • Michelle  February 21, 2018

      Hi Owen. You need to find out the entry requirements for each university. Some prefer post graduate students ie. Sydney Uni.

  7. Kim  January 4, 2017

    Hi Michelle,
    Just though I would add to the Open Uni story. My daughter completed 4 subjects of Open Uni (Humanities pathway) starting at Year 11 equivalent (2015) and then did a gap year with a bible college in NSW (2016). She applied for Law at Wollongong University and was granted a position in their early entry program (before the usual ATAR results come out). She is looking forward to starting her course this year (2017). I think it also helped that she included her music and athletics results in her application. I think these days universities are looking for well rounded students who have pursued a variety of life activities (not just academic). It may have also helped that she requested an interview so that her application had the personal touch. The Open Uni option was great for my daughter because she is very self motivated and quite academic… however I think it would be hard for a student who is not that way inclined. I don’t see it suiting all of my children thus we would have to pursue other options for them.

    • Michelle  January 5, 2017

      Another great story Kim! I just heard another. A friend’s homeschooled child in the Southern Highlands NSW did a TAFE course Cert IV (10 weeks once a week) in business and got into a Business degress at Woolongong for 2016.

  8. Sarah B  August 15, 2015

    Hi Michelle, I am wondering what course/subjects your son did through Open University. I also have a 15 yr old who wants to do medicine! Did you have to register for with the BOS for homeschooling or was he considered to be studying externally? Thanks.

    • Michelle  August 15, 2015

      My understanding is that if they are 15 years and older and they are studying with a registered educational provider then you don’t need to register. However that depends on their study load. I think you need to check withy the BOS to find out for your specific situation. Once the are 17 you don not need to get involved with the BOS.

  9. Michelle  March 3, 2015

    Very informative and encouraging blog article Michelle. Congratulations to both your children and yourself for fulfilling their goals. It is articles like this that give parents the encouragement to continue home schooling and know that there are many alternatives to entering tertiary education without the HSC.

    In our experience, our daughter began Open University Australia courses at age 11.Midway last year, she was successful in obtaining an early placement to study a double degree in International Business and Commercial Law with the University of Southern Queensland. Having not sat the HSC, she was accepted purely on her academic results from the courses she completed with OUA. She managed to achieve this at age 14. Despite her age and the fact that she was home schooled posed no real issues in her application, in fact the university whole heartedly encouraged her to apply once they confirmed that she could legally apply despite her young age. An added bonus, is that she has been able to gain credit for some of the courses she previously completed with OUA and is able to studying via distance learning. Most importantly, she is thoroughly enjoying her studies, particularly due to the fact that she can learn about subject matter that fulfils her interests and career aspirations.

    • Michelle  March 4, 2015

      Wow Michelle! What an amazing law story. You have brought up another benefit to homeschooling and university entry. Our children can start earlier on their desired degree before they would if at school.

    • Cheryl  March 31, 2017

      Hi Michelle. Would you mind telling me what Open University courses your daughter did at age 11? I’m looking at starting my 15yo & 14yo daughters on some courses/units. So far the 15yo has completed the free course on ‘Chemistry – Building Blocks of the World’. I’m very interested in your story & if you wouldn’t mind wracking your brain to remember what your daughter did a few years back, I would be very grateful.

      • Michelle  April 3, 2017

        Hi Cheryl, three of my children were all 16 when they began Open Uni. I personally thought that they weren’t ready before then so I don’t really have any advice on starting younger. There needs to be a maturity in them where they feel confident to contact tutors to ask questions, interact in the online forums with other students (and everyone will probably be older than them) and work with strict deadlines and requirements.The courses are significantly harder than the Open to Study courses and require lots of academic reading and referencing. I still needed to be involved helping them navigate the online environment and encourage them to connect with their tutors when they didn’t understand things.
        You may have got the impression my daughter was younger because of the 6th Grade AMEB exam – which is a music examination that doesn’t link with school grades. She just picked courses that she wanted to do that had a literary emphasis. Those exact course don’t exist anymore. Smiles Michelle

    • Cheryl  April 25, 2017

      Thank Michelle (of homeschooling downunder), but my question was actually for Michelle (who posted on 3 March 2015). Sorry for the misunderstanding. Is Michelle of 3 March 2015 out there? Would love to hear more details.

  10. Melissa  March 2, 2015

    Brilliant blog post Michelle. Knowledge is power! This information will give comfort and guidance to others.
    Thank You for sharing.

  11. Brooke  March 1, 2015

    My twin 16 year olds have started studying a Diploma of Leadership via distance through Alphacrucis College this year. They will do it over 2 years (yrs 11 and 12 equivalent), along with a couple of homeschooling subjects I would like them to continue. The diploma will be their pathway into higher ed. They are interested in business, ministry and youth work, which the diploma is a direct pathway into and gives them a year off the degree. There are so many more interesting options out there now, other than the traditional route to higher ed!

    • Michelle  March 2, 2015

      Thanks for telling us another pathway Brooke. I agree when you go searching for options there are more than you would think.


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