Changing your uni preferences? Here's what you need to know

For school leavers (and non-school leavers who have applied to university through VTAC), the Change of Preference period provides the opportunity to add, remove or re-order courses on your preference list. You might want to change your preferences because your ATAR was lower or higher than expected, or you might have had a change of heart.

Whatever your ATAR, don't let it cause you to lose sight of what you really want to do. You have plenty of options available to you to study areas that match your interests, strengths and ambitions. You just need to arm yourself with the right information to refine your list of preferred courses.

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Check your ATAR and create a backup plan

Now that you have your ATAR, you can check it against last year's clearly-in ATARs for the course(s) you want to study. While these do change from year to year, they provide a good indication for what this year's clearly-in ATARs will be.

If your ATAR isn't as high as you were hoping it to be, it might be way off the expected clearly-in ATAR for some of the courses on your list. In this case, it's a good idea to refine your preferences.

But remember, if your ATAR is just a little below what you need for your preferred course, it is still really important to keep it on your preference list, as the clearly-in ATAR might move up or down. Plus, other selection processes such as the Special Entry Access Scheme (SEAS) or subject bonuses can make you eligible for a course if you’re ATAR is just below the clearly-in.

Order is important: you will only receive one Round 1 offer – the highest preference you are eligible for – so it's important you list courses in the order you want to study them, not the order in which you think you will get in.


During the Change of Preference period, Deakin alumni Tenille Roberts created a backup plan to get into the course she really wanted to study. 'I changed my preferences because my ATAR was not as high as I thought it would be, so I put in more courses as a back-up plan,' she says.

Acting on the advice she received from Deakin staff, Tenille listed her dream course, Deakin's Bachelor of Education (Primary), as her number one preference, but also added in some related university and TAFE courses that could have acted as pathways into teaching, including arts, psychology and forensic science.

In the end, Tenille received and accepted an offer for her first preference – and hasn't looked back.


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Be prepared to take a slightly different path

Even if you didn't get the ATAR required to get into your dream course, don’t give up. Most courses have pathway options you can take that could enable you to transfer into the course of your choice after one or two years. Your options could include:

  • Same course, different campus: studying at Deakin's Warrnambool Campus, for example, can be a great life experience and you will receive close attention and support from your teachers.
  • Similar course: if your ATAR isn't high enough to get into your dream specialist course, there might be options to study something similar. For example, if you don't get into the Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science, you could major in exercise science within a Bachelor of Health Sciences instead.
  • Associate degree: if you’re wanting to study arts or education, for example teaching, consider an associate degree with Deakin's Faculty of Arts and Education, which acts as a pathway to a related bachelor degree.
  • Deakin College: study a diploma in your area of interest with Deakin College on-campus in Melbourne, Geelong or Jakarta and you can enter your chosen bachelor degree, skipping ahead to second year.
  • TAFE pathways: after completing a diploma with an RTO, you can apply for CPL and study your chosen bachelor degree at Deakin.

If you're thinking of taking a pathway option, the best approach is to get in touch with us to discuss your options. Give us a call on 1800 693 888 to receive advice personalised to your unique circumstances.


For Ellen Zhang, accepting her third preference, a science/teaching combined course at Deakin University, and studying hard for a year, was a great way to transition into her dream optometry course.

She was devastated to miss out on getting in because her ATAR was 0.5 points lower than required. However, she was able to study a few optometry units within the science/teaching course, and ‘with the high marks I was receiving,’ was able to apply to change to optometry. She was even able to receive credits for the optometry units she completed in her science/teaching degree.

Taking a slightly different path ‘allowed me to settle in to university coursework and understand the requirements and study load needed to do well,’ Ellen says.


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Arm yourself with all the information you can

Before you add a course or move a course higher up your preference list, make sure you've gathered all the information you can to make sure it's a good fit for you.

Familiarise yourself with key information including:

  • Key dates: For Victorian residents, the December Change of Preference period closes on 19 December at 12pm. For more information, visit The Victorian Tertiary Admission Centre (VTAC) website's change of preference FAQ page and key dates page.
  • Course entry requirements: If you're thinking of adding more courses to your preference list, don’t forget to check that you've completed any relevant prerequisites and extra requirements. For example, some courses require you to complete an interview or submit a folio to be considered for entry, even if your ATAR is much higher than the clearly-in ATAR for that course.

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If you’re considering the right path for you, the best thing to do is to get in touch with us at Deakin. Give us a call on 1800 693 888 or live chat with us online.

Learn more about changing your uni preferences and accepting your offer