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Everything I wish I knew about applying for University

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Ignorance is Bliss ...until you miss out on your dream degree and 2 scholarships...


My story is simple. I simply did not know what was available. The worst thing is, I had no idea that I didn’t know.

I was so ignorant, that I THOUGHT I was informed. 

But turns out, there was a whole world of information I didn’t even know existed.

I had tried to do research and make a plan. 

I thought I knew what degree I wanted to do and how to get in. I thought I knew about all the scholarships available. 

I thought all I needed to do was get a high enough ATAR and everything was sorted. 

Only one slight hiccup... I didn’t get the ATAR I was expecting.  

I missed out on early entry and 2 scholarships.  I’m going to show you how I managed to turn it all around, and get into my dream degree, even when everything seemed to be falling apart.   In this post I’ll talk about

  • My Reaction to My ATAR 

  • The Importance of Researching Your Options

  • How I only got 1 offer & How I got into Law

  • How I Missed Out on 2 Scholarships

  • Steps You Can Take to make sure you don’t make my mistakes!


The ATAR I Wasn’t Expecting

The Problem with Putting All My Eggs in One Basket

When our ATARs were released, I had a pretty rude shock. 

I remember waking up and seeing the text message with my ATAR. I rolled over, buried my head in my pillow and went back to sleep. Devastated.

I got about an 87.... pretty good you might think, but this was at least 10 points lower than I needed to get in to the Bachelor of Laws.

You see, I’d stressed so much about getting that 97 ATAR, I hadn’t left myself any brain power to actually do any productive study.



You see, I’d had a plan.  I was going to: 

  1. Study 10 hours a day

  2. Get a 97+ ATAR

  3. Get an offer for the Bachelor of Laws

  4. Win a scholarship based off my results

I mean, it was a good plan, but it had relied entirely on achieving a 97 ATAR. 

And I didn’t have a back-up.


My plan was very quickly crumbling.  All my eggs were in one basket. And that basket had a great big hole. 

...If only I’d had put more of my time and effort into properly researching my other options...


The Importance of Researching Your Options

Work Smarter NOT Harder

Let’s rewind a few months. 

It’s August, about 2 months before the final HSC exams.  My mum suggested that I start researching my options. 

So, I started with Google... but didn’t know what I was looking for.

Like...what do I even type in? 

Maybe I’ll just start with the one University I’ve heard of and go from there?

What does all of this even mean???? Why is this website so confusing??

I went from one university's website, to the next.

Each one was entirely different. Each one was just as difficult to navigate as the last.  I found very little information that I could actually understand. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. The ‘uni-lingo’ was so foreign and unfamiliar and it didn’t make much sense at all.

After a few attempts at research, I ended up giving up. 

I did have study to do after all! I wasn’t going to get into the Bachelor of Laws by just researching Unis. I mean, seriously. 

Boy was I wrong.

What I didn’t realise, was that I needed to be working smarter, not harder.

Instead of just pumping 10 hours a day into study, I needed to be allocating the right amount of time and effort to researching my options and I needed to be asking the right questions to the right people.

Let me tell you, I NEVER had a whole study day where every. single. moment was productive. 

(This is probably because I spent a lot of my study time, staring blankly at my textbooks, replying to snapchat and stressing about not getting the ATAR I needed.)

Don’t get me wrong, study is unbelievably important. And I really did TRY to be productive. But with the weight of the stress on my shoulders, I just couldn’t focus. 

Had I known that there were other ways of getting into my dream degree, I would have had that weight lifted off my shoulders and I would have been able to be lot more productive with my study. 

Let’s be real, I probably would have performed a lot better in my HSC.

But the whole experience of researching universities was completely disheartening, overwhelming and stressful, so I just avoided it. 

Three emotions I was ALREADY feeling and did NOT need any more of.

I didn’t have anyone to ask for help. My school didn’t really have a career’s advisor and I didn’t want to bother my parents. Yourcompass didn’t exist yet and I was lost.

I felt embarrassed admitting that I hadn’t been able to work it out. 

By the end of the year, even with my multiple attempts at research,

 I still thought that the only way into Uni was with my ATAR. 

Honestly, I didn’t even know the difference between a Selection Rank and an ATAR.

I had no idea about other options like

  • Pathways

  • Adjustment Factors  

  • Early Entry

These terms were brand new to me.

I certainly didn’t think I would be eligible for any of them.

To be fair to my past-self, I wasn’t alone in not knowing much about the world of university. 

MOST year 12 students don’t get all of the information they need in order to make informed decisions. It’s a hard road to navigate.  


I only got ONE offer for University

I pushed through, I applied with UAC and I managed to get an offer.

One. Single. Offer.

And that was fine. I thought that was how it worked. It wasn't until I started working for the universities that I realised if I had known about application optimisation, I could have received multiple offers, giving me more opportunities to get straight into my dream degree.

I had no idea that early entry schemes could have gotten me additional offers before I even knew my ATAR.

I had no idea that adjustment factors could have got me an offer straight into my dream degree.

My offer was for my 3rd preference, the Bachelor of International Studies at Macquarie University.

Once I started studying, I eventually worked out how to get in to my dream degree of Bachelor of Laws. I studied hard in my first year, met the requirements and did an internal transfer in to my dream double degree with the Bachelor of Laws. 


I Missed Out on 2 Scholarships

I have always been conscious of my finances and if there was a way to save money on fees or living expenses, I wanted to find it.

After my research however I was left thinking, 'there are no scholarships available to me'.

Here’s what I THOUGHT all scholarships were awarded to:

  • 99 ATARs

  • Sporting Super Stars

  • Students facing hardship, financial or otherwise 

What scholarships would even apply to me? I mean, I was smart but I wasn’t a genius and I definitely wasn’t any sporting hero.

In reality, there are scholarships of ALL different shapes and sizes. Scholarships can be awarded based on:

  • Extra-curricular activities

  • Community Participation

  • Leadership

  • Females studying a particular degree

  • Being the first in your family to go to University

  • Being a family member of a someone who has graduated from that university 

I didn’t know that these sorts of scholarships existed. 

If I had, I would’ve known that I was eligible for the Alumni Family Scholarship from Macquarie University which was valued at $20,000.00. 

The other issue I found was that I was applying too late in the year. A lot of the scholarship applications had already closed.

Hot Tip No# 2:  Scholarships can be awarded DURING your degree. You don’t have to be a new student. Again, had I known this, I would’ve known to apply for the Jennifer Barton Memorial Law Scholarship which focused on 2nd year female law students who had passion for social justice.

There’s another potential $5000.00 lost.  

Now, let’s make sure you don’t make the same mistakes.


The Steps You Can Take to Get into Your Dream Degree

1. Speak to an expert.

The earlier you do this, the better.

The first step is primarily about getting a basic idea of ALL the options available to you. This can be a little tricky to do on your own. So, speaking to someone with all of the information can make it a LOT easier. 

At Yourcompass, we can help you create a step-by-step plan on how to get to get into your dream course. After your consultation, we will send you all of information and important dates that are relevant to you.That way, you have everything all in one place.

Alternatively, you can meet with your career's adviser, or call each of the individual universities directly. Don’t forget to take notes!

2. Balance your priorities 

Take time to do your research. 

This is the most important stage of your life. You’re about to make a huge investment of money and time. 

Make sure you are studying and trying your best but make sure you have a backup plan.

At Yourcompass we can help create multiple options for you, no matter which path you find yourself on.

3. Follow the Yourcompass Headstart Checklist 

Not sure where to start or what you should be researching? No problem. We’ve got you sorted. 

1. Do I know what I want to study?

  • What subjects do I like at school?

  • What careers can I picture myself in?

  • What am I good at?

  • Do I need to go to uni or should I be looking at other options?

2. How do I get in?

  • What Selection Rank do I need?

  • What adjustment factors can I get?

  • What alternative pathways are available?

  • Are there early entry schemes available to me?

  • Are there any other entry programs which can get me into my dream course?

  • How can I optimise my UAC preferences?

3. What scholarships are available?

  • Do I meet at least some of the eligibility requirements?  (Apply if you answered yes)

  • Have I checked the scholarships closing dates?

In using this checklist, you will have a better idea of the types of things you should be considering and researching.

This will help you navigate the system and produce the best possible outcome for you.

At the end of the day, if you don’t take anything else from this post, just know that there is always a way to get to where you want to go – you just need to find it! 

At Yourcompass, we’re here to simplify this process for you and get you on the right path.


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