Over here at Year13 we go on and on about how your ATAR doesn’t define you and if you want to go to uni, there’s other ways to get in. Pathway programs are one of those ways. Just because you got a mystery mark, missed the cut off for your course, didn’t qualify for an ATAR or just didn’t finish high school, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to further your education. ‘Cause if there’s one thing for sure it’s that there’s heaps of people who will coast through their entire life without learning anything new, so anyone who’s willing to try and get some genuine knowledge into their head should be given the chance to give it a go.

So, how do they work?

Most uni’s will have a pathway program, but the specifics really depend on where you’re at. Basically though, a pathway is a way in without an ATAR. While everyone else uses their ATAR to get in through the front door of uni, you can sneak around the back and let yourself in that way. You all end up in the same place, but you just take a slightly different path.

Some pathway programs will get you to submit a portfolio (perfect for those of us who want to flex our creative muscles), some will have a look at your top subjects at school and some will just get you to fill out an application. Do a little digging and figure out how your dream uni allows admissions through its pathway program.

Once you’ve figured out how to apply and you’re in, you’ll be able to start your pathway program. It’ll get you up to speed so you can meet the requirements for your dream course without a top ATAR.

Again, the length varies from uni to uni but they tend to range between 8-16 months in length. A lot of the time you’ll be completing a diploma and you can usually jump into second year uni at the end of it with no time lost.

What’s the difference between this and first year?

Obviously, admission is the major difference. First year uni usually goes like this: you get the ATAR for you course, you accept your offer, you enrol, make your timetable and show up on the first day.

Pathway programs usually aren’t stressed about your ATAR, so you can skip that whole part and apply with your marks or an application.

Another difference can be the structure. A lot of pathway programs are more structured with the classes and subjects you take, because they want to get you 100% ready to jump into your dream course at the end of it, whereas first year uni usually has a bit more flexibility in what electives you choose to study.

A lot of pathway programs will give you a tonne of support services to help you out and sometimes (not always) the classes are smaller which can help you adjust to uni life coming from high school.

Is a pathway program any less valuable?


Eventually, you’ll end up at graduation with a degree in hand. Plus, a lot of pathway programs will have you finishing your course at the same time as everyone else with no time lost. A pathway program is just how you get into uni, once you’re there it’s up to you to decide how you want to perform.

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