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Australia: Applying to University - Must read

How to apply to study in Australia

Applying to study in Australia can seem a little confusing. Our guide tells you all you need to know and everything you need to do and when.

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Australia is one of the top study destinations in the world and international students can’t wait to experience the sun, sea and famous Aussie culture.


If you’ve decided an Australian university is for you, then you’ve come to the right place to learn more about the application process. Be warned, it may appear confusing, but once you fully understand it, it won’t seem so stressful.


In this article, we explore all you need to know about the application processes for Australian universities.


Understanding the higher education system in Australia




Home to over 40 universities, Australia offers a world-recognised higher education system, with 5 institutions in the QS World University Rankings Top 50. Most states boast several universities, so no matter where in the country you want to study, you’ll have plenty of options.


Study methods are usually flexible, allowing students to completely adapt their courses to their interests. At the undergraduate level, you can usually choose between a Bachelor’s degree with Honours (four years) or without Honours (three years).


Vocational Education and Training (VET)


For students looking to study in order to work in a specific profession, look no further than one of Australia’s VET courses. While some of these are taught within universities themselves, more commonly they are taught in Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes.


VET courses are typically between six to 18 months in length and offer a fast-track route into the world of work for many students and provide a top-level vocational study experience.


Remember, when choosing which course to study as an international student, it must be CRICOS (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students)-registered, so be sure to check this before you make any final decisions.


Important application deadlines


In Australia, the university academic year usually runs from February until November. It’s divided into two semesters, with a four-week break in June/July. Most universities have an intake of students each semester.


Some universities work on a trimester (three-term) system, allowing students the ability to complete their degrees faster. Be sure to check which system your university uses before you apply. There is no limit to how many universities you can apply to in Australia, but we’d suggest reducing your options down to a select few so that you can focus your efforts more effectively.


Since you’ll apply to universities directly through their own admissions portal, deadlines will be different for each university. It’s important that you check these well in advance of when you are hoping to study.


Some universities will have different deadlines for different courses, whilst others will not list a deadline, instead of accepting applications until the course fills up and deferring (delaying) any applications received after that point to the next intake of students.


For this reason, we strongly suggest you submit your application as early as possible and allow yourself at least 9 months for all your research and preparation before submission.


English language requirements


Since courses will be taught in English, most education providers will ask to see proof of your level of English. The required level varies between institutions and courses, so be sure to check well in advance.


If you need to take an English language test, the most commonly accepted are IELTS and TOEFL. Whatever test you choose, make sure you check that the university will accept the result.


Academic requirements




As a bare minimum, if you’re applying for an undergraduate degree in Australia, you must have completed secondary school in your home country and have a recognised school leaver’s certificate at a level equivalent to Australian Year 12. At the postgraduate level, you’ll need to have a Bachelor’s degree already (or higher, depending on your level of study).


The specific grades you’ll need to be accepted on your programme will vary between institutions and courses, so make sure that you can meet their requirements. Remember, you don’t necessarily need to have received the required grades when you apply, but you will probably be asked to provide evidence that you’re expected to receive them before you start the course.


Admissions and aptitude tests


Depending on the university and specific programme you apply to, you may also need to pass an admissions test before you are accepted on your course. Common examples include:

  • UCAT – for undergraduate medicine programmes
  • GAMSAT – for postgraduate medicine programmes
  • LSAT – for postgraduate law programmes


Important application documents


You’ll normally be asked to supply some documentation alongside your application, so it’s a good idea to have electronic copies of these ready to submit. Remember, for any document not in English, you’ll need to arrange for an official translation.


Commonly requested documents include:

  • academic transcripts (if you do not yet have your exam certificates) and/or exam/qualification certificates
  • English language test results
  • a copy of your passport or another valid identity document
  • proof you have the finances to fund your studies
  • CV/resume


Before you start your study programme, you will also need to provide your university with a copy of your student visa. Read our article about applying for a student visa in Australia.


Personal statement


Most universities will not request a personal statement as part of the application process, but if you have the opportunity to attach one, we recommend that you do. It’s a great opportunity to make yourself stand out.


Try to write in a professional but friendly tone, tell the university about yourself and what you believe you can offer them, as well as what they can offer you.


Letters of recommendation


At the undergraduate level in Australia, it’s rare you’ll be asked to provide an academic reference but it varies between institutions. At the postgraduate level, however, you’re likely to be asked to produce letters of recommendation. Generally, you’ll be asked to supply at least one from an academic referee and one from a professional referee.

If you are asked for a letter of recommendation, you’ll need to ask suitable academic/professional people, who know you well, to write a letter to the university.


An academic referee could be a teacher, supervisor, or professor. Ideally, though not essentially, a professional referee will be a person in some way relevant to the course you are going to study – for example, if you work in IT and want to study computer engineering, your employer would be highly relevant.


Your letters of recommendation should detail your academic ability, work ethic and overall suitability for the course you’ve applied for.


The application process


In Australia, universities each have their own admissions portal accessed through their website. Therefore, we highly recommend you familiarise yourself with the different systems, requirements and deadlines well in advance.


In most cases, you’ll need to apply directly to the university yourself. However, you may choose to appoint an external agent to do this on your behalf. Be warned though, that agents can be expensive.


In some cases, universities may insist you use an agent, based on the country you’re applying from, so make sure you read through their requirements before you begin.


The application itself will consist of a few basic questions about you. You’ll then need to attach your relevant documentation and pay a fee to the university before you submit it. The fee is generally in the region of AUD 50 to AUD 100.


What happens next


The university will be in contact to let you know if you have an offer of a place, normally within four to six weeks. Depending on what and where you are studying, you may also be asked to attend an interview.


If your offer is marked as ‘conditional’ it means there will be some requirements (for example an English language test result) that must be supplied before you can start the course. When you’ve received an offer, you’ll need to make a start on your student visa application.


Most students in Australia do not live on campus, so you can look for accommodation options at a more leisurely pace than in many countries. However, definitely don’t leave it too late – the property market can be fast-moving, especially in big cities, so you won’t want to miss out. Find out more about how much it costs to study in Australia.


If you do want to live on-campus, however, you’ll need to move fast. Because of the extremely high demand, not only is there a deadline for applications but many universities recommend you apply on the date that the on-campus accommodation applications open.


Top application tips


Here are some top application tips:

  • Attend some university open days (if possible) – these will give you a feel for the place and give you an idea if it’s somewhere you’d enjoy studying.
  • Make use of international admissions offices – they’ll be able to answer questions and offer guidance.
  • Ask for help. If you know someone who’s already been through the process, why not get in touch and ask them for some tips?

Study in Australia


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