In Year 12? The pandemic doesn't have to hurt your uni chances

Find out what special considerations are available for the class of 2021—and why your ATAR doesn’t have to stop you from getting into uni.


It's been a tough year for Year 12s.

As NSW student Ella Mackenzie writes on Triple J Hack, COVID restrictions mean that most NSW and Victorian students won’t get to celebrate the end of their school years like they had planned.

Understandably, even those who aren’t in lockdown right now are coping with extra levels of burnout and stress.

The biggest worry on everybody’s minds is final exams, and whether ATAR results will suffer because of changing restrictions.

Can you apply for special consideration if exams don’t go according to plan?

All states have special provisions in place to support Year 12s who’ve been affected by circumstances beyond their control. If you’ve had to self-isolate when you were supposed to be taking an exam, for example, you’ll be able to apply for consideration based on ‘illness and misadventure’.

But in NSW and Victoria, the two states that have been most affected by ongoing lockdowns, there are extra allowances in place.


To give everyone enough time to get vaccinated, NSW exams have been pushed back to 9 November, four weeks later than originally planned.

Acknowledging this is less than ideal, the NSW Education Standards Authority has announced that all NSW Year 12s will have access to the COVID-19 Special Consideration Program. This means that your teacher rather than an anonymous grader will be marking your performance exams, oral exams and most major projects, and will make decisions based on what they know about your circumstances.

It’s important to mention that this special consideration only applies to subjects across arts, drama, languages and English. Students like Ella are pushing for even more special consideration, especially for people in hotspots who have faced longer lockdowns, but so far, no promises have been made about this.

In Victoria

Victorian exams are set to go ahead as usual from 4 October, but you can expect strict conditions to be in place—like there will be smaller group sizes at exam locations, and everyone will have to wear masks.

Just like in 2020, the Consideration of Educational Disadvantage will apply to every student completing a VCE subject in 2021. You’ll have the chance to submit a statement to your teacher about the disadvantages you’ve experienced this year. Your score will be determined based on your overall performance as a student, plus how much your school, family and health has been impacted by the pandemic.

What if you still don’t get the ATAR you need?

Obviously, these special allowances have their limits, especially for students outside NSW and Victoria. If you still don’t get the ATAR you need to get into your uni course, you should know that there are other options out there.

Given all the pressure everyone puts on you in Year 12, you might be surprised to learn that only 26% of first-year students are offered a uni place based on their ATAR. It’s very common to get into uni through other paths.

Students who enrol through Open Universities Australia, for example, can skip entry requirements altogether. We’re a popular option for Year 12s who don’t get the ATAR they’d hoped for, because we make it possible to get into respected unis through the back door.

Basically, you choose undergraduate subjects that are part of a degree you'd like to do and complete them online. Once you pass everything successfully, you’ll be accepted into the full degree. From there, you can choose to keep doing your course online, or switch to an on-campus spot. Either way, you’ll graduate with the same qualification you would have received if you’d enrolled in the more traditional way. Your diploma won’t mention that you studied through us.

So if you’re a Year 12 student, or the parent of a Year 12 student, and you’re worried about how the pandemic will affect your ATAR results, just remember that there are other ways to get into uni. You can still plan for your dream career, even if your exams don’t go as hoped.


Find out more about getting into uni through Open Universities Australia, or start browsing thousands of open enrolment subjects from leading Australian universities right now.