Home educated students have successfully applied to universities all around the country using non-year 12 pathways. In Victoria, high school students at school typically sit their VCE exams and receive their ATAR, which then allows them to enrol in a university degree if certain requirements are met.
But what do you do when home educated kids can not sit ‘homeschool VCE exams’ or receive a certificate at the end of their high school equivalent years? How do you get an ATAR to get into university if you’re a home ed student?
The answer is simple: you don’t need to do VCE and get an ATAR to get into uni: this is not the only way! This surprises people, often to the point where they think surely you must be mistaken. After all, don’t all kids have to sit exams to get into uni? Nope!
What’s more, home ed kids often start their tertiary education a number of years before their peers in school using the many different alternative pathways available.
My home ed son is sixteen and has his sights set on becoming a mechanical engineer. If he were at school he’d be in year 11, and he’d have chosen his electives, with the curriculum dictated to him, and then finally sit his exams in year 12, likely with a lot of stress and pressure. In his first year of university, he would turn 19.
Instead of this standard school route, my son has followed an engineering pathway established by a university that offers a guaranteed route into their engineering degree down the track. No ATAR, no VCE, no year 12 required– and my son can still end up in the engineering degree.
At age 16, my son completed a six month long TAFE Certificate IV course which focused on engineering, in semester 1. He then immediately applied for the Advanced Diploma of Mechanical Engineering at the same institution and got in for the semester 2 intake. This advanced diploma course is two years full-time, however my son has already done some of the core subjects in the Cert IV course. So the advanced diploma course will be shortened by one semester, i.e. it will take him a year and a half instead of two years.
From there, he can go straight into the Bachelor of Engineering degree, which is four years full time. However, due to having studied the advanced diploma, he gets about 1.5 years worth of prior study credit, so he doesn’t start the degree from scratch.
A student going straight into first year at uni from year 12 only has their high school study and experience behind them– this is the standard route for university entry. But my son would start his university degree with the Certificate IV, plus an Advanced Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, plus study credits for subjects already undertaken at tertiary level, plus the practical experience in various engineering subjects offered at the TAFE level, plus two years of studying at a tertiary level including collaborative project work, and work experience.
On top of all that, because he has been a self directed home ed student for many years, he was able to study areas of interest in far greater depth than what he would have done at school, where he would not have been able to dive as deeply in to subjects such as aerospace engineering, or astrophysics.
It is somewhat shocking to me that students at school, as well as their parents and even teachers and career counselors, are not always aware of, or encouraged, to explore these alternative pathways where you do not need to enter uni via the standard VCE+ATAR route. My son has had conversations with kids his age who go to school and want to get into engineering, and those kids are often stunned to learn about what my son is doing, and his planned pathways: they seem to love the idea of no VCE and getting in to a TAFE pathway at age 16! Sadly, these kids also tell him that their careers counselors and schools in general push the uni line with absolutely no mention at all of TAFE pathways or TAFE is presented as an option that is looked down upon. Students are sometimes told they need their VCE to enrol in TAFE Certificate courses: this is not the case so please check the course requirements.
Interestingly, a lecturer in an engineering degree told my son and his classmates that he has seen many engineering degree students straight out of year 12 feel ‘lost’ and find things difficult, whereas the students who have come in through the TAFE pathways do extremely well in comparison both in the course and with job prospects.
It is important to understand the different pathways available into higher education, and that a high school certificate and final score/rank is not the only way. There are so many kids under incredible pressure during the VCE years, and we know that mental health can be greatly affected during this time. I am very grateful that this is not going to be an issue for my children, and that they will be able to enter high education successfully through established pathways set out by universities.
This blog post has been written by a long-term home educating parent whose children have never been to school.
HEN has published articles and advice here, on university and TAFE entry. We also sell the Otherways Guide to Uni and Careers by Sue Wight (PDF) in the HEN Shop, with members being able to download it for free.
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