Understanding Special Consideration

Life isn’t always kind to everyone.

If you’ve experienced an exceptional situation or event during your high school period, particularly in Years 11  or 12, you may not be able to perform to the best of your abilities. And that could affect your ATAR.

You don’t have to miss out on achieving your career goals if circumstances beyond your control mean that you’ve been held back in your studies or exams.


Exceptional doesn’t always mean better


When you’re at school you might hear about exceptional students and link them with being high achievers, and you’d be right – but that’s not all there is to it.

Exceptional circumstances can also be unusual, out of the ordinary, not your everyday occurrences.

So even if you’re not one of the top academic achievers at school, don’t dismiss the word as not applying to you. Because if you’ve been unfortunate and suffered in any way, then your case may be exceptional too.


How can you get into uni if you’ve been disadvantaged?


There are lots of systems in place designed to help you navigate around your difficulties and get a place at uni, regardless of what you’ve been through at high school.

Lots of institutions refer to this as “special consideration”, meaning they’ll take into account all that you’ve been through and may be more lenient towards your application.

Researching your options and applying for special consideration could mean that you secure the course you wanted, in spite of your ATAR not necessarily meeting the requirements.


Who is eligible for special consideration for university applications?


Universities understand that there are lots of ways that your studies could have been negatively impacted. If you can prove (or show evidence) of the circumstances or event that caused your setback, then you’ll most likely have some exceptions applied to your application that could help you gain entry.


Special consideration categories include:

Home situation and obligations


Lots of living environments can make school even tougher than it has to be, including:

  • Domestic, physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse at home (domestic violence)
  • Yourself or your parents went through a legal separation or divorce that caused problems
  • If you or one of your household has been substance abusing
  • Lack of stable housing of homelessness
  • You’ve been forced to care for yourself under the age of 18
  • You’ve suffered an assault (includes rape, attempted rape, touching in a sexual way)
  • studies have been disrupted through foster care or other out of home care
  • You’ve not had adequate education support due to cultural demands
  • You’re the main carer at home for sibling(s) or other family members in excess of normal domestic responsibilities (includes household members who are disabled or seriously ill)
  • You’ve experienced bereavement through the death or serious illness of a household member
  • Your home has been affected by disaster (natural or otherwise)

If any of those categories describe you and your home environment, then you’ll most likely be eligible to apply for special consideration towards your university application. It could include adjustment factors towards your ATAR or access to other kinds of help.


Personal illness or disability


You’re not eligible for this category if you suffered a few bouts of gastro, you’ve got a minor disability that doesn’t impact on your schoolwork, or you’ve an illness that is relatively mild and can be managed with medication. They’re unlikely to have had a huge impact on your education and you’ll have been able to catch up.

However, if you’ve suffered from:

  • A long-term or chronic medical, psychiatric, or psychological condition or disability
  • A serious, short-term medical or psychiatric/psychological condition (e.g. an accident, surgery, break down), or
  • You have been diagnosed with a learning, sensory, physical, psychological or other disability or disorder

And you have evidence to support your claim (this could be from your school), then you could apply for special consideration under this category.


Educational disruption


For students in Years 11 and 12 who experienced:

  • High turnover of teachers at your school (e.g. more than three in the school year)
  • Lots of school moves  – you’ll need a letter from each school you enrolled at to support this claim
  • Study by distance education (even if was just some units or subjects)
  • Discontinued subjects at your school, you transferred and the new school doesn’t offer the same subjects, or there were limited subject selections at your school which is going to affect the pathway to your chosen career
  • Bullying that impacted on your ability to attend school or do well
  • School being closed or significantly affected (e.g. buildings destroyed)
  • Regional or remote schooling (must be within classified zones, you could check here)

You may be able to apply for adjustment factors that could help you reach the required ATAR cut-off for your desired course, or the university might offer you foundation programs that could help you enrol on the course you’ve chosen.


Financial hardship


If you’re from a low-income background you could apply for, or automatically receive, financial help.

This could be in the form of:

  • Scholarships
  • Bursaries
  • Centrelink payments

Whether you’re under 22 and financially supported by your parents or other carers, or financially independent, you might be eligible if:


What you’ll need to do next


If you feel like Year 11 or 12 really didn’t go well for you, and you’d really love to go to university, you’ve got options.

Speak to your teachers – ask them what your school can do to help you, or what support services they can recommend.

Research your university options and when you’ve narrowed down your preferences, contact the university admissions department directly and see what they recommend you do.

If you’ll be applying through a Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC), check their website for process of applying for special consideration or equity access. Or give them a call if you’re confused about your eligibility or how to go about applying.

Then you’ll need to gather all your supporting evidence and make sure you complete all the necessary paperwork and applications (these could be in addition to your actual university application) – before any deadlines.

Most importantly, don’t give up.





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