Getting your home educated child into university
Our investigation into university entrance began in 2007 when our eldest son was 16. Fortunately, he was clear on what he wanted to do (entomology), and we then worked backwards from there: what course he would need to do, and which university would supply the necessary expertise at the end of the course? We then looked at all the universities for the course that would interest Josh most, finally choosing Science at Monash in Clayton. (The University of Queensland was the only university in Australia that offered units and qualifications in entomology at that time, but we did not want to send him to Queensland. He was able to do these units by distance and got credit for them while at Monash.) We obtained the VTAC Guide online which provides course information and entrance requirements for all Victorian tertiary institutions in one place, and will familiarise you with all the jargon (other states have their own equivalents).
The next step we took was to talk with the Faculty of Science Selection Officer. This is a crucial part of the process as they can help you map out exactly what you need to do to get your child into their university. The Selection Officer was very helpful and pointed us to the faculty’s admissions policy. She also wanted us to stay in contact and liaise with her throughout the year.
It is the selection officers who make the final decision, not VTAC. However, you will still need to submit a VTAC application if you are applying at the end of the year for a beginning year start, though you can apply directly to the university at mid-year. There is a PI Form (Personal Information) you must complete for VTAC as well as the regular form. The PI Form provides space to add in any other relevant information for non-routine applications.
The selection officer also wanted us to send a copy of our VTAC application directly to her, together with some more specific information like details of his ‘final year’ subjects, grades and other extracurricular activities, etc. We had used Apologia Science and gave her links to their website so she could see the standard of the work. We also included the fact that he was part of the Home Ed Team who won the Team Spirit Award at Deakin’s Science and Engineering Challenge. In addition, we provided photos of Joshua’s insect collection. The Selection Officer will guide you on what they want to know, but don’t be pressured into providing any ‘requirements’ that are not in the admissions policy of that university. Check the admissions policy and make sure the selection officer knows you are aware of it.
We then checked the entrance requirements for Monash’s Faculty of Science. At the time we applied they did not require SATs or the STAT but had a Non-Year 12 entry pathway, (which most universities have) being two tertiary subjects with a 60% pass. One must be an ‘English-rich’ unit and the other related to the course you wish to undertake. (Go here for Monash entry requirements)
We chose the pathway of two tertiary units, done one at a time over two study periods with Open Universities Australia: one science related and one history (English rich). If you are choosing single units from another university for entrance requirements, try and do units that will give you credit in your course of choice. It’s a good idea to plan to have these finished in time to get a transcript for submitting with your VTAC application, so check the submission deadlines as you choose your single units.
I was relieved that Josh did the Open Uni units, as I didn’t feel very confident about him doing the STATs and was overwhelmed in preparing for the SATs. We chose Australian History for his ‘English rich’ unit, basically to prove that he can write essays and is literate, and another unit relevant to the course he was planning to enter, in his case “Scientific Skills and Communication”. He did one at a time in the first and third study periods, finishing by September. This allowed him to get his VTAC application in on time.
There was good reason to do the OUA units one at a time, and I was so glad he did. The whole experience was very taxing but most valuable in that we had the advantage of learning at a university level without all the adjustments that go with being on campus. Having our heads in one place at a time was all I could deal with since I also had four other children to teach. We felt it was also more helpful, realistic and better preparation than tests of any kind. It would be a better confidence booster, and help him understand how university operates. Another advantage was that I could have full involvement, and it had the affect of totally demystifying the whole idea of university study in my mind. It isn’t as difficult as I thought and I realised that our children really could do the work if they are motivated enough. After years of fearing this final goal, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it was all turning out.
Going to the Monash Open Day was probably the most encouraging and helpful part of the process. Josh took along one of his insect specimen boxes and was able to show it to one of the lecturers in the Zoology Department. This was the most positive time during our whole university entrance journey, as he received great feedback and encouragement from someone who mattered in the whole process. So if you can, take a portfolio or the like just in case. This lecturer was impressed and keen to see Josh get in.
This process took the whole year with him being finished his OUA units in time to submit his VTAC application. It was a time of ploughing through the unknown and never being certain of getting anywhere, requiring assertiveness and discipline to meet application deadlines. He listed only one preference on his VTAC application and was offered a place in the first round.
Since writing this article, Josh graduated with First Class Honours in Zoology. He was then eligible for a PHD scholarship, which he received in 2014 and will graduate from later in 2017.
Our next two children also took up OUA units at ages 15 and 17, both achieving High Distinctions. Interestingly, the 15yo also sat the STAT a year later achieving an average score, certainly not consistent with the marks he got for his OUA unit. This showed me that I was probably right in taking that path to begin with; just jumping into the tertiary units is a much better way of getting a realistic and accurate assessment of where your child is at as they are what actually matter.
You CAN do it!
by Joelle Grubb Copyright 2015