Did you know you can accept an early offer and still keep your options open? Discover five common misconceptions about how the ATAR, UAC first preferences, and uni offer rounds really work.

'You can only accept one offer.'

Fact: The average Year 12 student receives two offers*
If you’ve accepted an offer from another university but would still prefer UNSW, hold tight! You could still receive an offer from UNSW in the next offer round. All you need to do is remove the accepted degree from your UAC preferences and wait a few weeks. Our main offer rounds for high school leavers are in December and January, with an additional offer round in February.

'UAC preferences are set in stone.'

Fact: You can change preferences even after accepting an offer
An offer acceptance is not a legally binding commitment. If you’ve already accepted an early offer, congratulations! It’s such a relief to get clarity on your direction for next year. Still, the average Year 12 student changes their preferences three times*. You can keep your options open simply by updating your UAC preferences after accepting an offer.

'Your future rests on your UAC preferences.'

Fact: You can change degrees even after you’ve started studying
You can change to a different UNSW degree without having to reapply through UAC. We don’t even look at your ATAR. How? After one year of study with us, you can switch degrees through our undergraduate Internal Program Transfer (IPT)**. We look at your uni marks and other eligibility criteria.

Changing degrees is one option if you didn’t get the right ATAR for your dream UNSW degree. If you really think this might happen to you, another option is taking one of our admission pathway programs.

'Changing UAC preferences costs $$$.'

Fact: Unlimited changes are included in the one UAC application fee
UAC says: There is no charge to change your preferences, and you can change them as many times as you like before each offer round preference closing date.

We say: Go enjoy your avocado toast.

'Your ATAR won’t be good enough.'

Fact: Now is not the time to be modest in your aspirations
What’s worse than not getting a good enough ATAR? Getting an awesome ATAR and missing out on your dream degree because you were “realistic” with your first preference. Each year, thousands of high school students actually rank higher than they think they will. You may be one of them. Go for gold. Put your dream UNSW degree in your highest preferences.


You can boost your UAC application through different UNSW initiatives. 

Early offer FAQs

Information on this page is intended for domestic students+ and some international students++

    • You need to list the degrees you prefer in your application to study at university.

      At university, you choose what you want to study. Subjects and classes are organised into courses called degrees. You need to figure out which degrees you prefer, and a big part of that decision includes deciding which universities you prefer.

      People call this your ‘preferred courses’, ‘preferences’, ‘degree preferences’ and ‘uni preferences’ and sometimes just ‘prefs’.

    • Five is good. This means you can aim high with supporting options. If your ATAR isn’t eligible for your first preference, the other four preferences tell us what else you’d like to study.

      You still have options if you receive an offer for your least preferred degree. You can change your UAC preferences to receive a second or third offer in another offer round. Even once you’ve accepted an offer and started your studies, you’ll find opportunities to change your degree.

    • It depends on what is important to you.

      Does the degree have subjects you’re passionate about? Does the degree include opportunities to kickstart your career? Does the university have connections for international study or work experience? Is the campus near public transport and places to relax? Are there social clubs that represent you (or can you start your own)?

      Make a list of degrees and rate them from favourite to fine. Use that rating for your list of UAC preferences.

    • Your preferences tell UAC and the universities what you really really want. If you don't have preferences, you don't have a complete UAC application. 

    • They work in a few ways. Firstly, the order is important, as it influences which offers you could get. Order your preferences with your most most favourite at the top of your list, ranking down to your least most favourite.

      Then, we look at your preferences to see which ones have ATAR requirements that match your ATAR. We consider your application for the degree that matches your ATAR and is ranked highest in your preferences.

      So, for example, your ATAR might match the requirements for the degrees that you ranked second, third and fifth in your preference list. You’re eligible for all three degrees, but we can only consider you for your second preference – even if it has a lower ATAR requirement than your third or fifth preferenced degrees.

      Why don’t we automatically consider you for the eligible preference with the highest ATAR requirement? Because there’s more to a degree than its entry requirements. 

      In the example above, maybe you put a degree fifth in your preferences because your best mate didn’t want to go to that uni. You could have received an offer for the degree if you’d ranked it second (or first) on your list but… that would mean doing uni without your bff. 

      Your preferences tell us which degrees are most important to you, but not why they’re important to you. For more information, see our step-by-step guide to UAC preferences.  

    • UAC is the Universities Admissions Centre, which is responsible for processing applications to undergraduate courses in Australia’s universities.

    • During the application process, the university and the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) determine which high school leavers are eligible for places in which degree. The universities then make an offer to each eligible high school leaver for a place in a degree.

      Most places in a bachelor’s degree are financially supported by the government and are called Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs).

      The government provides funding (from taxes) that covers most of the cost of each CSP. When a student graduates and begins earning enough income, they repay the government through their income tax.

      When domestic high school students apply for university, they are typically applying to be offered a CSP.

    • Nope. It’s all in, all at once, during an offer round.

      Offers go to people who:

      • have an eligible ATAR
      • have a competitive selection rank
      • listed the degree as a preference
      • preferred the degree above other eligible degrees*

      *If your ATAR is eligible for the courses you’ve ranked 3rd and 5th in your UAC preferences, you’ll be considered for your 3rd preference – even if your 5th preference has a higher ATAR requirement.

    • It’s the time set aside for universities to assess future student UAC applications and supporting documentation. They look for students who will do well in their programs. An offer round involves the university making offers and students accepting an offer by the end of the round.

    • UAC has offer rounds throughout the year however, the main offer rounds for high school leavers are in December and January.

      The main offer rounds have application deadlines in November, with offers sent out in December (Round 2) and January (Round 1). UNSW will also make offers in January (Round 2) and February (Round 1), which have application deadlines in January. See UAC key dates for more information.

      You don’t have to wait until November to apply. In fact, it’s cheaper for school leavers to submit an early-bird application before the end of September.

    • UNSW only makes early offers to UNSW Gateway Program participants, which prepares students from Year 10 onwards for UNSW degrees.

      Other universities make early offers in November, ahead of the main offer rounds in December and January. They consider factors like your Year 11 results, any school recommendations, and achievements outside school. They might ask you to do a test, interview, or audition. They might also consider your socio-economic status.

      If you want to be considered for an early offer at another university, make sure you know when the UAC application deadline is.

    • Definitely peace of mind. You can keep an early offer from another university as a back-up plan. Accept it and update your UAC preferences. Relax and enjoy the summer while you wait to see which place you’re offered next. It could be in your dream UNSW degree.

    • UNSW provides conditional offers to UNSW Gateway Program participants before the HSC. We set an adjusted ATAR for the chosen degree, and the Gateway student needs to achieve that ATAR to receive a firm offer.

      We also provide unconditional offers to Gateway program participants before the HSC. In this case, even though the offer is firm, the Gateway student must still sit the HSC and achieve an ATAR.

    • You have two options. You can defer your offer, which means accepting the offer but delaying the date you start. This would be the best option because you know you have a place.

      Otherwise, you can apply through UAC next year as a non-school leaver. UAC holds offer rounds throughout the year. You can start at UNSW in February, May, or September because we have a trimester academic calendar. However, not all degrees start each term, so look for the ‘Commencing Terms’ information for the degree that interests you.

    • The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is a score based on your performance in the exams and assessments you typically have in your final year of high school. Universities use the ATAR in undergraduate degree entry requirements. Before you enrol in university, your ATAR tells you which eligible courses you can list as preferences in your UAC application.

      You won’t find your ATAR score on a school report card. It’s calculated using an algorithm that’s designed to create a fair ranking for all Australian high school students. The algorithm takes your best two units of English and the best eight units from your remaining units (only two of them can be Category B courses). And then, it scales the numbers, according to how well everyone did in the same courses.

      If you want to dive into this, Year 13 explains it pretty well, including why predicted ATARs might not be so reliable in Are ATAR Calculators Actually Accurate? UAC also explain how its algorithm scales students’ marks to create their ATAR in How your ATAR is calculated.

    • It depends on the university. We have UNSW Gateway, which is part of the UAC Schools Recommendation Scheme. The Gateway Admission Pathway for Year 12 students significantly adjusts the ATAR requirement for a preferred UNSW degree, provides an early conditional offer, and prioritises the student for an equity scholarship.

      UNSW Gateway also holds educational programs for students in Years 10 – 12. The program coaches eligible teenagers towards identifying their strengths. It provides a headstart for the HSC, with subject-specific guidance and academic skill workshops. For more information, visit UNSW Gateway.  

    • While an ATAR makes you eligible for a degree, a selection rank makes you competitive for a place in the degree. This table shows the ATARs and selection ranks of students who received offers for a place in our Bachelor of Commerce starting in 2022.

       Ranking ATAR Selection rank










      A selection rank is created with your ATAR plus points you can earn from various adjustment factors or entry schemes. We add some types of points automatically if you're eligible for them. For others, you'll need a separate application process. 

      Our adjustment factors account for excellence in academia, economic academic disadvantage, and elite high school athletes, musicians, and leaders.

      Our entry schemes are dedicated to creative and technical minds, First Nations peoples, people who wish to study medicine, and students who attend high schools in low socio-economic areas.

      The table above shows the lowest ATAR we recognised was for a student who participated in one of our entry schemes. The scheme boosted their rank from 81 to 93.

      Our selection ranks recognise that people are far more than just their ATAR. To learn more, visit UNSW adjustment factors and entry schemes.  

    • Adjustment factors are points that are added to your selection rank. A selection rank is what makes you competitive for a place in a degree at UNSW. It’s made with your ATAR plus points from adjustment factors and/or entry schemes.

      We allocate points for your performance in the subjects you studied, your achievements outside the classroom and your personal circumstances. We automatically add points for some situations, but for others, you need to make us aware of them with a direct application or through UAC. Learn more about adjustment factors.

    • It’s not just for artists. UNSW Portfolio Entry is available for a range of bachelor’s degrees, spanning engineering, information systems, medicine, and health – as well as arts, design, and architecture.

      Let your passion and creativity shine through to boost your UAC application. Your portfolio shows the reasoning behind your ideas and contributes to your selection rank. Portfolio Entry is a separate process from your UAC application. Read the submission requirements and more at UNSW Portfolio Entry.   

    • Once you begin a UNSW bachelor’s degree, you become a current undergraduate student who is eligible for an Internal Program Transfer (IPT). With IPT, you can move from one UNSW bachelor’s degree to another without having to reapply through UAC. You could also move from a single degree to a double degree (or vice versa). IPT is a free service. To learn more, visit Undergraduate Internal Program Transfer.

References and fine print

*Source: UAC Student Lifestyle Report, 2022.

**Conditions apply, such as getting a high standard of marks during your first year, and other requirements depending on the degree. Some highly competitive degrees are excluded from internal transfer, so be sure to check your dream degree is listed.

+ Domestic students are defined as Australian and New Zealand citizens, Australian permanent residents, and permanent Australian humanitarian visa holders.

++ Information on this page is not intended for international students unless they are currently studying an Australian Year 12 (either in Australia or elsewhere), an International Baccalaureate Diploma, or a New Zealand National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 3. Regardless, there may be different requirements for your personal visa situation, so we strongly recommend you crosscheck application requirements with UAC or your agent.


 Want to find out more about UNSW?

Our Future Student Advisors know what it’s like to be in your position - just a short time ago, they were there too. Get in touch with them to get all your questions answered. We’re here to help.