Get Into University Courses with a Low ATAR

Every university has entrance requirements, and they are important. The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, or ATAR, is a relatively new replacement for the OP system of ranking for graduating Year 12 students. To qualify for a higher education degree course, you need a minimum ATAR score; but that's not the end of the story. If you're worried about getting into uni with low ATAR scores, James Cook University offers several pathways to the career you've always wanted.

At JCU, we don't just see you as a series of numbers. There are many reasons you might have a low ATAR score that have nothing to do with academic ability or your capacity to pursue a tertiary education course. Whether you're experienced financial hardship, suffered an illness in your final years of high school, or were in a school environment that kept you from meeting your full potential, there are ways you can meet entry requirements and be eligible for university.

Bridging Programs

Many students find Year 12 Chemistry and Maths challenging, especially if they are struggling with home, illness, or economic issues. Even if you achieved a low score in these areas, you can fulfil the prerequisites for your preferred course of study with low ATAR uni courses that help you bridge the gaps in your qualifications.

Enjoy the full support of lecturers committed to student success in courses specifically designed to help you master the concepts you need to enter many undergraduate degree courses in the sciences or health.

Earn Your Diploma

One of the frustrating things about getting a low ATAR score is the feeling of discouragement you may feel if you worry whether you're able to manage university level courses. Show yourself and others what you can do through a Diploma of Higher Education. Your diploma will be a recognized qualification in its own right and prepare you for further bachelor degree studies.

Experience has no substitute, and the low ATAR courses you study for this diploma will give you the academic experience you need to succeed. Master key academic skills, learn how to make technology work for you in your studies, and get a jump start on your first-year bachelor degree courses. Choose a major for your diploma course that matches your intentions for future study.


Your vocational education and training courses can also help you meet minimum entry requirements. Some may even count as credit towards your undergraduate degree, which can save you time and money during your bachelor course.

Gain advanced standing through your efforts at a TAFE or another vocational education institute. Once you are accepted into a degree course, the division you've applied to will assess your VET qualifications and help you make the most of your previous learning.

Work Experience

If you finished high school and weren't satisfied with your ATAR score, you might have gone directly into the workforce believing you couldn't qualify for university studies. At JCU, we know that holding down a full-time job can require the same maturity and commitment you need to succeed in higher education.

Use your work experience to help you meet the academic qualifications required to enter a degree course. If you've been working in a full-time, paid job for at least six months, you may be eligible for work credit. Get the credit you deserve for the skills and knowledge you've gained in life through JCU's Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) program.

Academic Credit

Get credit for the tertiary courses you've taken at another uni or a private provider, whether in Australia or overseas. Don't let your hard work go to waste. Reduce the number of courses you must take to finish a qualification or get advanced standing in certain courses by applying credit from your previous courses.

Your world-class education begins here, at JCU, where we're committed to helping you find a way to get recognition for the skills and experience you already have.

Change Direction

If your ATAR score is too low to qualify for your preferred degree course, it might still be high enough to qualify you for another degree path. Once you successfully complete some tertiary courses in a different degree, you may be able to transfer to your preferred degree. Contact us to chat through your options.

Each of us is unique, and you need the pathway to university that is right for you. Don't let a number make decisions about your future. Whether you choose low ATAR courses to bridge gaps, a diploma course, or credit for your work, other tertiary courses, or vocational training, a degree and a job is important. Taking the right steps now can help you choose the best pathway for your future.

Think Carefully About What You Want to Do

You'll be in the best position to take advantage of all the pathways into JCU if you know where you want to end up. Gain a clear direction so you can think effectively, outside the box, about how to get where you want to go.

Identify the Gaps in Your Qualification

Once you know which degree you want to pursue and a possible career future, you can identify which low ATAR uni courses will allow you to bridge the gaps in your qualifications. In some cases, you may only need one or two courses to qualify. In others, it might be more helpful to take a one-year diploma course in a major related to your preferred bachelor degree option.

Evaluate Your Work Experience and Credit

Don't miss out on credit you deserve simply because you missed something or assumed it wouldn't help you qualify for your higher education degree. Take careful account of everything you've studied, all vocational training you've had, and your work experience.

Talk to JCU

At JCU, we want you to be ready today for tomorrow. Learn more about your specific options and get advice on the best pathway for you by contacting our Student Centre.

A low ATAR score isn't the end of your future. There are pathways to uni even without the formal academic qualifications. Your first steps towards a successful, rewarding career begins at JCU.