How do I get into university as a mature student?

University mature student

Are you thinking of going to university as a mature student?

Well, hold that thought!

University has changed over the years, and even more since the pandemic, with course structures offering flexibility and accessibility to study from home around work, kids and everything else in the mix.

However, if school is a distance memory, you are likely wondering whether you are eligible for university and, if not, what hoops do you have to jump through to get in.

In this article we explain:

  • Different types of university paths
  • Ways to get into university
  • How to obtain past learning education certificates
  • What is a literacy and numeracy test and how to prepare for it
  • Getting help from a student advisor

Further reading: Tips for studying as a single mum.

Different types of university paths and possible requirements for each

Single subject course

A single subject course may be the ideal option if you are not ready to commit to full-time university as a mature student. Choose a single subject that fits your professional background and goals so you can quickly gain the skills needed to advance in your career. Many single subjects don’t have entry requirements; you just enrol, pay fees and you’re good to go.

Undergraduate course

An undergraduate course may be the right choice if you don’t have a previous degree or qualification, or you are returning to uni after a long break. You can start with a few undergraduate courses that don’t have entry requirements or go full steam ahead and take a semester’s worth of subjects if you have a strong academic history.

Postgraduate course

Already done with uni, have work experience and want to change careers or upgrade your skills? A postgraduate course, like a Masters’s Degree, Graduate Certificate or Diploma is a great option. You may be able to get credits for your past study and work experience to fast-track your learning.

Ways to get into university


The Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) is a system that ranks Year 12 students of the same age group in terms of readiness to enter university. The ATAR score is a number between 0.00 and 99.95, and your rank determines if you can apply to a certain university or enrol in tertiary courses. Of course as a mature student you won’t be fresh out of Year 12 so ATAR is not a path for you but most universities take other factors into account when selecting students, like test and interview results, past work experience and portfolio.


A Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification provides practical skills and knowledge to high school students, job seekers, career changers and those who need formal qualifications for career advancement. Have a VET certificate or diploma (like an Information Technology or Early Childhood Education Certificate)? You can use it to get into university as a mature student if it is in a similar topic.


Universities recognise previous study and work experience when considering applications from mature students. Entry requirements depend on the course and institution, but you should be eligible for credit transfers and recognition of prior learning (RPL) so you can complete your studies faster.

Those who don’t meet general academic requirements have other options, such as sub-bachelor courses that help improve your skills to prepare for university life, and enabling courses or subjects to help you meet entry requirements for a bachelor-level course.


Literacy and numeracy tests may be required to enter university for courses like Teacher Education and for students who have not completed year 12. Contact the admissions office or your student advisor to find out if you need to take an LLN or similar assessment. StudyAssist suggests:

“Entry pathways to higher education may differ between providers, even for a similar course. Contact your intended higher education provider and check the requirements with them.”

How to obtain past learning education certificates

Domestic (Australian) students

You’ll need your old school records when applying to university as a mature student. The best way to get them is to contact your school directly. In most cases, you’ll need to provide identification and details of your past study, like years attended and graduation date. If you attended a public school that no longer exists, has changed its name, is closed or has merged with another institution, you can reach out to your state’s education website. Victoria residents, for example, can go to the Archives and Record department.

International students

The amount of paperwork required to study university abroad can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s best to contact your school directly to get your records and prepare all the requirements before applying for admission to an Australian university. In addition to other documents, international students who want to study in Australia need their old transcripts and employment certificates (for those with past work experience). They also need to take an English proficiency assessment like the English Language Testing System (IELTS) test.

Further reading: Courses to become a registered nurse.

What is a literacy and numeracy test and how to prepare for it

What is the literacy and numeracy test

A literacy and numeracy test is an assessment for students who did not complete their Higher School Certificate (HSC) or senior school qualification. When applying to university as a mature student, you can take a literacy and numeracy test to prove that you have the basic reading, writing and numeracy skills to succeed not just in college but in everyday life. In NSW, a Level 3 or 4 in reading, writing and numeracy is needed to meet the minimum standard.

How to prepare for it

Check your state’s website for application procedures and exam dates for the literacy and numeracy test. Prepare for the test way ahead of time by taking a demo test, arranging an online practice test and studying your materials.

Getting help from a student advisor

You’ll need all the help you can get when studying at university as a mature student. What with balancing the demands of family, career and studies, you need someone to guide you every step of the way. That’s where a student advisor comes in. Whether you want to change careers or enter university for the first time, a student advisor can help you choose the right subjects to take and give you advice on everything from student loans to mental health to talking to your professor about getting extra credits.

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