Applying to Australian Universities

By Jonathan Charles Ault

(Publish on 5 November 2021)

G’day! Every year, I work with dozens of students on their applications to universities in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Hong Kong. There’s another option, though, that I encourage students to consider: Australia! (Ireland is another interesting choice, but that’s for a different blog.)

Australian universities may not have the global prestige and name recognition of the top schools in the U.S. and the U.K., but they are a great option for many students, and there are a lot of excellent reasons to consider applying to them. Today, I’ll run through some of those reasons, followed by the schools you should keep on your radar, and finally discuss the application process itself.

What are the advantages of applying to Australia?

  1. Time zones and travel time. Australia is roughly south of China and Hong Kong. Scheduling parent-student calls is so much easier when there’s not half a planet’s worth of time zones between you. Travel is also easier: It’s a little less than nine hours to fly from Hong Kong to Sydney versus over thirteen hours from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. A great boon to students who don’t want to feel so incredibly distant from their parents (or vice-versa).
  2. An easier application process. Generally speaking, Australian universities require less paperwork and fewer essays from students over the course of the application process than universities in the U.K., Canada, or (especially) the U.S. Their admission rates for international students also tend to be higher (though this is a generalization, and not true in all cases).
  3. A different application timetable and academic year. Unlike most Hong Kong and Chinese schools, Australian universities’ academic year typically begins sometime between late January and early February, and ends between early and mid-December. The application deadlines are later as a result. Let’s illustrate the advantages to this by imagining two Hong Kong students, Alice and Brian. Both students graduate in June 2022. Alice is applying for U.S. and U.K. universities; Brian is applying to Australian universities. Alice needs to complete her applications during October-January of 2021-22 – a very stressful time for most students! Meanwhile, Brian can focus entirely on academics during most of that time, turning in his Australian university applications in February-March of 2022 (or as late as August/September! More on this later). After acceptances roll in, Alice has to fly to her new school at the end of her summer break, while Brian has around six months after graduation to, e.g., do an internship, study up for his major, and spend time with his family.

What are the best Australian universities?

The U.S. has the Ivy League, the U.K. has Oxbridge – Australia’s closest equivalent is the “Group of Eight,” which are Australia’s largest and oldest universities. They are, in descending order of prestige:

  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Queensland
  • Monash University
  • University of New South Wales
  • Australian National University
  • University of Western Australia
  • University of Adelaide

Please note that there is a substantial dropoff in terms of international ranking between the first four (Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland, and Monash) and the last three.

How can I apply to Australian universities?

Firstly, most schools have rolling admissions, which means you’re better off applying earlier than later. You can typically apply as late as September (so, if you plan to start in 2023, that means September 2022), but it’s best to get the application in as soon as the schools you’re applying for are open for acceptances. Each school is different, so call or email to find out when they are open for applications. Regardless, acceptances (or rejections) typically come 3-4 weeks after application.

Also, please note that Australian universities, as with the U.K. (but unlike the U.S.) require you to specify precisely what your major will be, and a primary focus when evaluating your application will be on your achievements and studies which support that particular major.

Finally, I recommend applying directly through each university’s application portal. Australia does not have a common application portal for multiple universities (like UCAS in the U.K. or Common App in the U.S.).

During the application process, there are a few things you will need:

  • An English-language test. This typically only applies to students who haven’t studied at an English-language school for at least three years, but check the university’s requirements.
  • Transcripts from your school (official, sent by your school directly to the university).
  • Letters of Recommendation. The more the better; aim for at least three, with at least two coming from academic sources; the closer they relate to your chosen field of study, the better.
  • Personal Statement. This is often not required by Australian universities, but it’s a very, very good idea to submit one. Make sure to explain why you’re applying for that major, your past experience and background in that field, your excellent personal qualities, and why you want to attend that school in particular. If you have already completed a UCAS Personal Statement (for U.K. schools), it’s not difficult to re-tool it for Australian universities.
  • Any awards, certifications, or recognitions that you’ve received (academic or otherwise) over the past 3-4 years – again, not required, but very wise to include.
  • The major and/or school for which you’re applying may or may not require some form of standardized test – this is completely school- and major-dependent, so make sure to do your research.

Double- and triple-check everything! Make sure you are submitting everything you need and that it meets the school’s requirements; in my experience, Australian universities have very friendly staff who are happy to answer any questions you might have about the process. Since it is a much less standardized process than in the U.S. or U.K., it’s your responsibility (or the responsibility of your friendly Admissions Consultant from The Edge) to make sure all the t’s are properly crossed and the i’s correctly dotted.

Remember to reach out to us here at The Edge if you have any questions or if you’d like to talk to an Admissions Consultant like myself – the first meeting is free, so you have nothing to lose! Good luck, and hooroo!

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About The Edge

The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which students gained acceptance to schools such as Columbia, Yale, UChicago, and more! Check out our latest Admissions Results!

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