While many of her peers nervously await the arrival of their HSC marks and ATARs on Thursday, Orange teenager Felicity Cox can relax in the knowledge that she already has a spot at university next year.
The James Sheahan Catholic High School graduate is one of a record number of students to receive early university offers in 2021.
The University Admissions Centre (UAC) made more than 15,000 offers in its main round of School Recommendation Scheme (SRS) offers in November, a 20 percent increase on 2020. SRS offers are usually based on criteria other than a student's ATAR, such as their Year 11 results and ratings from their school.
Felicity, who received the good news mid-way through her exams last year, says it came as a huge relief.
"It took out a lot of the stress...not having to think: 'if I don't get into uni what am I going to do?'
"It was such a weight off my shoulders."
Universities around the country have substantially increased their number of early offers in recent years, with some campuses doubling or even tripling their numbers of offers since 2019.
Charles Sturt University, which has campuses in Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo sent out double the number of early offers this year compared to 2020.
The University of Canberra - where Felicity will study Environmental Science this year - has also doubled its early offers over the past two years.
Felicity has no doubt that the constant disruptions to learning her final year of schooling will have had an impact on her ATAR.
"At the start of the year I was very motivated, but with the extension of the trial and the HSC, I was struggling to keep going.
"It took away all the motivation and I just wanted to get it over.
"I felt like it held me back from what I could have done."
Receiving an early offer has had other benefits as well, Felicity says.
"I can prepare and do research sooner and I don't have to wait until the last minute and be like 'oh you're in uni, you have to figure it all out right now."
"I can choose where I want to stay on campus too."
And while the recent uptick in early offers has largely been led by the disruptions to learning caused by the pandemic, it looks like some universities will continue with their expanded programs, after finding early entry offers were recruiting better students.
Meanwhile, for those still anxiously awaiting ATARs, all will be revealed at 9am this Thursday, January 20.
ATAR based offers will be released on January 26.
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