What is change of preference? (Get your uni application sorted)

With UAC and VTAC applications now open, it’s time to get a handle on what this application process and change of preference is all about. There’s so many acronyms and phrases flying around, it’s hard to keep everything straight! Between UAC, VTAC, SRS, change of preference, offer rounds – you’d be forgiven for getting lost in it all.

In a nutshell, UAC and VTAC application systems allow you to apply for on-campus courses at multiple universities within one application.

Simple, right?

For the most part, yes.

But things can get a little muddy towards the end of the process – when the options to change your study preferences come along.

At Charles Sturt University, we think it’s important that you understand the ins and outs of applying through a tertiary admissions centre, so you can get the best outcome possible when it comes to kickstarting your career.

What is a tertiary admissions centre?

A tertiary admissions centre (like UAC or VTAC) is an organisation that administers applications to study on campus at participating universities. Applying through one of the tertiary admission centres (TAC) means they do all the work for you!

You’ll complete one single application that will be submitted to your top choice uni(s) – saving you the hassle of writing multiple apps to multiple unis.

The other option is to apply directly – which you can easily do online with Charles Sturt. If you’re planning on studying online, this is how you’ll apply.

All Australia’s states and territories have different TACs. Aside from UAC (NSW and ACT) and VTAC (Victoria), you can apply through:

How does ‘change of preference’ work?

When you apply through a TAC, your first step is to create a list of course ‘preferences’ you’d like to apply for. Make sure your put your dream course first, then order the other courses you’d like to study (which will act as back-ups in case you don’t quite get the marks you were after). You can list up to five preferences for UAC and eight for VTAC.

You can add, delete or change the order of your preferences – or even the courses you’ve selected – via your TAC login at any time before offers are made. Each offer round has a closing date – after this point you can’t make any more changes for that round. Change of preference gives you the chance to juggle your course and uni preferences, and to make sure you end up at the best uni in Australia for what you want to do.

The course you select will have eligibility criteria attached to it – and the most common criteria is achieving a particular ATAR. Once you receive your results, you’ll be offered a place to your highest preference that you have met the eligibility criteria for.

For example, if you achieved the ATAR required for your first preference, you’ll be made an offer to that course only. If you’re not made an offer to your first preference, but are eligible for your second preference, then you’ll receive an offer to your second preference.

Heads up: you can only receive one offer per round, so make sure you choose your preferences wisely!

The most important offer rounds are those after ATARs have been released – generally in December and January. This is when most Year 12 applicants receive their offers.

Depending on whether you’re applying through UAC or VTAC, the offer rounds will have different opening and closing dates. Make sure you check out the website of the TAC you’re applying through for confirmation.

What’s an SRS early offer?

Schools Recommendation Schemes (SRS) are one way unis can make early offers to Year 12 students, using criteria other than your ATAR.

Not all unis accept SRS applications, but those that do – like Charles Sturt – will assess your application on the following criteria.

  • Your study performance in Year 11.
  • Your school’s rating of your abilities in areas of study.
  • And your school’s rating of your personal aptitudes.

If you receive an SRS offer, it might be conditional (meaning you’ll need to meet certain benchmarks, like an ATAR score) or unconditional (meaning you’ll have a place in your course regardless of your performance in your final exams).

If you receive an SRS offer, you’ll receive an offer to study before you’ve even sat your final exams. Talk about taking the stress out of Year 12!

Key dates for applying to uni

Applications to study in Session 1 generally open in August each year. Here’s a heads up on when all things change of preference tend to happen. The exact dates change year to year (check the UAC and VTAC website for the most up to date information).


  • late September: early bird applications close (submit your application by this date to avoid paying an extra fee!)
  • mid-December: ATARs released
  • mid-December: change of preferences for December main round offers close
  • late December: December main round offers made
  • early January: change of preferences for January main round offers close
  • early January: January main round offers made


  • late September: early bird applications close
  • mid-December: ATARs released
  • mid-December: change of preferences for December main round offers close
  • mid-December: December main round offers made
  • early January: change of preferences for January main round offers close
  • mid-January: January main round offers made

Still have questions about applying through an admissions centre?

That’s okay! We’re here to help you along the way – just give us a shout! Our friendly team can happily guide you through the process and answer any questions you might have.