Advice and support for COVID-19 impacted HSC students 

Friday, 3 September 2021

With year 12 students preparing for one of the most disrupted HSC periods in history, a leading education expert provides advice for coping with exam pressure and cautions perceptions that an ATAR is the only path to university.

HSC Support and Advice

As a sector leader in enabling pathways to higher education, the University of Newcastle is providing increased support for HSC students this year, including five ATAR adjustment points* in recognition of the extraordinary challenges they have faced in education since the start of last year.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky, AO, said the University of Newcastle was committed to supporting Year 12 students’ aspirations of pursuing higher education.

“We know this is an extraordinarily challenging time for Year 12 students, their families and their teachers and we’re here to support them.

“We want Year 12 students to know that if they’re planning to study at the University of Newcastle next year, they’ll still have every opportunity to do that.  We’ll make sure our processes are adjusted to take account of the delayed exams recently announced by the NSW Government,” Professor Zelinsky said.

University pathways and support 

It’s important to remember there are many pathways into the University of Newcastle and all of these will continue to be available, despite HSC exams being delayed to November. These include the Schools Recommendation Scheme, ATAR-based admission, Year 12 Spotlight Program and our renowned Enabling programs.

We are also introducing pathways in the form of new Diploma programs, in areas such as Business, Education, Engineering, Science, Built Environment, Arts, and Social Sciences.

Professor Zelinsky said the University was engaging closely with high schools and would continue to do so over the coming weeks to make sure they had the information they needed.

“We have strong relationships with the more than 170 high schools across our regions and much of the support we have developed for Year 12 students is in direct response to the feedback from principals and teachers.

“We’ve already increased our support for Year 12 students in the lead up to their HSC, through programs like Uni&Me that offers the opportunity to connect with a University of Newcastle student ambassador to plan their transition from school to university.

“I encourage anyone thinking of studying at our University next year to register for our Open Days Online where they’ll be able to ask questions directly and find out everything they need to plan ahead.”

Open Days Online from September 6-8

Next week the University will hold its Open Days Online, offering an ideal opportunity for students and their families to have their questions answered, virtually explore campus and chat to current students and academics to learn more about what to expect from uni.

Practise positivity

“You will go fine and be fine. Go for it but give yourself a break. This is one small phase of a brilliant life ahead,” University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor College of Human and Social Futures Professor John Fischetti said.

To help them through this challenging time, the leading education expert suggested, Year 12 students and their families may benefit from practising positivity each day.

“Human brain wiring includes more than 100 billion neurons, which, especially in young people, can be changed by stimulation – good or bad. The unanticipated time that we now have with our children is tough and stressful, but it is also amazing. We are there to see them struggle, we are there to help them succeed.”

Professor Fischetti’s top 3 pieces of advice to Year 12 students:

  1. “The HSC is an important milestone, but it is not the ‘be all end all’ that many people make it. All options for your amazing futures are available after the HSC. Those may involve taking a slightly different path to enabling programs or to a degree that is related and through which you may apply to transfer into later on based on your success. Don’t give up on your dream.”
  2. “These are unique times that none of us have experienced. The main thing is to take care of yourself and the people around you. Get outside every day for a walk, jog or bike ride. Eat well and get plenty of rest. The stress we all feel is real but we can moderate it through healthy practices.”
  3. “Reach out if you’re not going well and reach out to friends. Build a support network around you that ‘gets you’. We have to all breathe through this right now. And feeling connected to supportive friends and family is so crucial.”

Professor Fischetti said learning from home was helping students develop ‘future-focused skills’, including the skills to deal with ambiguity, critical thinking and taking more ownership of their own learning journeys.

“Some students are actually thriving given the ownership they are getting in their own learning and the flexibility of learning from home.

“Learning from home we have been able to allow self-regulation (owning your own learning journey), working with ambiguity, embracing uncertainty and serving the common good, which are all amazing to grow and get better in.”

“Let’s let our great Year 12 students go ahead and complete what they started, but ease off on the pressure we put on our kids. There are multiple ways to accomplish one’s goals no matter how it turns out,” he said.

Adjustment points

Students may be eligible for a range of adjustment points* through various schemes, including the Educational Access Scheme, Year 12 Adjustment Points Scheme, Regional and Rural Adjustment Points Scheme and the Elite Athletes Admission Scheme.

“We’re also pleased to announce that we’ll be offering the COVID points scheme** to this year’s HSC students. School leaver applicants will be offered an additional five adjustment points to in recognition of the extraordinary challenges they have faced in education since the start of last year,” Professor Zelinsky said.

The points will be applied automatically via the Universities Admission Centre to students who preference the University of Newcastle, in any of their five preferences.

Open Days Online: Visit https://www.newcastle.edu.au/open-day and register your interest.

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Communications Coordinator Carmen Swadling on 0407 935 735 or carmen.swadling@newcastle.edu.au

* Adjustment points are added to raw ATAR to arrive at Selection Rank, which is used to admit students to programs. Students can accrue a maximum of 12 adjustment factors.  ** COVID adjustment points will not apply for the Joint Medical Program.


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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.