A DIRECT pathway program to higher education is helping provide Port Macquarie-Hastings year 12 students some certainty ahead of their final exams.
The Charles Sturt Advantage early offer program is taking the pressure off year 12 students by guaranteeing them a spot at university.
Hastings Secondary College year 12 student Ritchie Whitehouse has accepted an early entry offer to study a Bachelor of Physiotherapy at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in 2022.
Through the program, students are judged on their personal attributes and prior academic results from year 11, rather than on their final Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) has announced students' ATARs will not be released until January 20, 2022.
The early acceptance into university has come as a relief to Ritchie who has experienced major disruption to his school studies due to bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I'm still going to try my hardest in the exams but it's nice to know I have a place," he said.
Ritchie said it has been tough to maintain motivation and stay on track of his studies, while also being separated during COVID-19 lockdowns from social interaction with his friends and teachers.
Ritchie has attended open days at CSU since year 7 and decided to become a physiotherapist after speaking to lecturers at the university.
"I want to help people get back to a normal life after they've had an injury," he said.
"It will be very rewarding."
Charles Sturt University student executive director Shawn Walker said the program's emphasis on soft skills, including resilience, empathy and teamwork, meant the door to university could be opened to year 12 students who are concerned their interrupted studies would impact on their ATAR.
"Employers have told us that soft skills are often just as important as the technical skills students learn as part of their university qualification," Mr Walker said.
The university has already received 3784 applications as part of the Charles Sturt Advantage program in 2021, compared to 2182 in 2020.
The most sought-after courses through the program have been nursing, paramedicine, education, psychology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and law.
Round three of the Charles Sturt Advantage early entry program is open until October 4.
For more information about the Charles Sturt Advantage early offer program visit study.csu.edu.au
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