When you are going through life-saving cancer treatment, coping with the typical challenges of senior schooling and uncertainty about future study options takes on a whole new meaning.
For Maroochydore High School student Zara Davis, finding out soon after receiving her cancer diagnosis last year in Year 11 that university could still be a goal – through an early offer from the University of the Sunshine Coast – was an immense relief.
Recently, that goal fell into place when Zara opened a text message to find an offer to study a dual Arts/Science degree at UniSC – triggering a spontaneous celebratory dance around her kitchen table.
“I honestly couldn’t believe it when I got the message. Even now I keep double checking it thinking, did this really work? Am I really in to university? It was a big deal,” says Zara.
UniSC’s Early Offer Guarantee gives Year 12s the chance to receive a university offer as early as August, long before ATAR and Year 12 results are released. Instead, offers are based on recommendations from school principals who consider each student’s academic performance, commitment, talents and interests.
Maroochydore State High School Guidance Officer Bronwyn Gillies said she had no hesitation in recommending UniSC’s Early Offer Guarantee to Zara and her parents when they first met to work through her options academically, as she focused on her medical treatment.
“The relief was just palpable – in amongst all this turmoil and uncertainty there was this certainty that she could achieve her hopes and dreams,” Mrs Gillies said.
“Zara knew no matter what that she could still graduate with her peers and go to university at the same time as her peers.
“As a school we were happy to endorse Zara for early offer. She was a high-achieving student, who before her diagnosis, had shown effort, behaviours and the aptitude to do well.”
To help balance school work around hospital visits and treatment, Zara dropped her study load to three subjects.
“The biggest brag that came out of it was that even with going through all of that, and being out of school, I still maintained straight As – mostly through spite at cancer, and sheer determination,” said Zara.
“Leading up to receiving the early offer, I felt a lot of pressure to perform well. I thought I couldn’t fail, and I didn’t have an option to drop a subject because I only had three to rely on.
“Now going into final ATAR exams, I know I still have to work really hard, but it is nice to know I already have an approved place, and don’t have the stress or anxiety waiting for results to come in.”
The popularity of UniSC’s Early Offer Guarantee continues to grow, with more than 1,000 offers already sent to students in the first few offer rounds. The deadline for students to submit applications to their schools is 9 October.
It is a trend Mrs Gillies has observed at Maroochydore State School, with higher numbers of students applying this year.
“One of the big pressures that Year 12 students face is the uncertainty of what is in store after finishing school. Early Offer Guarantee diminishes that angst. It’s the reassurance of knowing what is next, prior to the external exams,” she said.
“There is no actual sugar coating it, high school is really stressful, especially if you have really high expectations and you have a million and one things you want to accomplish. But everything has to be manageable, so you just have to find something that works for you.”
Now, she is looking forward to experiencing life as a university student next year at UniSC’s Sunshine Coast campus, and keeping her future career options open through a dual degree combining her love of writing with a keen interest in science.
“Becoming a writer is my number one career aspiration, and that hasn’t changed since I was five,” she said.
“A UniSC Arts/Science degree also allows me to also study languages, humanities and biology, which I love, and will give me much wider qualifications.”
Year 12 students can apply for early offers in more than 100 undergraduate programs across UniSC’s five campuses. More details here.
All early offers made by before the last day of school are conditional on completing Year 12 and students need to meet all the subject prerequisites and other program-specific requirements for their chosen degree.
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