Introduction to University


Moving from high school to university is an exciting and challenging time. UNSW aims to make this transition as smooth as possible for all students.


Entry Requirements


Admission to study at UNSW is based on your ATAR. Your Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is your ranking in relation to other HSC students. It helps universities assess and rank applicants.

 Assumed knowledge

Assumed Knowledge is the level of knowledge that will help you understand the material taught in certain subjects at UNSW. It is not a requirement for entry, but not having the correct level of knowledge before taking a course could mean that you will be placed at a considerable disadvantage.


The Application Process

  1. Get informed. Before you apply, make sure you find out all the information you need on your study options to make an informed decision. This may include Open Day in September to get a taste of life at UNSW, Info Day in early January to get help finalising your preferences , or career events at your school or in your area (UNSW attends events all over Sydney, as well as regional NSW, Melbourne and Brisbane)
  2. Grab a copy of the UAC guide from your school or local newsagent.
  3. Check the selection criteria for your preferred degree. Most Science courses at UNSW just require an ATAR an entry requirements, but the Bachelor of Aviation (Flying), and Bachelor of Optometry/Bachelor of Science have additional selection criteria.
  4. Apply through the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) by 30 September each year (late applications are accepted).
  5. Receive an offer letter.If you have received an offer, you now need to accept, defer (postpone) or decline your offer through myUNSW. If you don’t receive an offer, your letter will state why your application was unsuccessful. You are welcome to contact UNSW's Admission Office for further advice.


The University Year

The university year is split into two terms:

  • Term one: March - June
  • Term two: July – November

There is a mid-year break in the middle of the year, and a mid-term break in the middle of each term.


Study Terminology

The following terms will become very familiar to you when studying at UNSW.


A program at UNSW is your degree and will have a four-digit program code (e.g. 3970 Bachelor of Science).


A major is a defined sequence of study within a program (e.g. Bachelor of Science with a Major in Chemistry). In some programs, it's possible to do more than one major.


All programs and majors at UNSW are made up of courses. Courses are like subjects at school. Each course has an 8-digit course code (e.g. CHEM1011) and usually involve lectures, tutorials and labs. In Science there are 5 types of courses:

  1. Core Courses are compulsory courses that must be taken for a program or major.
  2. Science Electives are any courses from a Science school.
  3. Free Electives are courses that may be taken from anywhere across the university; either from Science or another Faculty.
  4. General Education Courses are courses that must be taken from outside the Faculty of Science.

These are like your subjects at school. Each course is made up of lectures (large classes with a formal presentation from a lecturer) and tutorials (smaller, interactive classes led by a tutor) or labs (hand-on classes in a laboratory). Full-time students generally complete four courses each term.

Units of Credit

Courses, majors and programs at UNSW are measured in Units of Credit (UoC). Most courses in Science are worth 6 UoC each, and a full-time load is 24 UoC per term (i.e. 4 x courses).

Undergraduate vs Postgraduate

  • Undergraduate degrees (bachelor)  are for students who have not studied at university before
  • Postgraduate studies (including certificates, diplomas, masters degrees and doctorates) are for people who wish to expand on their previous studies or working experience with further coursework study or research.


A large academic department focused on a broad area. At UNSW there are 8 Faculties (Arts and Social Sciences, Australian School of Business, Built Environment, College of Fine Arts, Engineering, Law, Medicine, and Science).


A smaller academic department that sits within a Faculty and focuses on a more specific subject area. Within each Faculty are a number of schools who teach the courses in their area of expertise. In Science, there are 9 schools: Aviation, Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences (BEES), Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences (BABS), Chemistry, Materials Science & Engineering, Mathematics & Statistics, Optometry & Vision Science, Physics, and Psychology.

More information

myUNSW has all the details you need about programs, courses and timetables.


Life on Campus

Life at UNSW is not all hard study and no play and we encourage students to get involved with a range of extra-curricular activities. Arc, the Student Organisation is a great place to start, along with the Student Life information on the UNSW and UNSW Science websites, and if you are considering living on campus in student accommodation, learn more about our Residential Communities.