Study in Unimelb!

Hey, below I present my personal guide and approach to applying for studies in Australia. It is based on my personal case, so pardon me if it won't work for you in 100%.

Updated: 25.04.2017

Information about my IB session and application dates:
(How early you apply can greatly influence how fast you will get your response from the Uni. I applied almost 6 months before application closing date and got a very quick response).
IB examination Session: May 2016
Applied for Semester 1, 2017 (commencing 27 Feb 2017)
Applied in July 2016

Table of Contents

  1. Before you start reading
  2. The University of Melbourne
  3. Course and Admission Criteria
  4. Unimelb Application (Time, Problems, International Baccalaureate)
  5. Student Visa Application (Time, Documents)
  6. Enrolling in Subjects: IB as equivalent prerequisite (credit)
  7. Flight and Tickets
  8. Pre-Departure Presentation by Unimelb
  9. Do and Don't Upon Arrival
  10. Accommodation update!
  11. Student Life
  12. Work as a Student

Before you start reading

This guide is meant to elaborate various steps of the application process that are not clear, rarely explained and not obvious for international students. Also discussed case applies only to The University of Melbourne and its whereabouts, information about other universities, cities, and facilities is not included in this guide.

In addition, I highly encourage you to read all information that Unimelb (The University of Melbourne) provides across their sites. Those are very friendly, useful, and necessary information to which I will also link and refer in this guide.

List of all useful 'Get Started With' anchors:

The University of Melbourne

Unimelb is the 42nd university in the world, according to QS world university ranking 2016.
In Life Sciences and Medicine: 16th;
In Natural Science: 26th;
In Engineering and Technology: 18th;
In Arts and Humanities: 18th;
In Social Sciences and Management: 13th.

Majority of courses takes place in the Parkville Campus localised in the centre of Melbourne. Melbourne itself, was ranked as 1st Most Livable city in the world, for the second time...

Winter is in July/August with temperatures down to around 10 degrees Celsius mean; Summer in December/January with temperatures up to 30+ degrees Celsius.

International Airport is named Tullamarine.

Laws and regulations are organised by Victoria State, for those check their pages.

Course and Admission Criteria

After choosing a course via University Course Search you will be presented with a field where you can choose your undergraduate / graduate qualification level. Depending on what your qualification = completed school / received diploma is, various admission criteria will be required from you.

Some courses offer guaranteed entries for certain qualifications, one such example is IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma (see next chapter).

In most cases and for IB, no personal statement, personal letters, essays, or additional exams are needed; just the final exam score. Please bear in mind that this may not apply to different than Science courses - eg. such as art, that may require more empirical proofs of one's level. Precise information is always given in the Course Search.

You must satisfy English level requirement. Same applies for the student VISA (see visa chapter); however, University English Requirement that you fulfil may be not be among the ones honoured in the VISA process. In my case that was NOT a problem and the fact that University accepted me was enough to satisfy VISA criterion.

All international students are automatically considered for scholarships; however, those are very competitive. In other words, expect getting one only if you scored 100% or one point less of your final exam.

Unimelb Application (Time, Problems, International Baccalaureate)

Application to the University occurs through their own application system.

Semester One Undergraduate International Application closes in 'late December'
Semester Two Undergraduate International Application closes on 31st of May
Important Dates

You can submit multiple applications; apply to multiple courses; fill the app over time (logging in with your created account); receive all notification by e-mail; or sent the whole app by traditional (snail) mail.

Response for a application usually arrives in about two weeks time

Each application is accompanied with a fee payable in the end of the application form.


IB Diploma Scores Case
For most courses the only criterion to get admitted are high enough marks on your IB Diploma (check the guaranteed entry score via University Course Search); however, IB Diplomas are available for students with a few months delay, below is what you should do to get your place in the university as soon as your results are released.

Make sure that your IB supervisor has added The University of Melbourne to your candidate profile (where the transcripts should be sent).
University of Melbourne IB institution code: 002406
(also giving code for AP: University of Melbourne AP institution code: 9015).

If you have a guaranteed entry for your course (from certain number of points), there is no need to apply in advance - without having your results released - it won't change anything, because you will (in about a week time) get a message from Unimelb saying "we need your results".

Wait until the results are released and then apply: you can apply without attaching transcripts (so don't bother waiting for any IBDP diploma to be sent to you).

In the application form you will be asked for your candidate code (there may be not enough digit space for it, it is a bummer, if you can delete one zero from the beginning, but don't worry, it is not a problem that it doesn't fit, in case of any difficulties uni will contact you).
After sending the application, Unimelb will either find your results by the given candidate number or send you a message that they 'don't have your results'. Reply that they need to download the results from the IB web site, and give your full candidate number for reference.
Within a week time you should get a notice that your application was successful. Notice that for a guaranteed entry, you know that you will get the place before you apply (you know number of your points and the required number of points for the course). Bear in mind that there may be not enough places on the course.


With Successful application you will get (by e-mail) an extremely important document: CoE (Certificate of Enrolment). Make sure that all personal details, course date and type are correct. Having the document head straight to VISA application (next chapter) and my.unimelb account activation (follow proper step from All Future Students Detailed Application Steps)

Student VISA Application

What interest you is the subclass 500 Student Visa, same for all students. It allows you to work in Australia during your studies, but with limitations. For all detail check the Subclass 500 Visa Page.

Cost of application is AU$520 (may change in some processing cases).

In general follow guides from the Subclass 500 Visa Page BUT there are two important things, really worth to know before applying.

GTE (Genuine Temporary Entrant) Criterion
It is a basic measure of ensuring that you don't abuse the student visa for activities different than being in Australia to study. It does not exclude you from applying for a permanent residency in the future (if you fulfil residency criteria or any other working / living / tourist visa criteria) - it is simply a different case.

To fulfil the criterion you need to write a letter explaining your choice and intention of study and elaborating upon the following:
- your choice of course
- your choice of education provider
- your choice to study in Australia
- what benefit you believe your study will have for your future career plans
- what ties you have to your home country

You submit the letter in a shortened version within the body of the application form, and in the end as an attachment. It is important that you write it yourself. It is not necessary for it to be something very elaborate (like Personal Statement), just make it honest and true.
GTE Official Information

OSHC (Overseas Health Cover)
It is required that you have arranged and maintain an active health cover throughout your stay in Australia, to be specific the OSHC cover. Best, ask you university to arrange it for you (during application to the uni, in the application form).
In such case you will not yet have an OSHC confirmation (required as attachment in VISA application); don't worry and send the application without it (you will be asked to explain why you didn't attach it: explain that your uni arranges it for you, that it is not yet active, give dates when it will be active). Of course, if you have an OSHC confirmation, attach it.

Now just submit and pay for you application, if the border.gov.au will not have any questions, you will get your VISA overnight - yes, I was very surprised to get it overnight.

Expect longer execution time in case of heavier traffic of students, questions or uncertainties from the Border Protection, or if applying more than 3 months before your course commences.

Enrolling in subjects: IB as equivalent prerequisite (credit)

Choosing subjects to study may be tricky, these are the most important things (imo) that you should know before enrolling in subjects.

Equivalent Prerequisite to VCE
Most of the level one subjects (the ones you start with) require successful completion of VCE examinations or equivalent (in my case IB Diploma). Equivalent examinations sometimes grant you instant access to 'next stage' subjects, such that can be done without introductory subjects.
However, the study planner will not always recognise your equivalent qualification and lock you out from enrolling in a desired subject.

Exmple: to take Calculus 1 (which is a prerequisite for Calc 2, Linear Algebra, and some other subjects) you need to pass VCE Mathematical methods 3/4 or EQUIVALENT. If you don't have such a qualification you need to do 'Introduction to Mathematics', which is not always the best option.
So in theory, after IB Maths SL (which is listed as an equivalent) you can add Calc 1 to your study planner.
Not quite! In most cases of equivalent qualifications (like it was with me and IB Maths SL), the system will tell that you don't meet the prerequisite and the enrolment option will be blocked for this subject.

Solution, luckily, is very easy.
On this page you can access a specific list of qualifications that are equivalent to VCE, and check if they allow you to skip some subjects (eg. IB Maths HL allows you to skip Calc 1 - start from Calc 2; IB Maths SL allows you to skip Introduction to Mathematics - start from Calc 1).
Such credits apply to may subjects, so check the details here.

If your level is on the list, you can submit Enrollment Variation Form - a form that will request The Unimelb staff to enrol you in the desired subject (provided that your equivalent is eligible).

As a proof that your equivalent is eligible, you need to provide a scan of your Official Transcripts.
Then, in the enrolment variation form select "Requisite Waiver" option.

Flight and Tickets

Depending on your country of residence, travel to Melbourne by plane may either be a short episode or hell of a journey and planning. My is the second case.

My travel begins in Poland, and so for most of the European countries my itinerary should work as well.
While choosing the flight I checked it against the criteria below:

Options
As for December 2016 there were plenty of options to choose from, basing mostly on my research I chose Emirates, here are my comments on the other options I had:

Ethiad Airlines: Quite cheap, but I found reports of low customers satisfaction, and connection time of sometimes more than 10h + more than 1 stop, were discouraging.
Air Berlin: The cheapest possible, and that's it from the possible advantages.
Air China: No idea about most of the points from my list, resigned from this option seeing lasting 24 hours connection in Beijing; quite cheap connection though.
Qantas: Australian airlines after all, Ok cost, just 1 stop, Ok customer satisfaction, operated also with an A380, no idea about seafood, and of course they have rewards.
Emirates: Basically same pros as Qantas + they have seafood :)

I decided against Qantas, to, as I said, fly with Emirates. Not because of seafood though, some more research showed me that the customer satisfaction for emirates is usually higher and I also have flown with them before (it was a good flight indeed). Finally, important to mention is that Emirates and Qantas cooperate on route Warsaw - Dubai - Melbourne; hence my flight will anyways be operated partially by Qantas (on route from Dubai to Australia, to be precise).

Concluding
My research shown that it may be quite a good choice to spend some more money on Emirates or Qantas than risk standards of way cheaper airlines. However, Which to choose appears to be, in fact, a matter of personal preference - as both of them cooperate and are reviewed quite similarly (maybe omitting case of seafood, didn't find such an option on the Qantas operated part of my route...).

Important
Bear in mind that flight prices rise quite fast the closer it is to your departure, I highly recommend to know when you need to be in Melbourne and book the flight in advance.
Also worth to mention is that starting from 2018 Qantas is supposed to open a non-stop, lasting 17 hours, connection between London and Perth!

How my travel went: to be continued...

Pre-Departure Presentation by Unimelb

If there is no Pre-Departure Briefing hosted in your region, you will get invited to an online one. I am linking an useful, official presentation used in the briefing.

It tackles most of the topics, especially: free shuttle from airport, public transport usage, living costs, and various other odds and ends. Found it useful, so there you go.

Pre-Departure Briefing Presentation [ed. 2017, 3.9 MB, PDF]

Things to consider before arriving

What I found important to make your arrival smooth.

Papers
Details of your visa are connected to your passport number, so in theory it is all you need to enter.
In reality, I would recommend printing out your CoE, Vista Grant, Offer Letter, OSHC, and keeping them ready at the border.

OSHC
On 500 Student Visa you must have a valid OSHC covering you from the date of your arrival. If the cheapest flight will make you arrive before your OSHC commences, do ask for changing OSHC start date.
I needed to do it myself as my OSHC was supposed to start almost week later than my arrival. Luckily a simple email to the Uni amended the start date, and I got a confirmation in form of OSHC letter after 2 days.

What not to bring, what to declare
Australia has very strict border regulation when it comes to goods that you bring in.
The simplest rule is: nothing organic or contaminated with organic matter (including mud on the shoes) and anything that a dog can sniff should be declared to avoid fines.
During flight, you will be given a paper with all the things you should declare (you choose which to declare if you have them) - it will make your entry longer, but you will avoid fines.

Straightforward on accommodation choices

Average weekly cost of student-level accommodation in Melbourne CBD is ~$300 for a shared apartment in good standard, with bills included.
~$200+ for worse standard or no bills included, shared.
Lower prices can be found in suburbs (Northern and Western are the ones offering most student-accessible options).
Prices above $300 often apply to single rooms, private rentals, or University Colleges; please refer to points below.
Usually contracts last 1 year, rarely half a year.

I absolutely advise attending a housing 101 class during orientation week for all odds and sods, below are my recommendations.

Choice 1 'Premium' student accommodation
Highly recommended because of included bills, cool facilities like swimming pools, BBQ, free events, great service, amazing social life, community with loads of new friends!
The price ranges $250 -$300+ / week for shared options, but is really worth it.
Note: They get full booked really fast (3-4 months before semester starts), worth waiting on waiting lists, though.

Student Village The University of Melbourne Campus
  Urbanest

Choice 2 'Backup Plan' student accommodation
Linked below providers (plus some more less known) will basically get you a bed and access to basic living facilities for a lower prices ($180-$250).
I am not saying they are bad, just note that they may be lacking in quality, community, locality, etc. They are often considered as a backup plan for getting through the first semester, if other choices fail.

Unilodge
  SHA

Choice 3 'Expensive' (Residential) University College
Known for being the most popular among First Year Students, having insane social life, events, and everything included (yes food too!). Require separate application, sometimes an interview.
The drawback is that they are one of the most expensive housing options, ranging "$550-$750 per week depending on the college".

Official site for Residential Colleges

Choice 4 'Once living here' accommodation
What I mean is the private housing market. This can often offer great apartments in prices similar to "Choice 1", with the difference that you are completely independent, living on your own, paying your bills, etc.
It is, however, the last choice on my list because such rental must be done through "Real Estate Agents", which requires living here, doing inspections, searching for right deals. But it is completely worth considering, especially if you want to stay here for longer.

No links here, go through the city and explore!

Scams Alert Be careful
Housing scams happen, but can be easily avoided:

- Always pay attention to the contract details
- Make sure that bond is paid to Residential Tenancies Bond Authority
- No it is not possible to get a 2 bathroom, 2 bedroom apartment, which is furnished and can house 4 persons for $285 / week total in CBD - This is a scam that I have encountered, seems too perfect, doesn't it?
- Attend housing orientation class during Orientation
- Ask if you are unsure Unimelb housing help

Useful
Here is a link to Unimelb Housing Noticeboard, a physical one can be also found in the Union House, on campus.

Work as a Student

Working on your VISA
Subclass 500 Visa makes you eligible to work only after your course commences for no more than 40 hours any fortnight (when course is in session); out of session no hourly limit is stated.

Official Border Statement:
"The holder must not engage in any work in Australia before the holder’s course of study commences.

(1) Subject to subclause (2), the holder must not engage in work in Australia for more than 40 hours a fortnight during any fortnight when the holder’s course of study or training is in session.

(2) Subclause (1) does not apply:
(a) to work that was specified as a requirement of the course when the course particulars were entered in the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students; and
(b) in relation to a student visa granted in relation to a masters degree by research or doctoral degree if the holder has commenced the masters degree by research or doctoral degree.

(3) In this clause: fortnight means the period of 14 days commencing on a Monday."

All Visa Details from Gov

Careers Online
The most tricky part about finding a job is the time limit. You need to be sure that your employer knows your limitations.

Unimelb has a special page called Careers Online (CO), where you login with your my.unimelb account; then you can browse and track job listings / employers available there.
Those jobs come not only from university but mostly from third parties, luckily all employers hiring through Careers Online are aware of VISA time limits; hence, you will find here mostly offers for casual and part time jobs.

Some jobs are restricted for citizens/residents of Australia, some have other restrictions or prerequisites, together with salaries (in most cases), those conditions are listed on the CO page.
Careers Online Page

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