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Tertiary Pathways

University pathways

All applications to study at a New Zealand university must be made online directly to the university.

As a general rule, applications for university hostels and financial scholarships are made in August and September and are therefore based on your Year 12 results, along with a confidential reference from Garin College. Students then apply for university courses in early December, with final offers to courses made by the universities in January, based on NCEA Level 3 results and the students achieving the Guaranteed Entry Score.

University Entrance (UE) is the minimum requirement to go to a New Zealand university. To find out what is required to achieve UE, NCEA students should check the NZQA website.

How to work out your Guaranteed Entry score

You need to obtain a particular “rank score” to gain a guaranteed entry to most universities and most courses. This ranks students based on their best NCEA results.

For courses with limited numbers, there may be a “guaranteed entry score”; if your rank score is less than the guaranteed entry score you might not gain admission to that course. Most universities require a rank score of at least 140 points, for example University of Otago (out of a maximum 320 points).

Your score will be based on your 80 best credits in University Entrance approved subjects at Level 3 or higher, and weighted by the level of achievement. You can count both achievement standards and unit standards.

A maximum of 24 credits in each subject may be counted.

If you have achieved fewer than 80 credits at Level 3 or higher the score will be based on those you have achieved.

Your score will be calculated by awarding points as follows: Excellence = 4 points, Merit = 3 points, Achieved = 2 points.

An example of a score for a Year 13 student.

Note: If you achieve UE but not GES, you will be waitlisted according to your score and application date. If accepted into a degree programme, you will be required to consult a course adviser to ensure that your programme and workload are appropriate.

Approved Subject Excellence Merit Achieved
Calculus 8 6 6
Chemistry 6 10
English 4 4 16
History 10 10
Physics 24
SUB TOTAL 12 26 66
Best 80 Credits 12 26 42
Calculate Points 48 pts (12 x 4) 78 pts (26 x 3) 84 pts (42 x 2)
Score 210 points

Selecting a major

No Major Drama helps you learn about majors for Bachelor degrees from across all eight New Zealand universities and rank them based on your skills and interests. No Major Drama is designed to help you answer what’s likely to be one of the most important questions you’ll face in your life: What should I ‘major’ (specialise) in at university?

UCAT preparation

From 2019, students interested in studying Medicine and Dentistry will sit the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) in July as part of their admissions process.  This is a two hour computer test, and replaces the UMAT. For more information visit

Studying overseas


Following Year 13 external examinations, results for students seeking entry to Australian universities are aggregated and converted to a percentile scale called the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). This information is then provided to Australian Tertiary Admissions Centres and allows New Zealand students to be treated equitably with Australian students for tertiary entry and selection purposes. If you apply for admission to study at a university in Australia, NZQA will release your secondary school qualification results directly to your selected Australian universities or tertiary institutions.

If you are a New Zealand citizen then you must apply to the relevant Tertiary Admissions Centre or university:

Completion of NCEA Level 3 is the equivalent of completing the standard Australian Year 12 programme and normally satisfies the prerequisite for application. Please check the application requirements of your selected universities carefully, particularly the requirements for completing an English course at an appropriate level. Some Australian universities require equivalent final secondary year study in English.

United States

Applying to a US college is a big job. The US College Board has a useful tool called BigFuture to make college planning easy. There are also private providers providing this service in New Zealand.

The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are a suite of tools designed to assess your academic readiness for college. These exams provide a path to opportunities, financial support and scholarships, in a way that’s fair to all students. The SAT and SAT Subject Tests keep pace with what colleges are looking for today, measuring the skills required for success in the 21st century. To find out more about the SAT and SAT Subject tests or to register to take the test go to SAT and SAT Subject Tests.

The Common Application for college admission is a free online undergraduate application used by over 450 colleges and universities. For a comprehensive guide to navigating and surviving the college admissions process, as well as a comprehensive list of all necessary administrative and financial materials, please refer to the Complete Guide to College Admissions.


UCAS can help you find universities and colleges, research courses, complete an application and check the progress of your completed application. They provide advice from subjects and qualifications through to funding your studies and being prepared for any challenges that may arise.

The best place to start the application process is to visit the UK Council for International Student Affairs(UKCISA).

Student loans and allowances

There is financial support available for all tertiary study (not just university courses). In 2018 fees free study was introduced.

Student Allowance: This is a weekly payment for full-time students to assist with day-to-day living expenses. You do not have to pay it back. Go to StudyLink to see if you fit the criteria. Read more about fees free study

Student Loans: this must be paid back and can help to cover the costs of study and living costs. Read  this section of StudyLink and phone 0800889900 to make an appointment at the Nelson office.

Inland Revenue Department (IRD) numbers: if you don’t already have an IRD number, apply at the start of Year 13 as this will take time to process and is needed for RealMe accounts and applications to StudyLink  Apply online by filling out an IR595 or on 08000 377 778.

Scholarships for study

There are a number of scholarships and awards available to Garin students to cover academic, extra-curricular and school-leaver scholarships for tertiary study. Some are available exclusively to Garin students, others are available through partnerships for selected New Zealand schools and many others are generally contestable.

A useful source of scholarship information is GivMe, which is New Zealand’s primary source of funding information for students, researchers, sports people, artists and those wanting professional development. GivMe details 2200 funding schemes and is a searchable database. Students can log on for free from the Garin network or contact Careers team for more information.

Where scholarships require a written statement from Garin, students need to provide at least two weeks’ notice to ensure delivery.