La Trobe admissions reward volunteers

LOFTY AMBITIONS: William Griffith hopes to continue with clarinet by joining the Bendigo Symphony Orchestra. Pictures: DARREN HOWE
LOFTY AMBITIONS: William Griffith hopes to continue with clarinet by joining the Bendigo Symphony Orchestra. Pictures: DARREN HOWE

He is the kind of student who makes the rest of us look bad – prefect and peer support leader, athlete and musician, community-minded volunteer who still finds time to get good grades. 

But for students like William Griffith, Year 12 often means ditching extra-curricular commitments as they chase the ATAR score they need for further study. 

However, thanks to a new admissions program at La Trobe, the recent Girton Grammar graduate was given conditional enrollment to study Business/Law last September. 

“It really took the pressure off,” Griffith said. 

“It meant I could keep up those extra curricular activities which I think are really important.” 

And his extra-curricular activities were many. Griffith coached under the 13 and under 15 school hockey teams every Friday night for three years and was captain of the wind symphony in the school’s band.

He participated in the Red Shield Appeal for six years, and helped raise hundreds of dollars for Kez’s Hideaway in Bendigo, which is a community-built getaway for women living with breast cancer. 

Because of these efforts he was rewarded with one of the 118 positions in Bendigo La Trobe’s Aspire program, now in its second year. 

The Aspire program rewards students who have committed to volunteer work during their high school years and saw the required ATAR for his course drop from 85 to 75. 

Griffith and the rest of the 2016 cohort of Aspire students received their official first-round offers through VTAC last Monday.

La Trobe’s regional vice-chancellor Richard Speed the program rewarded students who had at least six months’ volunteer experience.

“Community-minded students, particularly in regional areas, deserve the recognition and the incentive of an early offer that a program like Aspire provides,” Mr Speed said.

“As well as supporting the development of the students’ future leadership skills, the program is attracting the type of students La Trobe University is proud to call our own.

“It’s a win-win for the student and the university.”

As well as attracting students to Bendigo, the program is also helping retain some of Bendigo’s best and brightest. 

“We’ve got such a great campus here, with wonderful facilities, so I just though, why look elsewhere?” Griffith said. 

This year, 686 Aspire students received first-round offers for La Trobe University courses in 2016, up from 491 in 2015. Outside La Trobe Bendigo, 533 Aspire applicants were offered a place in Melbourne, 18 applicants received course offers at Albury-Wodonga, 11 received offers for Mildura and six received offers for Shepparton.

The program, which partners with the CFA, St John Ambulance and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, also includes pre-exam lecture revision, mentor support from a student ambassador and early access to all La Trobe University’s libraries. 

While the program was designed to reward community-minded students, La Trobe said its figures showed Aspire students out-performed their ATAR-entry peers. 

Data taken from the first-year Aspire intake in 2015 shows the majority of students who participate in community service are good academic performers at university. Aspire 2015 students in all ATAR brackets except for the top band (90-99.99) achieved slightly higher marks than their peers.

The most popular course for Aspire students at La Trobe Bendigo was education, with 18 offers made.