A two-week summer camp changed Fayez Kabbara's thinking about university completely.
"I'm not the type of person that likes to study much and I just didn't feel confident going to uni," the year 11 student at Merrylands High School said.
"I picked all my subjects as non-ATAR, but after summer school it changed me completely. It made me like uni and want to go for an ATAR."
Monica O'Leary also attended the design course at the University of Technology Sydney in January, where she got a taste of fashion and industrial design and visual communications.
She created a personal logo with Adobe photoshop, screen printed T-shirts and made a motion video with clay animal figures.
"It was a really good experience for me because they give you a broad idea of what uni is actually like," she said.
‘‘It’s not just sitting there and hearing lessons, you actually do a lot of practical work.
‘‘Now I know for sure that I want to do design at university.’’
Programs like this are part of the Make Your Mark website launched at the Merrylands school on Monday. A partnership between five universities and the Universities Admission Centre NSW and ACT, it will be a tool for students to learn more about the higher education options available to them.
Principal Lila Mularczyk said the aspirations of students and their families had been altered by the program — an offshoot of the Bridges to Higher Education initiative to boost uni participation rates in western Sydney.
"The pride of parents who have entered a university for the first time [at summer school graduation] is just a beautiful experience."
‘‘Programs such as summer school and fast forward have focused and engaged students in their studies so much that we had students with an ATAR in the exceptionally high 90s.
‘‘Last year we had an unprecedented number of university offers and acceptances.
‘‘That is a changing culture for the school and it increases the capacity of the community as well.’’
Year 12 student Heba Niem has attended workshops across different subject areas, including political science, as part of The University of Western Sydney's Fast Forward program.
''I always knew I wanted to study at uni, however the last Fast Forward I chose the law workshop and realised it was not what I was expecting,'' she said.
''That helped me in a sense. I thought maybe I don't want to enter that field.''