Frequently Asked Questions

About VCE Summer School

Studying at VCE Summer School

Applying for VCE Summer School



About VCE Summer School

What is VCESS?

Plenty of students around Victoria, particularly from rural areas, never get a chance to go to university simply because of where they live or go to school. Held at the University of Melbourne, VCE Summer School exists to alleviate educational disadvantage in Victoria through our two week headstart program for year 11 and 12 VCE students, primarily targeted at students from disadvantaged or under-represented schools. Over the two week program, students are tutored by qualified teachers and university-age students in the skills they need to study, learn and succeed in VCE. The aim of the VCE Summer School program is to give students from disadvantaged, low socio-economic and refugee backgrounds a head start on their final years of secondary education.

With this in mind, VCE Summer School also recognises that disadvantage comes in many forms, and accepts applications from students regardless of their financial background or the school they attend.

When and where is VCE Summer School (VCESS)?

VCESS is a two-week program that operates each January from the University of Melbourne. The 2020 program will run from the 6th to 17th of January.

What will a day at VCESS look like?

Here is our expected timetable for the 2020 Program, however this is still subject to minor changes.

That sounds good, but I live a long way away. Is there some way I could stay on campus?

There certainly is! To accommodate rural and regional students in Victoria, VCE Summer School runs a supplementary residential program. The residential program allows students to board on campus at St Hilda’s College, for the duration of the two week program. 80 students were accommodated in 2019, with meals provided. Students can be accommodated over the middle weekend if necessary. A team of seven to eight residential tutors and four directors will supervise the students and all activities for the two weeks. Students will be divided into groups and supervised by one of the residential tutors for the duration of the program.

Furthermore, the residential program is a structured, two-week activities program, with students taking classes in the Academic program during the day and undertaking activities in the evenings. The residential activities program is designed to give students a taste of college life, as well as the opportunity to explore the city of Melbourne. Activities and excursions that have run in the past include: a Melbourne Amazing Race, trivia, Muggle Quidditch and a disco.

A sample day on the Residential program might run as follows:

7:00-8:30am Breakfast at St Hilda’s College

8:40am Walk to Melbourne Uni

9:00am-4:30pm Academic program

4:30pm-5:00pm Meet up with Residential program and walk back to St Hilda’s College

5:00pm-5:15pm Debrief of the day’s activities with your Residential tutor

5:15pm-6:00pm Free time before dinner

6:00pm-7:00pm Dinner

7:00pm-9:30pm Visit to the Queen Victoria Night Market

9:30pm-10:00pm Free time before bed

10:00pm Lights out

How much does VCESS cost?

As the VCE Summer School is targeted at students from disadvantaged backgrounds, we work hard to ensure that cost is not a barrier to students looking to excel in their education.

The cost of the Day Program in 2019 was $220 and the Residential Program is $520. Costs for the 2020 Program will be announced when applications open.  The Day enrolment price includes all classes, subject booklets, activities, workshops, seminars, a T-shirt, and some meals. A place in the Residential Program (targeted at students from rural and regional Victoria) includes a place in the Academic Program, accommodation at St Hilda’s College, all meals, and nightly activities (which in 2019 included Gelato Crawl, Disco and an Amazing Race around Melbourne).

Why should I choose VCESS instead of other lecture/program providers?

VCESS focuses on giving students the tools to excel in years 11 and 12 across all facets of their life, not just academia.

The classes offered in each subject allow students to gain an advantage on their studies, and having university-aged tutors and teachers means that students are able to gain insights into their subjects from those who have excelled in their studies and remember what it is like to be students. Additionally, the small class sizes at VCE Summer School (over 60% of classes in 2017 contained 10 students or fewer, and classes have a maximum of 15 students) and optional one-on-one tutoring means that students are easily able to seek out their tutors for extra help – whether that be for help with the content covered in classes or if there’s something in their holiday homework that needs clarification.

Meanwhile, an extensive activities and workshop program means that students can learn new skills and gain an insight into what life might be like beyond high school. Many of our students are surprised to discover that their years in VCE can actually be enjoyable (something that sitting in a lecture theatre for hours on end doesn’t necessarily teach them).

At VCESS, we also recognise that the stresses of going through the final years of secondary education can take a psychological toll on students. Our Welfare team helps to ensure that students stay in the right frame of mind throughout years 11 and 12 and that their mental health is looked after in what is a stressful time in a young person’s life.

Finally, and most importantly, VCE Summer School believes that the disadvantages (financial or otherwise) that students face should not be a barrier to receiving a high quality education. The program has a heavy focus towards correcting the disadvantage that currently exists in the Victorian education system, meaning an extremely affordable price for all students. Additionally, community-funded bursaries are available to ensure that no student is forced to miss out on the opportunity to advance their education through VCESS as a result of financial difficulty.

How long has VCE Summer School been running?

VCE Summer School has been proudly run by the Student Union at the University of Melbourne since 1971.

Studying at VCE Summer School

How is the program structured and timetabled at VCESS?

Each student can take between 4 and 6 subjects. Each subject runs 6 tutorials that go for one hour each over the two week program. The only exception to this is the English curriculum, which has three one-hour lectures (each one focused on a separate part of the end-of-year exam) and four one-hour tutorials. Tutors will teach and provide many tips, tricks and pointers to allow students to achieve the best possible start to their VCE. Many of our tutors are also available for one-on-one tutoring throughout the program, giving students a chance to revise areas that they are unsure of, them to complete their holiday homework under supervision, or even tackle more advanced concepts! We also have an extensive activities program – because being in VCE doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!

The timetable at VCESS is structured very similarly to a regular day at high school. A sample day at VCESS might run as follows:

9:00-10:00am – English lecture

10:00-11:00am Biology tutorial

11:00-11:30am Meeting with your group leader (similar to a homeroom teacher) and a short recess

11:30am-12:30pm Workshop (e.g. “Tips on taking a Gap Year”)

12:30-1:30pm Legal Studies tutorial

1:30-2:30pm Lunch

2:30-3:30pm Independent Study Period

3:30-4:30pm Maths Methods tutorial

What are the class sizes like at VCESS?

VCESS prides itself on having small classes that promise a great deal of tutor interaction and more personalised learning. VCESS restricts the maximum size of its classes to 15 students, and in 2017 over 60% of classes contained 10 students or fewer.

Will I receive notes or other study materials when I enrol in VCE Summer School?

Yes! Students receive a subject booklet of up to 40 pages in each of their subjects, which will contain the necessary materials for their classes and handy hints to help students excel in their studies for the coming year.

Should I bring holiday homework to VCESS?

Definitely! Not only do students have independent study periods in which they can complete their holiday homework, it can also be arranged for a student to have one-on-one tutoring that will allow them to brush up on any material that needs revising or clarify any concepts that are not easily understood. If students feel really confident, they can even ask to cover more advanced topics!

I do some pretty obscure subjects. Will I be able to find a tutor at VCESS who can help me?

Absolutely! At VCESS we pride ourselves on offering the widest range of subjects of any academic program in the state. We appreciate that certain subjects can be extremely difficult for most students to find tutoring for, particularly those in the area of fine arts and Languages Other Than English (LOTE).

The subjects that were on offer at the 2019 VCESS program can be found here. If a subject you are taking doesn’t appear there, please get in touch, and we’ll do our best to find you someone for 2020! You can contact us by phone on (03) 8344 8204 or via email at summerschool@union.unimelb.edu.au.

Will I still have time to have fun at VCE Summer School?

You definitely will! VCESS prides itself on promoting a healthy study-life balance, running an extensive program of fun activities and interesting one-hour workshops. You can find out more here.

I study the International Baccalaureate (IB). Can I attend VCESS?

Unfortunately VCE Summer School is unable to offer classes to students enrolled in the International Baccalaureate. You may instead take the VCE equivalent of your IB subjects if you would still like to attend the program.  If you would like to see VCESS offer IB subjects in the future, please send an email to the VCE Summer School office at summerschool@union.unimelb.edu.au.

I study Vocational Education and Training (VET) subjects. Can I attend VCESS?

Unfortunately VCE Summer School is unable to offer tutoring to students enrolled in Vocational Education and Training subjects. If you would like to see VCESS offer VET subjects in the future, please send an email to the VCE Summer School office at summerschool@union.unimelb.edu.au.

I’ll be away for some of the program. Can I still come to VCESS?

Yes! However, as the costs of the program are used to cover materials, we are unable to offer discounted places if students miss days of the program.  If you’re going to be away for more than three or four days of the program, it’s best to contact the Directors at summerschool@unimelb.edu.au to discuss your options.

Applying for VCE Summer School

How do I apply for VCESS?

Applications have not yet opened for VCESS 2020, please complete an expression of interest to be notified when applications open here.

I’m not sure I can afford to attend VCE Summer School. Are there other ways of getting financial help?

VCE Summer School has the potential to organise financial bursaries for students who cannot afford the costs of the program. This allows students who would otherwise be unable to attend the program to come along at no cost.

These bursaries are organised by arranging sponsorship from community organisations such as Rotary Clubs, with whom VCESS has a proud tradition of helping students in need. If you require a bursary or are unsure as to whether or not you would qualify for a bursary, please contact the VCE Summer School via phone on (03) 8344 8204 or email (summerschool@union.unimelb.edu.au). The community organisations that VCE Summer School interacts with are always keen to help out students, so if you’re unsure about whether or not to apply for a bursary, VCE Summer School would encourage you to do so.


What is VCE Summer School’s refund policy?

Visit this link to see our refund policy for the 2019 program.