Application Anxiety? Read our field guide to joining MDS in 2021.

Navigating NCEA can be challenging enough, before you even think about throwing a global pandemic into the mix. We’re really feeling for all of those students who are busy preparing for external exams, as well as applying for further study in 2021. Here at MDS, we want to make that process as painless as possible by helping you explore your entry options.

We’ve put together a handy guide to help you learn more about Discretionary Entrance for Year 12s and 13s, Changes to NCEA Credits and Scholarships.

We’re also running a virtual Discretionary Entrance Information Session on Saturday 19th September which you can register for here.

We hope this helps to simplify the process for our future students and we can’t wait to welcome you all into our creative community.  For the Year 13s of 2020, it’s been a difficult, disappointing year, but there is a silver lining that we should all be celebrating. 

As MDS Chairman Linda Brown said, “The upheaval and changes mean that students are learning invaluable life skills – skills that are not usually taught in the classroom.

Students are learning how to manage change, how to communicate with people across boundaries and how to manage time in a flexible environment. This is about adaptability, creativity, resilience and grit.  These are smart skills, and they are vital for tomorrow’s workplace. The adversity young students face today, will serve them well in the opportunities they seek out in the future.”

With that in mind, we’re more excited than ever to see what you might create as MDS’s next designers, artists, programmers and animators.  Read on to find out some of the ways you can join us in 2021.  

Changes to NCEA Credits

The first thing to note is the changes to NCEA credits for 2020.  NZQA have put into place a Learning Recognition System designed to help students achieve positive outcomes and endorsements in what has been a highly disruptive school year. 

The requirements for University Entrance (UE) have been reduced from 14 to 12 credits in three UE-approved subjects.  Endorsement requirements have also been altered, which is great news for any students hoping to join MDS under discretionary entrance.  

You can learn more about discretionary entrance below.  


Learning Recognition and Endorsements - The Essentials 

Because of the different Alert Levels between regions, the Learning Recognition system looks a little different for students in Auckland, compared to those outside of Auckland.

  • Students in Auckland will earn 1 extra Learning Recognition credit for every 4 credits achieved through internal or external assessment. Those mainly studying for NCEA Level 1, can get up to 16 Learning Recognition credits. Those mainly studying for Level 2 or Level 3, can get up to 12 Learning Recognition credits.
  • Students outside of Auckland will earn 1 extra Learning Recognition credit for every 5 credits achieved. They can earn up to 10 for NCEA Level 1, and up to 8 for Levels 2 and 3. 
  • To get a certificate endorsement this year, students need 46 credits at Merit or Excellence level, instead of the usual 50.  Auckland students will need 44 credits.  
  • To get a course endorsement this year, students need 12 credits at Merit or Excellence level in a course, rather than 14. Students will still need to achieve at least 3 credits in externals and 3 in internals.

You can read the full description of NCEA changes in 2020 here. 

Find out more about how a course endorsement can help you to expedite your application in the Discretionary Entrance section below. 


What is Discretionary Entrance?

Discretionary entrance means meeting alternative entry criteria for one of our programmes.  We take into consideration your existing credits and your academic performance at Level 2, as well as reviewing your portfolio.  Successful applicants are guaranteed a spot in their chosen MDS Bachelor’s programme, without needing to rely on attaining University Entrance. For Year 13 students, this could mean securing your place even before you sit your external exams.  For Year 12 students, this could mean heading straight into your Bachelor’s Degree as early as March next year. 

What are the criteria? 

To be eligible for discretionary entrance into an MDS Bachelor’s programme, students need to have, or be on track to have:

  • An Excellence Endorsement in art/design subjects at Level 2, AND 
  • Literacy and Numeracy requirements, i.e.: 10 credits in Maths at Level 1 and 10 credits in English at Level 2 (5 reading/ 5 writing).

For Year 13 students
If you meet the above criteria, you may be eligible for early unconditional discretionary entrance.  You will need to supply a portfolio and letter of intent as part of your application. 

If you’re not awarded discretionary entrance for 2021, you’ll be considered based on whether or not you achieve University Entrance (UE) in Year 13.  If you don’t meet UE requirements upon completion of your Level 3 studies, you’ll automatically be awarded a supplementary offer into our Digital Creativity Foundation Programme as a direct pathway into an MDS Bachelor’s programme in 2022. 

For Year 12 students
If you meet the above criteria, you may be eligible for early discretionary entrance.  This offer will be conditional on completion of Level 2 and an excellence endorsement in Art/Design related subjects.  You will need to supply a portfolio and letter of intent as part of your application. It is also highly recommended that students considering early entry into tertiary studies supply a letter of recommendation from a faculty member at your high school

If you are not awarded discretionary entrance for 2021, you will automatically be awarded a supplementary offer into our Digital Creativity Foundation Programme as a direct pathway into an MDS Bachelor’s programme in 2022. 

What’s next?  

If pursuing discretionary entrance sounds right for you, join us at our virtual information session to learn more about the process and to ask any questions you may have about applying to study at Media Design School. 

MDS Discretionary Entrance Information Webinar

When: Saturday 19th September- 11am

Register here:


Media Design School has a range of scholarships available for 2021. Applications for these close on Friday 6th November, so if you’re considering putting yourself forward make sure to get your application in sooner rather than later. 

You’ll find detailed information on all of our scholarships here.

As always, if you have any additional questions, get in touch with our friendly admissions team.