15 Dec Don’t be defined by your ATAR.
So you’ve finished your school exams, and survived Schoolies Week – and now you are just waiting for your results. Not just your school results, but that dreaded ATAR which seems like it’s going to rule the rest of your life!
I’m here to tell you that the ATAR doesn’t matter as much as the Universities, your school, or even your parents, might like you to think. Did you know that only one third of students get into Uni based solely on their ATAR?
The ATAR is a ranking, not a score.
Let’s place the ATAR into context. It’s a ranking, not a score, which places you into a comparative context with every other student. It isn’t necessarily a measure of intelligence but one of aptitude – your ability to work through your final year school program.
So that seemingly all-defining number isn’t your IQ, nor your boundary as to where you can go in life.
What if I don’t get the ATAR I need for my first preference?
First up – don’t panic! The ATAR scores that Unis provide are guidelines, and not a definitive cut-off. While there are some courses that are always going to demand near-perfect scores, many others have a wider range of cut-offs. Even if you miss out on your first preference, there are second and third preference rounds. And because your second and third preferences are probably comparable courses to your first preference, they aren’t really going to change the future career direction you are thinking about right now.
Between preference rounds, you can also change your preferences, although you should probably only change if you need to, not just because you can. There is no use changing if your preferred courses are already at the top of your list!
Do I need to go to Uni to do my preferred course?
We are lucky to live in a country where the ATAR is only one pathway into university. There are many alternative pathways to get into the course you want if you don’t get the ATAR you need.
What about TAFE or VET courses?
Firstly, if you don’t get ‘into Uni’ there are many other VET level institutions and private colleges that offer Bachelor degree level courses. You should investigate these options as some of them may be more hands-on, offer more practical instruction, or work in better with your other lifestyle needs, such as part-time work. Many Unis also have partnerships with local TAFE institutes, so you might be able to transfer into second-year university with full credits after a year in the VET sector.
Transferring at Uni
Secondly, you can choose an alternative or related course with a lower ranking at the Uni where you want to study, and work towards transferring into your preferred degree. Once you are studying, the Uni will usually focus on your current grades, and not your ATAR, when you request to transfer.
Or choose a similar course with a lower ATAR at a different Uni, and then transfer Unis at the end of your first year.
Uni bridging programs
Many Unis now also offer pre-tertiary, or ‘bridging’ programs – these are like preparatory courses which help you to get ready for Uni study and how the Uni system works, and often incorporate study units related to your desired degree. These courses can help you with the practicalities of life at Uni as well as increasing your chances of getting into the course, and succeeding once you are there!
Can I increase my ATAR?
Another alternative available to some people is to investigate whether you qualify for Special Entry Schemes. These schemes take into account factors such as personal, financial and cultural circumstances, or school status, and some students may be eligible for ‘bonus’ points based on these factors.
Take a gap year?
Taking a gap year is a personal choice, but shouldn’t be done to avoid making study or career choices.
Rather, we encourage you to go about selecting your preferred study and career options before you take the break. You can then further consider and test your thinking as you travel, and perhaps get work experience that helps you learn more about your preferred career options.
Purpose wins out in the end.
At school, your life is pretty structured for you and your marks are the be-all and end-all. The key now is to select career and study options that suit you, and to go after them with purpose and perseverance, irrespective of your ATAR.
It might sound pretty scary, but it should also be exciting. It’s all part of the journey!