In Year 12, your ATAR can feel like your entire life. It’s all too easy to become consumed by a number out of 99.95. But in the grand scheme of things, does your ATAR really matter?
Ask anyone you know who graduated high school 5 years ago what their ATAR (or equivalent) was, and we bet the answer will be the same: “Who cares?”
We know it doesn’t feel like it at the moment, but your ATAR really is one small blip in your entire life. It’s hard to hear when you’ve invested so much time and energy into working towards this one thing, and we don’t want to downplay your efforts, but it’s important to step back and gain some perspective on the matter. Especially if you’re dangerously close to calling it quits and living off-grid for the rest of your days due to all the pressure.
It's time to drop some truth bombs.
Once you’re in, you’re in
Your ATAR is a rank that will help you get into uni – that's it. It isn’t the key to the universe; it doesn’t shoot laser beams at your enemies or even help you meet people in O-Week (major turn-off). As soon as you get that offer and enrol in your program, no one is going to care or ask what your ATAR was. Does ATAR matter to your professors and tutors? Nope, as far as they're concerned, everyone in your program starts on even ground.
Notice how above we said an ATAR will help you get into uni, not that you need an ATAR to access your preferred program? If you’re passionate about your field of interest and determined to succeed, there are pathways you can take to get to uni that will help you achieve your goals – even if you got a lower ATAR than expected, or no ATAR at all.
You could have an ATAR of 99.95, but if you enter into a program without an ounce of passion for what you’re doing, you might graduate, but it’s unlikely you’ll receive any fulfilment from your studies or a career in that field. A high ATAR isn’t going to mean much if you use it to get into a program just because you can, even if you have no interest in it.
Being book smart is one thing, but having the emotional intelligence to identify what you’re passionate about, and the steps you’re going to take to make this a career, is just as important.
Here’s a table to simplify the matter:
What you NEED to get into uni
What will HELP you get into uni
The three P’s:
passion for what you want to do.
The key takeaway here is that it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get the ATAR you want. It’s disappointing, but it hasn’t set you up for failure for the rest of your days. Your ATAR doesn’t define you or your future. There are alternative pathways that will get you where you want to go – you just need to take a couple of extra steps along the way.
It’s OK to take a year or two (or more) off study
If you need to take a year to just do you, that’s totally fine. After 13 years of school, you might want a break. A lot of graduating Year 12 students choose to defer their university studies and take a gap year, and many even change their minds about what they want to study and when during that time.
If you're an international student, you'll need to check the conditions of your student visa before you make a decision.
We’d like to take you on a little ‘this is your life’ journey to show you what we mean.
You studied so hard in years 11 and 12 that you missed out on a lot of social events and milestones because you were obsessed with getting the best ATAR possible.
The ATAR release date finally rolls around and you’re sick with anticipation. Your efforts pay off as you receive the rank you need to get into one of Australia’s top universities to study optometry – what a relief!
…but after the initial high, it isn’t...
You realise that you can’t face another 12 months of study straight off the back of the crazy 2 years you just had. After much deliberation, you decide to defer your studies and take a gap year to travel.
You find a decent job somewhere exotic and sexy, like Barcelona. You meet good people, learn a thing or two about yourself and about life. You decide to stay for another year – you need to brush up on your salsa moves, after all.
Your deferred offer to study at uni is cancelled, but you find that it doesn’t stress you out so much. You realise that you’re not as passionate about pursuing optometry as you thought you were.
The next year is a haze of slightly less stilted Spanish, tapas and DANCE. You’ve realised and nurtured your passion for teaching your neighbour’s children the dance moves you’ve been learning yourself. You feel like you could branch out and teach more children.
Despite the amazing time you’re having, you start to feel homesick and decide it’s time to head back to Australia. You’re still keen to study but feel like a completely different person to the one you were when you applied to study optometry.
You decide to complete a diploma in early childhood education and explore your love for teaching children. Your interest in this area spurs on your study, and you receive your diploma with a thirst to learn more. You’re still a keen dancer and develop a dream of owning and teaching at a children’s dance school.
It’s been so long, you don’t really even remember what your ATAR was, and it doesn’t matter anyway. You're exactly where you want to be.
For some people, the transition from high school to uni and then to the workforce is straightforward: they get the ATAR they need to get into their first preference program, study, graduate and get a job in their field. For others, however, the journey involves a few more pit stops, a good bit of side-tracking and a dose of trial and error. Both paths are completely valid – the main thing is that it leads to the education and the career you want.
So, does your ATAR really matter?
In short, no. You can get into uni without an ATAR or with an ATAR lower than you were expecting. Getting the ATAR required to gain entry into your preferred university program straight out of high school will undoubtedly make the process smoother, but there are options if this isn’t how things pan out for you – they just require a little extra work and some flexibility in your plans.
Once you get into uni, it’s rare for anyone to ask about your ATAR ever again. Good riddance ATAR. Hello future success.