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Two students navigating alternate pathways to uni

What if you don’t get the ATAR you need?

Study tips
Published 1 Dec, 2021  ·  4-minute read

As exams come to a close, you may be feeling anxious about receiving your ATAR.

It’s important to know that even if you don’t get the results you were hoping for, it isn’t THE END. It might feel like it for a hot minute, and that’s OK, but once you’ve moved (swiftly) past your existential dread, we want you to know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

If you didn’t receive the ATAR you needed to get into your first preference program, you may consider it a ‘bad’ ATAR. But we wouldn’t put that label on it just yet. A wise wizard once said “all we have to do is decide what to do with the ATAR that is given to us”, or something like that.

Remember, your ATAR is just the starthow you use it to get where you want to go is what matters. Even with a low ATAR, you can create your own success. All you have to do is choose your next move, and we’re here to help.

So, what happens if you don't get the ATAR you need?

Personalised ATAR advice

ATAR results are usually released mid-December. It can be period of uncertainty and panic for those who don’t get the ATAR they need to get into their first preference uni program. This is why UQ holds an ATAR Advice event around this time each year.

There are multiple pathways to uni and your dream career – you just need to find the one that's best for you and your ATAR. You can chat one-on-one with UQ’s admissions team at the ATAR Advice event to receive guidance specific to your circumstances. They’ll help you find solid next steps to get into uni and go through your options for accessing your preferred program, even with an ATAR that doesn’t meet entry requirements.

At the event, there will also be opportunities to speak with current students about uni life and hear first-hand experiences from others who transformed their disappointing ATAR into a success story.

All you need is an optimistic attitude and the will to move forwards with your ATAR, to get one step closer to your dream career.

Keep an eye on our events page to find out what day in December UQ will be hosting the 2022 ATAR Advice event.

In the meantime, we’ve outlined below the key ways students who didn’t get the ATAR they needed can access their preferred program. Have a read of these options and come to the ATAR Advice event prepared to discuss them with someone from our friendly university admissions team.

What happens if you don't get the ATAR you need

How to get to uni if you didn’t get the ATAR you needed

As we mentioned above, there are several ways you can get into your preferred program even if you didn’t receive the required ATAR for entry. You may need to do a little extra study to get there, but the important thing is to remember that you can make it happen.

Kyra and Tracey from UQ’s admissions team have shared the two most common ways high school leavers gain entry to their preferred program at UQ, even though they received a lower ATAR than what they needed.

Bridging programs

A bridging program can improve your selection rank (your ATAR plus any adjustments awarded by the university) to help you access your preferred program. Bridging programs are particularly helpful for those interested in bachelor’s degrees with a focus on maths and science. It’s worth noting, however, that the maximum selection rank you can gain from a bridging program varies, so if your preferred program has a high entry score threshold, the tertiary studies pathway may be best for you.

Find out more about UQ’s bridging programs.

Tertiary studies pathway

Here’s how a tertiary studies pathway works:

  1. Enrol in a program that will accept your ATAR.
  2. Complete a year of study.
  3. Apply to ‘upgrade’ to your preferred program the following year.

Completing a year of study in a different program means that your selection rank when you apply for your preferred program will be based on your grade point average (GPA) over the 12 months of undergraduate study, rather than on your ATAR.

To give you an idea, a GPA of 4.50 from one full-time year of tertiary study coverts to a rank of 95 – a competitive rank for a large number of programs at UQ including commerce, engineering, nursing, occupational therapy and science.

Even though you won’t initially be studying your preferred program when undertaking the tertiary studies pathway, you can usually select courses relevant to your desired study area. You might be able to gain credit for these courses when you upgrade to your preferred program in your second year of study.

Find out more about UQ’s tertiary studies pathway.

A final word

We asked Kyra and Tracey for one piece of advice that they’d like to leave Year 12 students with when it came to the anxiety of receiving a lower ATAR than expected, and they said:

“Don’t stress! There are more pathways to university than you think. You might have to be flexible and change your initial plans, but you can still get to where you want to be.”

So, whether you feel confident or conflicted about your ATAR, know that you have options. If you’re optimistic your ATAR will get you into your preferred program, get excited for university. If you’re nervous about your ATAR or don't end up getting what you were hoping for – still get excited for university. Your ATAR is just the beginning. Putting in a little extra work will ensure you can continue moving towards your goals.

Still feel like you need guidance on what to do with your ATAR? Contact our university admissions team.

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