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Two students navigating alternate pathways to uni

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

Study tips
Published 18 Aug, 2023  ·  4-minute read

'Can I still get into uni with a low ATAR?' is a question commonly asked by nervous students as they emerge from their final exams and await their ATAR results. 

It’s important to know that even if you don’t get the results you're 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 don't receive the ATAR you need to get into your first preference university degree, 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?

Can I resit my ATAR?

It's possible to repeat Year 12 and resit your ATAR. However, first we would encourage you to explore alternative admissions pathways to university, and chat to your preferred university about your options. Keep reading to find out more.

I didn't get the ATAR I wanted. What now?

ATAR results are usually released mid-December. It can be a 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.

All you need to bring to the event is an optimistic attitude and the will to move forwards with your ATAR. We'll help you sort out the rest.

Missed UQ's 2023 ATAR Advice event, which was held on Sunday 17 December? You can still get advice by calling our friendly Future Students Contact Centre.

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.

Students sit talking to one another as they study

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.

Here are 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.

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, at UQ, 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 environmental 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.

Programs at UQ ideal for a tertiary studies pathway include:

*These are the lowest adjusted scores we made an offer to in Semester 1, 2024. Entry scores are based on the most recent Semester 1 intake and are updated in April each year. Meeting the entry score threshold doesn't guarantee admission.

The Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science both have a wide range of majors, minors and electives to choose from. The Bachelor of Health Sciences provides solid foundational knowledge for anyone hoping to upgrade into one of the more competitive health and medicine programs

Find out more about UQ’s tertiary studies pathway.

Bridging studies

If you received a lower ATAR than you anticipated and cannot use it to take a tertiary studies pathway into university, you may be able to complete bridging studies, which can improve your selection rank (your ATAR plus any adjustments awarded by the university) and help you meet subject prerequisites so you can gain access to your preferred university degree.

UQ College offers 2 ways to undertake bridging studies to improve your selection rank:

  1. Tertiary Preparation Program (32 weeks in duration, fully-funded, delivered face-to-face at UQ St Lucia campus)
  2. Certificate IV in Adult Tertiary Preparation (40 weeks in duration, $4950, delivered online)

It’s worth noting, however, that the maximum selection rank you can gain from bridging studies varies, so if the degree you want to get into has a high entry score threshold, the tertiary studies pathway may be best for you.

UQ College also offers 4-week intensive bridging programs in science and maths to help you meet specific subject prerequisites. So if you have the ATAR needed to gain entry into a UQ degree, but did not meet the subject prerequisite criteria, you may be able to complete a bridging program in November and December the year you graduate high school, to begin university studies in February the following year.

Other universities and institutions offer bridging studies that can help you improve your selection rank and meet subject prerequisites. A select few are approved by UQ to gain entry into one of our undergraduate programs – see below for details.

Find out more about your bridging studies options to gain entry into an undergraduate program at UQ.

A final word

We asked the UQ admissions team for one piece of advice 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?

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