Disappointed About Your ATAR? Read this.

By Brenden Horn in Study
12th of December 2016
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1. It’s okay to be disappointed.

People will say “don’t worry about it!”, or they’ll say “it’s in the past!”, or that “that’s a good score!”.

Before they do that, I want to take this opportunity to tell you that it is okay to be disappointed. Seriously. Whether your score was higher than average or lower than average, it doesn’t matter – disappointment still feels like disappointment, and no amount of beautiful phrases will make you feel better.

So I won’t even bother with those clichés. All I want to say before moving on is that your disappointment is valid. Whether you wanted an 80 and ended up in the 60s, or wanted a 99 and ended up with a 95… Your disappointment is valid, and you’re entitled to feel that for as long as you think it’s appropriate.

Clear? Great. Now we can move on to some practical things that might actually be useful to you.

2. It doesn’t “matter” as much as you think.

Now, before you jump the gun, I’m definitely not saying Year 12 was irrelevant or that your experiences have been meaningless.

What I am saying, is that throughout your time in high-school, you’ve probably bought into some false ideas about the ATAR.

Ideas like, your ATAR will determine the rest of your life, or that you can only get a good job with a good ATAR and a good degree, or that your ATAR is a useful indicator of how smart you are.

I’ll tell you the truth. Your ATAR won’t determine more than twelve months of your life from today, because the reality is, after you’ve completed a year of Uni or gone through a pathway course, entrance into other courses is usually far more dependent on your university grades than on your ATAR. If you do a great job in your first year of university, almost any course will be available for you to transfer into.

What about jobs? Surely people hiring you care what your ATAR was?

They don’t care.

They care about your degree, a little bit about your marks, and a lot about how ready you are for the workforce and, more specifically, how ready you are for the job they’re hiring you to do. For most employers that means looking at things like your past work-experience (even Macca’s counts!) and any other internships or industry based learning placements you might have completed. This is actually something worth considering during your change of preference period – have you considered how your specific degree and institution will prepare you for the workforce?

Won’t other people care about your ATAR? Won’t it impact your social standing at university?

I’ll tell you the truth, again. The only way the ATAR can impact your social standing at university is if you keep asking everyone you meet about theirs. That’s the quickest path to having no friends at university you could possibly take. Most people figure this out pretty quickly, so once your grandparents stop asking about your scores, you’ll basically never talk about your ATAR again until you ask someone whether it’s worth putting it on your resume.

It’s as simple as this: the ATAR genuinely doesn’t matter beyond its ability to get you a place in a university course of your choice. Once you’re in, the ATAR is out.

3. Be pragmatic: Don’t throw your dreams away.

You might have heard the phrase, “don’t go shopping when you’re hungry”.

Well, a better phrase might be, “don’t go making big decisions about your future in education based on feelings of disappointment and hopelessness”.

It doesn’t have the same ring to it… but it’s actually pretty good advice.

Over the next week, the change of preference period will offer you what seems like an infinite amount of time to change your mind. It’s important that you’re pragmatic when you make your decisions. Do not, under any circumstances, throw your hands up in the air and say “I give up, I can’t make it to where I want to go!”

That’s super untrue. No matter what your educational dreams are – you can still reach them if you make some pragmatic decisions in the coming days. If you wrestle back your disappointment and end up making a high-quality decision about pathways or alternative entries into your dream degree, then I’m certain you’ll be filled with self-gratitude later.

If you’re already disappointed, it’s best not to start the process of disappointing Future You. Pursue your dreams as best you can, even if it does feel hopeless right now.

4. How do you actually get into what you want?

The good news is that it’s actually pretty simple.

Firstly, you can take a related undergraduate degree and transfer into the course you want to do. Personally, I’ve changed degrees three times because I couldn’t make up my mind, and each time the process was very simple. With some smart course planning, I still graduated on time – so it doesn’t even need to be a disadvantage. If you want to get into Law, for example, you can always take basically any undergraduate degree, get good grades, then transfer into it later.

If you’re looking to go down the transferring route, there are many good options for you. If you have a particular university in mind, try going there from the start, because transferring internally is usually an easier process than transferring externally. However, if another institution offers your dream course, it’s definitely worth going there so you have the guarantee of being it it from Day One, even if it’s not at your most preferred university.

There’s certainly something to be said for studying in your area of interest from the get-go without starting in an unrelated course. Pathways can be a genuinely excellent way to do this. For example, you might be able to complete an Advanced Diploma or an Associate Degree in your chosen area in two years, then transition into a fully-fledged Bachelor’s Degree and still graduate in the standard three-year timeframe.

If you’re looking to go down the pathway route, RMIT is probably the best option for you. Whilst not a Group of 8 university, they still have a fantastic reputation and offer potentially the broadest range of high-quality pathway options for students coming straight out of high-school. All of their pathway options to degrees like Business, Engineering, and Science are already mapped out on this website if you wanted to take a look.

So basically, to get into what you want, you have at least two pretty simple options:

You can jump into an undergraduate degree, then transfer into your preferred course or area, or –

You can jump into a course highly relevant to your chosen area, then transition into a Bachelor’s Degree.

5. Where can you go for more information and support?

As always, there are plenty of current university students on the ATAR Notes Forums to answer questions you might have. Obviously, our advice isn’t professional, but we can tell you about our personal experiences through difference degrees and course areas.

The best place to ask general questions about university is here, and the best place to ask general questions about VTAC/preferences is here. There’s also a place to ask questions about specific areas, such as Arts, Commerce, Engineering, Law, and Medicine/Health Sciences.

There are also university representatives on the ATAR Notes Forums. You can talk to a Monash representative by clicking here, and you can also talk to a representative from RMIT University by clicking here.

RMIT are also staffing a change of preference hotline between 8.30am and 5.30pm on weekdays, meaning you can talk to professionals over the phone that can guarantee you good, clean, accurate advice. You can get more information about that by clicking here.

More than anything, you should remember there are people here to help you out in this period.

All you have to do is let us know what you need.

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