2020. What a year. Through December, results will be released for students across Australia.

If you are reading this and have now received your results, congratulations. Making it this far is a huge effort – particularly in a year like 2020. The purpose of this article isn’t to serve you the typical “your ATAR doesn’t define you!” rhetoric, because hopefully you know that already. The purpose of this article is, rather, to be pragmatic, and think about options available to you. If you are happy with your results, this article might be for you.

First of all:

Whatever you feel is valid

No matter what you felt when you opened your results – or what you feel now – those feelings are totally, totally valid. Your results are yours, and yours alone. So are your feelings. For that reason, not a single person can tell you how you’re meant to be feeling, and you should take any advice along this line with a grain of salt.

What’s really important, though, is what you do with your results – that’s what will make the difference from this point forward.

How important is the ATAR, really?

It would be disingenuous to say that the ATAR means absolutely nothing, and that it’s silly to be upset about getting an ATAR lower than what you were hoping. However, it is true that the application of the ATAR is pretty limited.

The ATAR functions as a single measure of high school performance, which allows tertiary institutions a straightforward way to assess students, helping them work out where their offers will go. Once that process has occurred, then what?

Well, an ATAR in isolation – even a really good one – won’t land you a job. You can’t waltz into a job interview holding your high school graduation certificate, say, “look at my ATAR!” and expect to be given the job. There are more important factors that employers are looking for.

Equally, your ATAR won’t – or at least shouldn’t – influence the depth of your friendships, or your skills and interests, or your inherent worth as a person. You can’t use your ATAR to buy a coffee.

Don’t get us wrong: the ATAR doesn’t mean nothing. But its application is pretty confined, and this is easy to forget when you’ve ultimately been working hard toward the ATAR through 2020.

So – what are your options from this point on?

For the moment, feel free to just let things sink in. Try to digest what you can. There’s no immediate rush – you don’t need to make big life decisions in the next 30 seconds. This might feel like a bit of a blow and, as we mentioned earlier, it’s totally acceptable to have those feelings of disappointment. But let’s be pragmatic about this.

Speak to universities directly about your options

A lot of unis have services you can contact through and after the Change of Preference period regarding your options. An important thing to note is that “clearly-in ATARs” change from year to year, and there is more than one round of university offers.

That is, even if you received an ATAR lower than what you thought you needed to gain entrance into a particular course, that may not actually be the case. Based on supply and demand, and sometimes other factors, entry requirements for courses can change, and this is something that is very difficult to predict. So, if you “missed out” on your required ATAR by a small margin, there’s still hope.

Plus, even if you don’t receive a first-round offer for your dream course, that’s not the end of the road. There are multiple rounds of offers. At uni, nobody will care if you gained entrance in the first round or the fourth. In fact, they won’t even know.

Think about different paths to your goal

If you’re driving to a new location and take a wrong turn, you don’t just give up and say, “well, I guess I’m never getting there, then”. You try again and get there eventually, even if the path you took was a little longer or little more convoluted.

Direct entrance into a university degree is not the only method. Many universities offer other options, such as Certificates and Diplomas, and taking this sort of path can allow you to start studying what you want to be studying from day one. You get your foot in the door, you get great experience, and you can often then credit your previous study as you make your way toward your dream course.

A lot of universities offer pathway courses that can translate into university degrees with no time lost. For example, you could begin in an Advanced Diploma, and work your way toward a Bachelor degree. Alternatively, prior study may give you credit toward a university degree, with only six months to one year added. You should speak directly to your preferred institution to find out more.

The other option is transferring, and this is actually very common at university. One of our ATAR Notes users transferred internally three times (through four degrees), and still graduated on time. The whole concept of graduating “on time”, too, is perhaps overstated. Many students take a semester off, underload (study fewer subjects than usual), or extend their degree for other reasons. Doing this is okay. It’s not a race to graduate.

If you want more help, or need advice…

We’re here to help you as much as we can. If you’re trying to work out what to do or how to order your preferences, feel free to ask on our general university section of the forums. We have a small army of past, current and future students willing to provide their insights and advice. Plus, we have specific sections for a whole range of universities, and you can ask your questions there, too.


Again, congratulations on getting through, and commiserations if you’re feeling unhappy with your results. We’ll be here to help you through the next part of your journey. 👊

If you are feeling distressed, you can contact any of the below services:

*   Lifeline (13 11 14)
*   beyondblue (1300 22 4636, http://www.beyondblue.org.au)
*   headspace (http://www.headspace.org.au)