In this article, we chat with an ATAR Notes user who finished Year 12 a decade ago about their ATAR reflections. Stay up to date with ATAR Notes’ best resources – make an account to join our mailing list!
ATAR Notes (AN): Thanks very much for spending some time to talk about your high school experiences and what’s come after! Could you tell us a little about your high school life?
AN user (U): No worries at all. I finished high school in 2012, which is now somehow a decade ago. In some ways, it feels like ages. In other ways, it feels like no time at all. I can still really easily take myself back to what it was like in Year 12. It was a challenging year for me, but I look back on it probably the most fondly out of any of my six years at high school.
ATAR Notes (AN): A lot of past students seem to say that – that Year 12 was their favourite year. Why do you think that is?
AN user (U): I don’t think it’ll be the case for everybody – I’m sure Year 12 was equally a lot of students’ least favourite year. But for me, I probably liked Year 12 for a few different reasons. Firstly, it felt like I was actually working toward something, so I could invest my time in the hope that there’d be a positive pay-off at the end of the year (in terms of an ATAR that met my goals). In younger years, I think I struggled a bit with motivation because it felt like I wasn’t really working toward anything.
Secondly, I think it was easier to have a good relationship with teachers, because they actively wanted to help. If you’re 17 or 18, you can probably relate more easily to teachers, too, particularly when you compare that to what you thought about the world when you started high school (typically) at 12 or so years of age.
And thirdly, I just sort of liked being at the “top of the school”. I’m not really sure what the reason for this was – you could probably do some sort of analysis – but being one of the older students sort of motivated me to keep going and actually make something of the year, I think. That probably ties in with studying subjects I’d chosen to study, too, rather than having to study compulsory subjects that weren’t really in my wheelhouse, as was the case in younger years.
ATAR Notes (AN): Speaking of subjects, what did you study, and how did you go about subject selection? Any regrets?
AN user (U): I had a fairly broad mix. I did one maths subject, one English subject, one science subject, one arts subject, and two “humanities” subjects (I’m not really sure how to categorise them, so I’m just using the humanities umbrella term for now!). That made six subjects in total, though I did one of them the year prior, so only five in my final year.
If I could choose my subjects again now based on what I know, then yeah, I’d probably make some changes (like dropping subjects I didn’t enjoy as much in Year 12), but I don’t have any real regrets about the way I chose my subjects. I’m glad I went with what I thought I would enjoy most/what I thought would be useful in later years, rather than looking at things like what my friends were studying or scaling. Five of my six subjects scaled down, but I think Year 12 would have been way harder for me personally had I selected subjects that scaled up – they just didn’t interest me as much.
ATAR Notes (AN): When it came to results day, were you happy with your ATAR and subject results?
AN user (U): Yeah, I was – I was fortunate in that sense. My ATAR was higher than I expected, and it got me into my first preference for uni, which is what I wanted to pursue after school. I was satisfied with my work throughout the year and what it resulted in. I know that’s not the case for a lot of people on results day, so I felt sort of lucky at the time.
ATAR Notes (AN): You’re now 10 years out of high school. How do you look back on your final high school years? Do you think there was too much pressure on the ATAR?
AN user (U): I mostly enjoyed Year 12 for the reasons detailed previously. In today’s climate, I’m pretty thankful that I finished pre-COVID and was relatively undisrupted.
The ATAR is an interesting one. Given I was happy with my results, I think it would be easy to flippantly say, “oh, it’s completely overrated – it means nothing.” The reality is that it does mean something – but that something is very confined. It’s obviously useful to get results high enough to satisfy what you want to do after school, whatever that may be. There are absolutely other ways of getting to where you want to go if that doesn’t eventuate, though.
I think when you’re 18 – or at least when I was 18 – you can sort of fall into the trap of thinking that everything has to happen as soon as possible. The “ideal” situation might be getting results high enough to grant you entry into your “dream degree”, then finish the degree in 3-4 years, and land your “dream job” in your early-to-mid 20s. The reality is that it probably won’t work like that, for whatever reason. You might completely change what you want to do after a couple of years, and that’s completely fine.
What my ATAR gave me was the chance to study what I wanted to study at that specific time in my life, and I’m thankful for that. If I hadn’t achieved that ATAR, I’m sure I would have found my way to the same degree, perhaps after starting a different degree and transferring, or something like that. Not everything has to happen as soon as possible at all times. The ATAR is just one of many keys that opens pathway doors. It’s not the only key, and it never will be.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a casual conversation with friends where we spoke about ATARs or high school results.
ATAR Notes (AN): Do you have any advice for current high school students?
AN user (U): I guess just to try to soak it all in whilst you have the opportunity to do so. Year 12 can be rough, and I try not to forget that, but it can also be a year where you can develop and work out who you are, and what you’re interested in.
I can’t say I’ve used a lot of the specific subject content I learnt in Year 12 a lot in day to day life in the decade since, but Year 12 was definitely useful for me overall. I think it’s a great way to work out how to perform under pressure, how to deal with stress and properly take care of yourself, and how to try to enjoy the little things in life.