A Message to Everyone Receiving Their ATAR Today

By Brenden Horn in Easy Reading
11th of December 2016

The most memorable nosebleed I ever had happened five weeks before my English exam.

It’s a strange thing to remember, I know – but this was a colossal nosebleed. It was after school on a hot day, and I’d been eating my fair share of Skittles. I ran to the bathroom like a character on the Sims runs away from a fire. My English teacher walked in to check on me, and I think he just about passed out thinking he’d walked into the world’s worst slasher film, going by all the blood over the basin.

The most memorable all-nighter I ever had was from the 16th of December to the 17th of December in 2012.

It was the day of receiving my ATAR. I started frying some bacon and eggs at about 2.40am when I checked Facebook and saw that the Herald Sun 40+ high-achiever’s list had been leaked, seven hours before ATARs were supposed to come out. I checked the list immediately, and it was brutally overwhelming to see my name on it not once, but three times.

To this day, the burning bacon smells like the most disgusting sense of relief you could ever imagine.

I don’t mean to give you my life story, but you can see that I was a high-strung Year 12 student.

My ATAR meant everything to me in the worst way possible – from nosebleeds, to breakdowns, to insane highs of relief when my marks came back labelled “acceptable”.

I’m telling you this so you can better believe me when I say the horribly pathetic phrase, your ATAR doesn’t define you.

We hear this everyday of our Year 12 life from wise folk, but we always hear it without listening. ‘Easy for you to say’, we think. But trust me, I’ve been through it. I don’t know all that much about the world, or about life, or about anything else fancy like that – but I do know that the ATAR is produced by an imperfect system. It’s a system that’s actually designed to represent you with a four digit number, and a system that is always going to fail at that job.

Today,  there are going to be three types of people: 

1. The person who didn’t get the ATAR they wanted

2. The person who did get the ATAR that they wanted, and

3. The person who just doesn’t care anymore.

To the people who didn’t get the ATAR that they wanted –

I’m not going to tell you that “don’t worry, it doesn’t matter!”, or that “this isn’t the end of the world!”

You know that, and I know you know that. Instead, to you, I want to say two things.

Firstly, I understand.

A lot of people will look at your ATAR and console you by saying it’s still “pretty good”, or that it’s still a “success”. But I understand that to you, success is relative to what your aims were, and no matter what your ATAR is, if you didn’t meet your aims – that’s a failure in your mind. I want to say that I understand, and that it’s okay to feel that way – just make sure you don’t keep feeling that way for too long.

Secondly, I want to say that I’m proud of you.

If you’re disappointed, it means you had the balls to care about something, and invest yourself into it even though you knew there was a chance of failure. That’s really hard – but you did it. Well done.

To the people who did get the ATAR that they wanted, no matter how big or small – hell yeah.

I hope that it gives you a deep sense of satisfaction, and I hope that meeting your goal isn’t underwhelming.

Now, I’m sure a lot of people are telling you this and your newsfeeds are probably blowing up with it, but – make sure you’re compassionate to your friends who may not have done so well. It’s important we take care of one another. But, I also wanted to tell you not to hide your success just in case it hurts someone. This is your day, too – and you should own it! Be as compassionate as you can be, but don’t get so caught up in how other people might be feeling that you forget to give yourself a small congratulations. This battle was hard fought and hard won.

You earned this.

To the person who doesn’t care – don’t sweat it, I feel that, too. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of apathy here and there.

Perhaps it’s the case that you don’t care because you gave up long ago. Maybe you never needed an ATAR anyway, or maybe you knew that your ATAR would be disappointing and decided that to not care was better. For whatever reason you don’t care – don’t let the apathy extend too far outwards! Keep it confined to your ATAR, and don’t let it extend to your future educational opportunities. You might not care about school – sick, whatever… But make sure in the next few weeks that you begin to care about uni, about TAFE, or maybe about your entry into the workforce. I’m not sure if my point is coming across properly but… life is just beginning. School is over! That’s exciting, and that’s something to care about, so do it!

This is a huge day for many of you.  I’m sure that random emotions like relief, confusion, and nostalgia are flying at you like bludgers in a Quidditch match – and that’s awesome. Feel it. Own it. You’ll hear a lot of people saying that your ATAR doesn’t matter but, what you’re feeling right now – that matters! Your experience matters, from the start of the year to right now. That matters a lot. Your experience has likely shaped you as a person in ways you might not even acknowledge yet, and the implications that your ATAR have on the next six months of your life – that matters, too.

But your ATAR itself ? The actual numbers, the four digits… Those don’t matter. Those don’t define you. I hope you see the distinction I’m making. When people say “Ah, the ATAR doesn’t matter!”, it sounds like your whole year was just bloody meaningless – but it wasn’t. The successes, the failures, the experiences – it all matters But when pepole say the ATAR is basically meaningless, it’s true. The actual number itself really only has one meaning – that you’ll either get into your first preference, or you won’t. But that certainly doesn’t mean today, and all the previous days of your final year were meaningless.

But one thing I want to say more than anything is –

Congratulations. More than anything, I want to congratulate all of you on making it through. If there’s anything ATAR Notes can do to help you, whether it be course advice, score condolences, or questions about part-time work, please head over to our forums and ask away. Every year it’s an honour for the graduates of ATAR Notes to help another group of Year 12s make it through the challenge, and it was certainly no less of an honour for us this year.

So, congratulations. I really, really mean that in the deepest sense of the word.

Class of 2016 – YES! Congratulations, you made it. Now go live it up, today and for the rest of your life.

Maddest regards,

From all the folks at ATAR Notes.

If you need help through the change of preference period, remember that RMIT are 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 advice. You can get more information about that by clicking here.


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    Thanks ATAR Notes for your relentless support throughout the year, you really did help motivate me and keep me going. Also, thanks for saying the words that I wanted to hear on this day, when my parents disappointingly did not.

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    Thanks so much for this, ATAR Notes was really helpful for questions and advice this year. Congrats to all my fellow graduates this year!

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    Thanks for all the support!!!!