What To Do When You Don’t Get The ATAR Score You Need

There’s no doubt Year 12 is a crazy time of your life, full of highs and lows, ebbs and flows. Eighteenths, formals, getting your driver’s license … and of course your final exams. Some people thrive in the melting pot of their final year of school, but for others the pressure can become too intense. And for many, there is some anxiety around what ATAR or OP they might achieve, and whether or not they will be able to do what they want after high school. Here, we take you through what to do if you don’t get the mark you’re after.

From the top, it’s important to keep things in perspective. You’ve probably heard adults tell you that “school isn’t everything”, but when you’re in the thick of it it’s hard to appreciate their advice, or you might even be thinking “what would they know?” Let me say a couple of things about that.

Should I stress about year 12?

Firstly, the pressure of Year 12 and the HSC is incredibly unnatural. At no other time of your life does such an extended period of time (thirteen years of schooling) reach such a pressurised climax like it does in the HSC. School tends to talk about the final exams like it’s the final frontier, with little regard for the fact that you’ve got six or seven good decades of life to follow. From personal experience though, I can tell you that that number – your ATAR or OP score – quickly fades into oblivion once you finish. As I say, that’s hard to conceive of when you’re in the thick of it, but I really was astonished at the way it became truly irrelevant so quickly. For that reason, don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t get what you want. Your mark doesn’t define you; your effort, your resilience and your character do.

Secondly, school is unnatural in the way that it organises people of the same age to be undertaking the same things, and builds a pressure about where you need to be at relative to your peers. Life after school is nothing like that! Freed from the shackles of compulsory organised education, people follow their own paths, and do things at a pace they’re happy with. Some people finish uni at 22, others don’t start until they’re 30, 40 or even 60 (in the case of my grandmother)! Some people settle down, get married and have kids relatively young, others go travelling for years on end, and may never truly ‘settle down’. The point is, after school, you can run your own race. Comparisons of where you’re at in your life compared to people of the same age begin to fade. With that in mind, it’s not the end of the world if it takes you an extra 6 months, or an extra year or two to find your way into something you want to do – trust me!

What To Do When You Don't Get The Atar Score You Need

What to do when you don’t get the ATAR score you need?

So, with all of that being said, here is some practical advice on what you can do if you don’t get your desired ATAR or OP mark.

  • Look around for other institutions that may offer similar courses at a lower entry mark. You might have had your heart set on a particular course at a particular university, only to not quite get in. That’s okay! You can always start a similar course elsewhere, and then transfer across after a semester, or a year. People do this all the time, and it’s likely only going to add 6 or 12 months to your studies, depending on how many of the units you’ve already done are counted by the other institution. And if you’re worried about the extra time, you can always look at doing summer and winter school courses to catch up.
  • Look at doing another course at the same institution. This is another classic side-door entry, and again is unlikely to add too much time to your studies. Let’s say you wanted to study a Bachelor of Psychology, but didn’t get the required mark. What you could do instead is start out by doing a Bachelor of Arts, and choose a bunch of Psychology units as your electives (also known as majoring in Psychology). Then if you do well enough in the first year or two, you may have a chance to move into the straight Psychology course. Alternatively, you could complete the Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology with Honours, which would also hold you in good stead going forward.
  • Consider a postgraduate avenue. Depending on what you’re wanting to do, you may need to investigate the possibility of doing undergraduate and postgraduate study. For things with high entry marks like Physiotherapy and Medicine, there is a possibility to do an undergraduate degree in a relevant field (Exercise Science or Medical Science) and then qualify for postgraduate entry into these fields. Again, this route may only add a year or two to your studies, depending on the course – but do be aware of the extra cost incurred by studying two degrees.
  • Look at flexible first-year options. Some universities offer flexible first-year options for some courses, such as Engineering. Essentially, this means you may get in with a lower mark, but your place in the course is dependent upon your results in the first year.
  • See if you’re eligible for extra points. A lot of tertiary institutions recognise successes and achievements outside of school. Extra-curricular activities ranging from Duke of Edinburgh awards to excellence in sports may earn you extra marks in the eyes of some institutions, therefore getting you over the line! Also, some courses may look favourably on your marks in specific subjects. I know many Communications courses look favourably upon success in writing-heavy subjects like English and History. All things worth looking into!

So if you don’t get the ATAR score you need, remember it does not mean you won’t be able to have the future you want. If you are unsure about your options going forward, get in touch with our academic personal trainers and let them help you work out where to go from here.