Life After ATAR – Jennifer Oaten

The commencement of WACE examinations this week has seen our Year 12s one step closer to life beyond school; however, there is always much talk about ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) scores at this time of the year.

The lead-up to the release of the WACE exam results can be as stressful as the exams themselves, but the ATAR will not make or break your life. When the day arrives, there can be jubilation or disappointment and many feelings in between. Still, the ATAR is not a measure of how well you will succeed in life, and it is not a ticket to a high-paying job. It’s a number between 0 and 99.95.

The ATAR system is an Australia-wide model used to measure a student’s academic achievement in relation to other students. It helps universities rank applicants for selection in their courses. An ATAR of 90 does not mean you achieved an average of 90% but that you are in the top 10% of your year group.

We need to remember, a year later, the ATAR score becomes insignificant. If your daughter does not get the score she hoped for, it is not the end of the world. Their ATAR does not define who they are as a person; it is simply a number. There are many alternatives and different paths to achieving her dream, there may be some diversions and obstacles, and it may take a little longer for her to reach her dream.

One of our alumni is an excellent example of a student whose story of an alternative pathway shows what can be achieved through different means.

When she was a high-school student, her goal was to become a nurse. She described herself as not very academic in high school, so she didn’t do ATAR subjects, which meant she had to take the long route into university in those days.

Following Year 12, she did a bridging course which gave her a score to apply to university to study a Bachelor of Nursing. The first time she applied for nursing, she was not accepted. She was upset. She decided to work in aged care for a year, then the following year, she was accepted into the Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Notre Dame.

During her first year working as a registered nurse, she felt she wanted to achieve more, so she sat the GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test) and passed. She then applied to study postgraduate medicine at the University of Notre Dame, and to her surprise, she was accepted! For the next four years, she studied harder than she ever had before, including spending many late nights and weekends at the library, but it paid off and, she graduated with an MBBS in 2013.

Her further study included an Advanced Diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the College of General Practitioner exam. She now enjoys her GP practice in Albany, WA, and being on call for obstetrics at the district hospital.

If your daughter is disappointed with her WACE results, the following advice may assist.

Suggestions for Students

  • Take a related undergraduate degree and later transfer into your preferred course. Performing well in your first year of university enables you to transfer into other courses.
  • There are many alternative ways to enter a university other than through an ATAR score, including portfolio, interviews, or approaching universities with Years 11 or 12 reports. Approximately 50% of students enter universities through alternative means.
  • Many employers will consider your skills, work experience and community involvement, so aim to develop these areas. Internships and work placements will be a great asset for future university applications or work.
  • Life experiences before starting study again may enable you to find your passion if you are undecided about pursuing a university degree that is not your first choice.

Suggestions for Parents

  • Parent responses are crucial to supporting disappointment as some responses will amplify the disappointment. Avoid pointing out what they could have done differently. It is too late for these suggestions to be helpful.
  • Remind your daughter that there are many pathways to get to their ultimate career destination if she does not get into her first choice. Help her explore these pathways. Determine who to contact and encourage your daughter to think about Plan B.
  • Contact the College for suggestions of alternative options and any form of assistance.

I have great belief that each of our girls will find their pathway in life; for some, it might just take a little longer.

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