From the Principal – Life after ATAR

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 but the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) 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 (apart from Queensland) model that is 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 just be some diversions and obstacles and it may take a little longer for her to reach her dream.

Tahira Dunn (nee Bhatti), Class of 2003 is a great example of a student whose story of an alternative pathway shows what can be achieved through different means.

When I was a high-school student, my goal was to become a nurse. I had always been interested in caring for people and nursing seemed like the ideal job for me. I wasn’t very academic in high school, so didn’t do TEE (ATAR) subjects, which meant I had to take the long route into university.

When I finished Year 12, I did a bridging course which gave me a score to apply to university to study a Bachelor of Nursing. Unfortunately, the first time I applied for nursing I was not accepted. At the time, I was a bit upset; my plan had not gone the way I wanted. So I worked in aged care for a year and luckily was accepted into the Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Notre Dame the following year. I never thought I would be “smart enough” to become a doctor, so that was never on my radar. However, during my first year of working as a registered nurse, I felt I wanted to achieve more, so I sat the GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test) and passed. I then applied to study postgraduate medicine at the University of Notre Dame, and to my surprise, was accepted first time around! It was a long four years of the hardest study I’ve ever had to do, including spending many late nights and weekends at the library, but it paid off and I graduated with an MBBS in 2013. 

Since then I’ve spent most of my time working in obstetrics and last year completed my Advanced Diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. I’m now working as a GP registrar in Albany, WA, and am on call for obstetrics at the district hospital. The study is still not over though; next year boasts its own challenges as I will sit my College of General Practitioner exams to become a Fellow of the College. 

I’m quite proud of the fact that I’m writing this in between seeing patients at my GP practice in Albany. Thinking of the multiple hurdles it took to get here over the years, I managed to do it and looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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 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 study 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 if she does not get into her first choice that there are many pathways to get to their ultimate career destination. 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 for any form of assistance.

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

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