My ATAR sucks… Now what?

My ATAR sucks… Now what?


This time of the year ALWAYS brings back a familiar kind of suffocating panic for me.

It’s crazy, that all these years the memory is still brightly painted in my psyche. I’m of course referring  to the morning when I received my final VCE results – or ENTER score as it was referred to not too long ago.

It was painted as “THE” Public Relations Degree that all discerning PR professionals took.

To me, my PR future depended on my successful appointment to RMIT University.

I dreamed about walking through the halls, sitting in grand lecture theatres, hanging out with other PR babes in the library. I was that girl who interned for the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge, and the Melbourne Fashion Festival while in high school. I was a girl who dreamed of running events for brands like Quiksilver, and writing speeches for movie premieres. There was NO way that I wasn’t going to that University.

Well, the day came. I opened my letter in the mail and…

I Died.

Not only did I not get the required score to get into my first preference, I actually didn’t even get high enough to get into my second preference. WTF? GULP! Without any other preferences listed I did what any other girl would do.




I cried to my parents, who didn’t really understand. I didn’t want to confess my situation to my friends or teachers because, after all, I was a School Captain, and ALL school captains are smart… right?  

I kind of felt that the world assumed that I would nail my exams. Confused, and panicked I called my ex boyfriend, who was a year older than me, and it was Luke that told me the best advice ever. 

Luke educated me on another way.  He reminded me that I could change my preferences, (a point that I didn’t pay attention to in class). He introduced me to a backdoor entrance that would still allow me to study my dream course.

I enrolled as an Arts student, which required a lower ENTER score, and I selected all of the required PR subjects that were listed in the PR Degree syllabus. So, in fact I was in the same classes as the girls and guys that received their first preference.

I purchased the same books as those students, I went to O-Week and mingled with those students, and two weeks into my degree, I went to the administration’s office and transferred over to the legitimate Bachelor of Communications (Public Relations) and majoring in Journalism.

Here is a fun fact for you: Once you start University, TAFE, or even college… NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR SCORE! I haven’t been asked about my ENTER score since that day.

The release of ATAR scores always is met with a flurry of mixed emotions. it can be so easy to believe that not getting into your first preference will ruin your life.

Everywhere around you, people are bragging about their scores, talking them up – which to me is flipping fantastic. I love hearing people talk about their successes. But, to me, all those years ago, I thought my dream was over. Despite being a positive person, I was surprised how easy it was for me to think that my life was over before it had begun. If you are sitting here right now reading this, and feeling the same way then STOP, because babe, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

Believe it or not. This is for a wide variety of reasons — from not getting in, to actually realising that they want a break after school, to simply realising that they do not want to study that subject after all. I attended my third-choice, had a wonderful experience, and learned that sometimes, our expectations about what life is like after school has nothing to do with reality.

So, what should you do if you didn’t get your expected score?

Visit University Change of Preference Days

Most universities have these info packed days where students can chat to teachers, course administrators and students about their scores, their dreams and get first hand advice on available options. I cannot recommend these enough. Some amazing Victorian Universities offering these days include:

La Trobe University

RMIT University

Monash University

Deakin University

Click the links above for more info. 

Discuss Alternate Pathways

If you are one of those lucky babes that have received your perfect ATAR, then congratulations, this ensures that you get a direct entrance to your university course. If you haven’t, don’t flip out, you really need to understand that there are alternate pathways. Like me, you can enrol in a more general course, such as a Bachelor of Arts, or a Bachelor of Science and then transfer into the original course at a later date. Please talk with your University course adviser and career counsellors for valuable assistance.

Consider another Institution?

Universities are NOT your only option for further study. In Australia we are incredibly fortunate to have access to many other educational institutions. I have many friends that decided to go to TAFE, and preferred the more practical training that TAFEs provide. TAFE and Colleges still get you to the same destination as University, so always remember that.

Another great place to  get info are institutions like Billy Blue Change of preference days. Where you can talk to their expert Course & Career Advisers about all your university course options including Diploma – Bachelor pathways. 

If you have any other questions, or would like more assistance at this time of the year PLEASE don’t hesitate to reach out to The Cool Career team through our online form HERE!

Remember that we also have some amazing interviews from girls that have recently finished Year 12. Read their stories here, and see their successes. These stories will give you incredible insight to life after high school, no matter if you decide to take a year off and travel the world, head straight into Uni, or study a Tafe course. 

These girls are superhuman, read their stories and be inspired. 

Remember that above all else, that you still have time to change your preferences. I did and it set me off on a trajectory that I never thought was possible. You can do it. 

Good Luck. 

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