Didn’t get the ATAR you were hoping for? Have we got news for you!

Despite how this time of your life makes you feel, a number can’t define you. At least, it doesn’t have to, if you don’t let it.

Repeat after me: ‘I am not my ATAR’.

Think about it. You’re told that this little number that you’re working towards is supposed to set you up for the rest of your life. That’s a lot of pressure.

So, what happens if you don’t get the ATAR you were hoping for?

If you’re disappointed by your ATAR, whether you worked your butt off or not, don’t freak out. Believe it or not, you’ve still got options.

Option 1: Use TAFE as a stepping stone into a bachelor degree

If you’ve got a relatively clear idea of what degree you want to study, but didn’t get the ATAR you need to meet the minimum requirements, it’s not over for you.

No matter what industry you’d like to get into, chances are, there’s a TAFE course for that.

Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘sure, but a TAFE course ain’t gonna get me to become a shwanky lawyer'. No, but an Advanced Diploma of Legal Practice will give you the knowledge, the confidence and the credits for a head start into a bachelor degree that will. There are so many more TAFE pathways just like that.

If you’re after a more general and supportive way to get your uni plans back on track, Foundations at VU is a 13-week tuition-exempt course (yes, that means free!), that offers pathways into a wide range of degrees and diplomas.

Option 2: Find a degree with no ATAR required

You could change your preference to another course that’s related and relevant to your dream course, with different entry requirements. In some cases, you can then apply to change into the course you had your heart set on.

Did you know you can start your studies in Block 3 or mid year – and even accelerate your studies? So, you’ll have plenty of time to make a decision, then kick-start your career sooner.

Levi Brookes followed a pathway into his Bachelor of Laws, via a related degree that didn't require an ATAR.

Option 3: Take a study gap

Sure, you could spend a break after school doing your best sloth impersonation or travelling. Or, you could spend it getting work experience.

If you’re not sure what you want to do, this could be the perfect way to figure it out. Start by asking your school career practitioner, your teachers, or your parents. We’ve got some great job interview tips for you too.

Work experience will give you the chance to:

  1. learn by working in the industry
  2. make connections with people in the industry (again, invaluable)
  3. gain experience in the industry before you’ve even started your degree
  4. show universities and future employers that you’re eager and willing to work for what you want.

When you take some time off, it can help you put things in perspective. These days, most universities offer live chat to answer any of your questions. Which, let’s face it, is a whole lot easier and quicker than calling. So use them whenever you’ve got a question, no matter how big or small, they’ll be able to help.

Defying the ATAR odds – meet Wesley Clarke

Wesley Clarke is the kind of guy that doesn’t let anything get in his way. When he wants something, he works hard for it. Today, Wes works at Melbourne Victory Football Club as a Sport Scientist. But his journey into that position wasn’t as linear as you may think.

I finished my VCE aiming to go on and do a degree in teaching PE. But I didn’t get the ATAR I was hoping for. To tell you the truth, I just enjoyed the last year of school with my mates.

Coming from Wodonga, a country town on the border of Victoria and NSW, it wasn’t easy for Wes to go to uni. He had to work hard just to move to Melbourne.

I worked for a few years as a labourer to save money so I could move to Melbourne. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you’ve just got to work hard and hope it all pays off.

Once I moved to Melbourne, I got personal training qualifications and worked in the field for a year. That’s how I got interested in sport science. I wanted to learn more about how humans move. So, I applied for a Bachelor of Sport Science at VU. I think they saw that I was obviously interested in physical activity, given my time as a PT.

Although Wes found himself without the ATAR he needed, living half a day’s drive from Melbourne, he didn’t stop working towards what he wanted. Hard work is in Wes’s nature.

I knew I had to make the most of my time at VU and learn as much as possible. In my second year, I applied for a sport science cadetship, which I was lucky enough to get. I’m in the position I am today because of that hard work, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

Want to know more?

Stop Googling “how to tell my friends about my dodgy ATAR” and make a plan instead. Once you’ve got a plan that excites you, it’ll feel so much greater than someone’s high ATAR.

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