Didn’t Get A High Enough ATAR? Here Are Your Options
Every year Australian students around the country get their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, or ATAR scores.
The ATAR is met with one of two reactions. The first is overwhelming joy and relief as the student realises they’ve achieved the necessary entry requirements to study where they wanted to. The second is not so positive. However, even if you received a lower ATAR than you had hoped for, the good news is there are still plenty of options for you after high school. Whilst your path into your dream course may not be the most conventional, with a bit of flexibility and creativity, your low ATAR is not the end of the world.
In fact, fewer and fewer students are getting admitted into their chosen course based purely on the ATAR cut-off specifications listed on university admissions centres. The Mitchell Institute, a Victorian think tank, reported that in 2018, “131,555 people did not go through the typical ATAR application process, up 9.1 per cent since 2016.”
1. Alternative Entry Requirements
Universities from all across Australia including in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane are increasingly looking towards alternative measures to rank school leavers. These include portfolios, interviews, aptitude tests specific to the university course, as well as comprehensive bonus point schemes designed to help first-year students find their ideal career path. Student interviews for in-demand courses such as graduate medicine have long been accepted as a crucial part of the application and acceptance process, as it allows universities to fully understand the knowledge and background of the applicant.
2. Special Entry Access Schemes
Another alternative to undergraduate university admission is through special entry access schemes such as The University of Melbourne’s “Access Melbourne” scheme. This assists students who are applying for an undergraduate degree but have suffered from financial hardship, or who are not typical school leavers such as mature aged students. This scheme is one of many that can be found throughout universities in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT, and beyond. Tertiary institutions are recognising more and more that cut-off scores don’t always tell the full story, and there is often more to a prospective student’s ability than their ATAR score.
3. Switching Courses
Switching courses is another opportunity that many students take advantage of. If they do not make it into their preferred university degree, they are able to take their first year academic performance and use that as a basis to move into a related degree or one of many pathway courses offered at their chosen university. Often good academic performance in the first year can land students a place in the second year of a related degree – one that they were after all along. For example, if a student was unable to achieve the required ATAR cut-off for a Bachelor of Marketing at RMIT University, they could apply through VTAC (the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre) to the university’s Bachelor of International Business. Then, after completing the first year of the course, the university will accept applications based on the applicant’s previous year of academic performance and assess if they can be moved into a similar course – in this case, the Bachelor of Marketing.
4. Private Institutions
Smaller institutions and private colleges have also been on the rise in recent years. Whilst private universities such as Bond University might not be as established as the University of Sydney or Deakin University, this can work to the advantage of a prospective student. Many Bachelor degrees can be achieved at smaller institutions or private colleges with smaller class sizes and greater flexibility often possible.
5. TAFE Courses
Finally, TAFE is a great alternative to tertiary study. A TAFE course can provide you with further practical knowledge in your chosen field. There are plenty of reasons why TAFE is better than university for career success, including higher employment rates and graduate salaries. Graduates of TAFE courses often have higher starting graduate salaries than those of university courses, and often can complete their courses in a much shorter time.
For example, according to Ben Phillips, “six months after completing a Certificate IV, those who find full-time employment earn an average of $63,000”. This is in contrast to “$52,450 for under-25 graduates with bachelor’s degrees”.
Whether you achieved a lower ATAR than you wanted, or you have set your sights on an even more ambitious university course, there are options out there for everyone.
Special entry access schemes, prior academic performance in the first year of your tertiary course, pathway courses, or additional entry requirements such as student interviews and portfolios are making it easier than ever for you to gain entry into your dream course.
Don’t let your ATAR define your future.
Get out there, and start looking for ways to make your dream your reality!