The ATAR needs to be seen in context

Tim Laurence, Dean of Studies, UTS Insearch
Tim Laurence, Dean of Studies, UTS Insearch

More than 55 percent of senior high school students questioned in a recent survey claimed to be aiming for an ATAR of 90 or more. This is despite the fact that more than half the students participating in the survey considered at ATAR over 90 to be ‘impossible’. The Australia-wide survey, reported in The Conversation, also revealed that 57% of participants rated the attainment of a certain ATAR as ‘extremely important’.

When students place unrealistic pressure on themselves, the whole of Year 12 and the period before their ATARs are released can be a very anxious time. At UTS Insearch, not only do we talk to students daily who are transitioning from high school to tertiary education, many of my teaching colleagues here have also helped their own children negotiate the challenges of the HSC and the transition to university. We see first-hand how often stressed students can take an ‘all or nothing’ view, imagining that if their ATAR is lower than expected, they will be permanently locked out of their preferred course and career.

If, as an educator, I could share one piece of advice with HSC students, it would be that even if their ATAR doesn’t meet expectations, not to lose sight of their goal in terms of study and career. In this context, the ATAR is the start of the journey, not the end.

The system is more flexible than many students and parents think. Indeed, it often surprises people to learn that just one in four undergraduates is currently admitted to an Australian university purely based on their ATAR. If university is the goal, a determined student can still get there, even if they take detours along the way. There are always other ways into their chosen university course. Certainly, pathway options like UTS Insearch have enabled many thousands of students to enter their preferred university courses and pursue the careers they want.

Read the full article at Education Review.