Why you are more than your ATAR

Year 13 Podcast recording
Year 13 Podcast recording

Chris Hall (Tedx speaker and business coach) chaired a panel, which featured Scott McKeon (UTS Startups Entrepreneur), Will Stubley (CEO of Year13.com.au, Australia’s largest digital platform for high-school leavers), Andrew Akib (Co-founder of Maslow.io), and Cherese Taylor (recent UTS Communications graduate now working in PR).

The wide-ranging conversation covered the pressure associated with attaining a specific ATAR. ‘If we’re not defined by our ATAR, what are we defined by?’ asked Chris Hall. ‘There’s so much pressure, when many of us don’t know what we want to do at 18.’

Successful entrepreneur Scott agreed. ‘I still don’t know what I want to do. The thing is to choose something for right now, building as you go. It takes time,’ he said.

Andrew recalled getting a higher ATAR than he was expecting, which led to pressure from others to choose a course with the highest possible ATAR he could get into. Instead, he chose to spend a year pursuing his interests in music and the arts. ‘I let life unfold for itself, he said. ‘That’s how the right opportunities started coming towards me.’

Cherese, who graduated from UTS Insearch with a Diploma of Communication before completing Bachelor of Communications degree at UTS, explored many paths before finding her way into a career in public relations. They included forays into nursing, music, and the hospitality industry. ‘Adaptability is my motto,’ she said. Chris saw grit in her story, describing it in terms of having the courage to discover and be ready to make change.

Scott suggested that being uncertain can be a strength, with the university journey being an opportunity to discover what you like and what you’re good at, while also learning what you don’t want.

In his time at the helm of Year 13, Will Stubley has seen many young people looking to find their way after the HSC. ‘It’s the first year of the rest of your life, he said. ‘It can be whatever you make of it. Irrespective of your ATAR, it’s important to know what motivates you. Understand that there are multiple pathways that can fit exactly what you want.’

The panel also explored the importance of purpose, and the importance of knowing why you’ve made a particular choice. ‘If you can’t answer ‘why’ you’ve chosen something, you might struggle,’ said Andrew.<

Values were another key factor. Chris asked the panel, ‘If you’re not defined by your ATAR, what are you defined by?’ This introduced a discussion of the importance of guiding principles. ‘Your underlying values will guide you,’ said Andrew. ‘Surround yourself with an environment that lifts you up.’ Cherese added, ‘Don’t separate your personal values from your work. Live your ethos.’

The panel represented a variety of career and life trajectories, but a common factor seemed to be the lack of a linear path. Scott summed it up by saying, ‘The odds that you’ll stay with your first option forever are pretty low. This time of your life is about exploring and discovering – finding the sweet spot your skills are most suited for. That takes time.’

Will added, ‘For anyone who’s stressing about their ATAR, don’t. Because you don’t know where it’s going to lead. It’s so much more important to find what you want to do. Relax, and know that it’s going to be okay.’

Listen to podcast of the panel's discussion now