ATAR scores have arrived, so what happens now and what if it’s not the result you wanted?
Thousands of year 12 students are starting to receive their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores.
So what happens now that you’ve got your results, and how can you cope if it’s not the number you expected?
Don’t let your ATAR determine your career
This goes for those of you who got the ATAR you wanted as much as those who didn’t.
Dr Ranjana Srivastava said a lot of students who receive top marks think they should study courses with high entrance scores, but when they actually start working in the field it isn’t what they expected.
She recommends learning as much as you can about your chosen career before investing years of study in it.
Ranjana Srivastava wrote a book to help students understand what it’s like to be a doctor. (ABC Radio Melbourne: Nicole Mills)
Dr Srivastava recently wrote a book called What It Takes To Be A Doctor to help prospective medical students learn more about career realities.
“Increasingly I have thought that there is a real mismatch of expectations between what we think a career in medicine is and what it ends up being,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne’s Ali Moore.
“I think there’s a lot of disillusionment in medicine and a lot of people who feel that they are stuck in a career because it takes 10 or 15 years to get there but they’re not satisfied.”
Once you make a commitment to a course like medicine it can be difficult to go back, Dr Srivastava said.
“I think there’s a lot of societal pressure, parental, self-induced pressure to say: ‘How could I give up this spot, how could I give up this career that is wanted by so many people?’
“I’m very lucky to have lasted and to have found that it is a career that suits me, but certainly even in my family and my friendship circle there are people who would have done things differently.”
There are other ways into university
Torrens University vice-chancellor Professor Justin Beilby said ATAR scores were not everything.
“The ATAR is going to have a use-by date in the next five or 10 years, but we don’t actually have something that’s any better at the moment,” he said.
“We have to have a look at this again and find another way to assess kids properly or broadly as they move forward into education after school.”
Professor Justin Beilby says the education sector is offering more micro-credentials. (ABC Radio Melbourne: Nicole Mills)
He said about 30 per cent of students found another pathway into their preferred university course.
If you’ve got your heart set on a particular course but your ATAR score wasn’t high enough to get straight in, he recommended working hard in a vocational training course, getting good grades and then applying to transfer to a uni degree.
“Choose wisely, don’t rush the decision,” he said.
It’s a message echoed by careers coach Leah Lambart, who works with school leavers and people who want to change careers.
“The key message is that there are pathways into nearly every degree,” she said.
“It may take you six months or 12 months longer, but if you start in a TAFE course or a diploma course and do well, then there’s no reason why you can’t transfer at a later point or go to a uni with a lower-ranked ATAR and then transfer across.
“As long as you work hard and prove yourself.”
You can always change careers. In fact, most people do
Professor Beilby said many people changed jobs up to seven times in their careers.
“The issue is just to explore, to look for options,” he said.
“You can do it at [age] 55. You can do it at 25.”
Ms Lambart is a great example of that.
Leah Lambart says if your career satisfies you 70 per cent of the time, you’re doing well. (ABC Radio Melbourne: Nicole Mills)
She left school with a good ATAR score but with no idea about what to do with her future.
“I went home and cried for two weeks because I didn’t know what to do with it,” she said.
“I ended up choosing accounting or commerce because I was good at maths.”
She spent four years as an accountant but was “not engaged in the work at all”.
“I was not using my strengths which was building relationships; instead I was overcoming weaknesses.”
Ms Lambart said some people took longer than others to find their pathway — but it’s not a race.
The important thing is to find the career that works best for you.
“I’ve also worked with many people who got fantastic ATARs but still have ended up changing careers because perhaps what they chose in the first place was not the best fit,” she said.
“I’ve had people who have gone to university who have said to me, ‘in hindsight I should have gone to TAFE and done a trade; that would have been a much better fit’.”
If you take a year off after school, make sure you spend your time productively. (stock.xchng: dynamix )
Should I take a gap year?
Ms Lambart said a year off could benefit some people as long as it was productive.
“I have had clients who’ve spent the year at home playing video games and that is not productive,” she said.
“I would use it to try little experiments, use it to get a taste of some things you might be interested in.
“Trying little things or volunteer work that will actually give you some clarity around whether you are actually interested in something.”
Professor Beilby said it was important to “find the story that suits you”.
“I think it’s about building your portfolio, building your experiences,” he said.
“Three of my sons have all had years off.
“For some students it’s the right thing to do, for others they’re already ready and they clearly have a passion in their area of interest.”
You don’t have to choose a career forever
Ms Lambart said there was too much pressure on school leavers to choose a career for the rest of their lives.
Instead, she recommended choosing something you would be happy to do for the next five or seven years.
“Hopefully that’s something that they enjoy, but if they get to the end of that period and they decide that it’s not something that they want to do forever, it’s so easy to go on and do some further study or a short course or a TAFE course and change direction and pivot.”
Think about the big picture
Many students get hung up on labels like law, medicine or engineering, but there’s more to a career than just a job title.
Dr Srivastava suggested thinking more about what your whole life would look like.
“The point of university is not simply to gain another degree, it’s to be whole and altruistic and community-minded,” she said.
“I think one of the problems young people who are finishing schools are confronted with is it almost seems like a unilateral decision: what course are you going to do, not what sort of human being are you going to become.
“As a society and as educators and as parents I think we need to bring it back to that.”
Dr Srivastava warned the rise of social media could make people feel inadequate sometimes, but it was important to remember it’s a carefully curated highlights reel that didn’t always show the day-to-day reality of work.
“I think there’s actually nothing wrong with having a job that pays the bills and keeps your life going and you don’t love it but there are other things that you do,” she said.
“A career is a part of your life but it’s not your whole life.”
Ms Lambart said people who felt fulfilled at work 70 per cent of the time were “doing pretty well”.
“I think it’s about finding work that energises you, finding work that plays to your strength,” she said.
Professor Beilby said if you had a passion for something you should find a career that matched.
“Find what you really love, that’s an important thing to do.”