This is a word that's traditionally tossed around a lot at this time
of year. And usually in an all-important, make-or-break context. But
what does it really mean?
First things first. ATAR is an acronym for Australian Tertiary
Admission Rank. It's a percentile score that positions your academic
performance on the completion of Year 12 in relation to your peers.
Or, to put it more bluntly, how well you did in the HSC compared to
everyone else that same year.
Two things that are important to bear in mind here…
One: You are not your ATAR. It is not a
measure of your intelligence, character, aptitude or potential.
Two: Your ATAR is a rank, not a
score. In other words, it's a relative measure, not
an absolute measure. Its meaning is only derived by a
comparison to others, not on its own merits. If your exact same
HSC performance was ranked within a different group of students
in a different year, you could easily end up with a completely
Now that we've demystified the 'hallowed' ATAR, it's easier to put it
into its proper context.
The ATAR shouldn't be considered the be-all-and-end-all of your
career dreams. Not only is this "all-or-nothing" mentality
pretty misguided, but it creates unnecessary pressure, mostly for yourself.
If you did your best in the HSC and the numbers don't give you
instant entry to university you have options with TAFE NSW. Many of
TAFE's most popular courses have no entry requirements. Try starting
with a Certificate or Diploma in your chosen career area. There are
two major benefits of this "try before you buy" approach.
Firstly, it'll give you an opportunity to trial the sector with some
practical training. People are often surprised to learn that the
career area they had their hearts set on wasn't what it was cracked up
to be. This will also give you Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for
your future studies.
Secondly, and more importantly, you may discover that your TAFE
course leads you to a completely different job (or career path) that
you hadn't even thought of before.
Your HSC exams and the resulting ATAR are really just the first step
on what will probably be a lifelong journey of study and achievements.
Or, as Kerrin McCormack, career counsellor for TAFE's South Western
Sydney Institute, puts it; "There's more to life than getting a
single result and getting into one course. There are many ways to get
to the same goal."
Your ATAR is just one of them.