I’m Proof That You Can Still Have A Great Uni Career With A Low ATAR

"Three months into my higher education career I was getting HDs."

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

I had some difficult VCE years but hey, don’t most students?

On the morning of the release of my ATAR results I was a walking, talking mess. A bundle of nerves, I looked at my results with my eyes half closed, and then sighed, closed my laptop and raged before calling my parents with the bad news.

I got a really bad ATAR. I’m too wimpy to publicise it, but it was low. I felt hopeless. What do I do now?

I received two offers, and took a conditional offer into a college tied to a university. If I could get a 50 grade point average (or WAM) in one year, I would get a conditional offer into the second year of my bachelor degree in Journalism.

Was it the university of my choice, the one my heart was set on? Not even close. But I felt I needed to take whatever scraps were offered to me.

The drawback of these colleges is that they come with a hefty price tag of about $30K for one year. (Yes, you read that right.) I truly felt it was my only choice.

No one ever communicated the other options to me. I let my panic and fear make a decision for me. As such, I felt dread about it all through my diploma and into the second year of my bachelor degree.

I’m here to tell you, even if you choose the wrong degree, your low ATAR and bad decisions during VCE (or whatever you call your final exams) will not follow you for the rest of your life.

So, What’s It Like Attending A College?  

Attending a college was an interesting experience for me. Our teachers told us it was exactly like the first year of our real Bachelor degrees. Just more expensive.

But it wasn’t. It is more hands on; smaller classes, more help from the lecturers.

When my first year of the college was done I so wasn’t prepared to transfer over to the uni. Nothing about the system across campus made sense to me, and no one explained it well.

But do I regret my time at the college? No. I truly think if you need more assistance after your VCE years, then colleges are a good option.

I definitely think my time at the college gave me more time to find my confidence in higher education. When you’re greeted with a low ATAR result, it can feel completely shattering. But three months into my higher education career I was getting HDs.

Colleges might sometimes fail at preparing students for the differences in admin set up from one campus to the other, but they excel at helping students find their groove.

In The Real World ATAR Means Nothing

I feel like teachers in high school would tell me that ATAR was the most important thing I would ever do. As if you are somehow a lesser being if you get a low ATAR, or don’t go to university. It’s not true.

After about three or four weeks into my diploma no one ever asked me about my ATAR again. When I applied for positions and internships no one asked me what my ATAR was.

When I completed assignments, professors judged me on my skills, not on an arbitrary number from high school.

In university there is also less of emphasis placed on completing with high grades and finishing uni in a small amount of time.

You can take a year or semester off, change your course five times, fail a ton of classes and still end up with a degree. There is an understanding that in uni, sometimes life just throws a spanner in your direction.

But when it comes to VCE we put unnecessary pressure on youth at such a young age to know what they want to do with their lives, to meet this important number bracket, and that its the only way to succeed.

Don’t fall into that trap. Don’t let your ATAR make your university decisions for you.

Rain Tiligadis is a journalism student at Deakin University. She resides in Melbourne, can debate politics for hours, and has a small Starbucks obsession.

(Lead image: Legally Blonde/Type A Films)