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What happens if I don't get my goal ATAR?

By Lauren Condon on 23 April 2017NSWblogATAR

As Term 2 creeps closer, the results from your mid-years will start to roll in. This means it’s the perfect time to address your burning question: What happens when if you don’t get the ATAR you need?

Jokes! We’re sure you all did great in your exams and if not then hey, at least you know where you really need to ramp up the intensity. Luckily, you also have plenty of time before the HSC exams to get back on track.

But let’s take a break from study tips and use this last weekend of holidays to help you realise that whatever happens this year, you can get where you want to go in life. #deep

So what do you want to do after school?

Seriously, you might not know exactly what you want to do but the question will be on your mind. As in, every single one of your parent's friends will be asking you.

First things first, there are options that don’t involve an ATAR such as apprenticeships so if that’s your goal, kudos on having your life sorted and you can tap out of this post right now!

For everyone else, you might have your heart set on a certain degree, certain career and certain university. ATAR cut offs are the barriers to getting into each course but if you're worried about making the cut, don't stress! You have plenty of options and here are the big ones:

1. Postgraduate study

If you are entirely set on becoming a doctor but are worried you won’t get the ATAR, well the undergraduate medicine degree isn’t the only way to a career as a doctor. It’s the same with other industries like law or even forensic science (if you’re addicted to all the crime documentaries on netflix right now).

You can always pick a more general undergraduate degree with a slightly lower ATAR cut off (like a Bachelor of Science), finish the degree and then apply for a more specialised postgraduate course (like a Doctor of Medicine).

2. Special entry access schemes

Although most universities look at your ATAR first, they all have a whole range of different schemes to help you get into uni without meeting the ATAR cut offs. You can check out some of the schemes for Sydney University here or some options from UWS here just to give you an idea of what’s available.

If you're really into journalism, photography or really, anything where you can build a portfolio of your work, then you're in luck. There are some degrees that will accept a portfolio of your work with your application and you could be considered even if you're not quite hitting that ATAR cut off.

3. Transfers

This is a super popular option and pretty much plan A for a lot of people. If you desperately want to do Combined Law at Sydney Uni but know that 99.70 is hilariously out of your reach, you could always go apply for a different degree at Sydney Uni like a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Commerce etc.

Then, if you have a decent enough ATAR and you get good marks in first year of uni, you can apply to transfer across to Combined Law and they’ll catch you up so you go straight into second year. Boom.

The main thing to remember is to look up the requirements for transferring to make sure you start in the right uni, right course and are gunning for the right grades in your first year.

4. TAFE Courses

If you are aiming for a TAFE course, awesome. Take a second to look at the requirements to get into your dream course - they tend to be a bit more flexible than universities so you should be sweet.

If you don’t get into the uni degree you want, you can always find a TAFE course that gives you a similar qualification OR in most cases, your TAFE diploma can give you a straight pathway into studying your dream degree. Win.

NSWTAFE offers a TPC that basically works like an ATAR for getting into a uni and some universities even have their own diploma programs that make it super easy to move into a degree. Check out UTS:INSEARCH as an example if that sounds like it might be a solid option for you.


If you're after some really specific advice for your dream career, you can always just hit up the uni, tafe or your school to find out more.

The main thing to remember is, right now, you really should just be going for your best possible ATAR by learning some smart study tips and nailing the content and application.

And honestly, if things don’t go as planned or maybe if school just isn’t the place where you can reach your full potential, it doesn't hurt to know you have a tonne of options. Take the time to check them out, it will ease the stress of worrying about next year and you can just focus on smashing this year!

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