Waiting for your ATAR or OP can be nerve-wracking. If you’re worried about your score or need help sorting through your options, let us put your mind at ease. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Your ATAR/OP is a rank, not a percentage
If you’re disappointed when you receive your ATAR, try to remember that you’re not looking at a percentage. An ATAR is a rank given in increments of 0.05 between 0.0 and 99.95, meaning that a score of 75 puts you in the top 25 per cent of your state. If you’re in Queensland, the OP is a rank between 1 and 25. An OP1 is the highest possible score, with OP25 the lowest. These ranks provide an easy method of comparison for institutions when selecting students for course entry.
2. You can still change your mind or adjust your preferences
Once scores are released, each state will run a series of change of preference periods. This gives you the opportunity to reassess your choices if you chose in a hurry, received an ATAR lower or higher than expected or have found a course or institution that’s more to your liking. Before changing your preferences, chat to your school career adviser or staff at institutions of interest to sort through your options. They will be able to give you the best advice about your next steps — whether it’s selecting some new courses, holding out until the first offer round or researching alternative pathways.
3. You can’t ‘waste’ your ATAR
Courses like law and medicine have tough entry requirements, so you’re wasting your high ATAR if you don’t study those, right? Wrong! Although a high ATAR opens up your opportunities, you shouldn’t choose a course simply because of its prestige if you can’t see yourself studying and working in the field. Aside from having to slave away for years in a degree you don’t love, you don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for a qualification you’ve got no desire to use in the workforce.
4. There are other ways to get into uni
When you’re at school, an ATAR or OP seems like the only way to get into uni. Luckily, that’s not the case. There are many different pathways into degrees, such as starting out in the VET sector or reapplying once you’ve gotten some work experience under your belt. Universities also offer a range of specialised tertiary preparation programs, some of which lead straight into second-year study.
5. It’s okay to take a gap year
Gap years haven’t got the best reputation, but they’re a great option if you want to take some time out before heading to uni. You might take a semester off to relax before starting your course or get stuck into full-time work then spend some time overseas. Alternatively, you could look into gap year programs, which allows you stay in touch with the uni during your break and even take on one or two subjects to get a headstart on your degree. Gap years are also a good opportunity to give back to your community or do some volunteering in developing countries.