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Top five ATAR questions answered

Top five ATAR questions answered

If you finished Year 12 this year, there’s no doubt that ATARs and OPs are on your mind. But what do you do if you didn’t get the score you expected? To ease your worries, we’ve answered some of the most common questions school leavers have at this time of the year.

1. What can I do if my ATAR is too low?

Do not despair if your score is lower than you expected. The most important thing to remember is that your ATAR/OP is just a number — it won’t matter once you’re studying or out in the workforce. You should also keep in mind that cut-off scores (the minimum scores required for course entry) vary between courses and institutions. While there are some fields that are always going to demand near-perfect scores, many others have a wider range of cut-offs (business, communications and psychology are all good examples). This means that if your ATAR is too low for your dream course, it might still grant you entry into an institution with lower demand that offers a very similar course, or allow you to take a slightly different route to your end goal. You can now filter all the university courses listed on our website by entering in your ATAR or OP score to see which courses you're eligible for. Start your ATAR search here.

2. What if I can’t get into uni?

These days, going to uni doesn’t necessarily mean ‘going to uni’. Bachelor degrees are also available at private colleges and an increasing number of TAFE institutes, which are usually much more accessible. At some providers, cut-off scores are either very low or not used at all. In addition, these providers tend to provide a more hands-on education than universities, which makes them the preferred choice for many students. You will also find private colleges that specialise in fields such as business, fashion and hospitality. If you have your heart set on studying at a university, look out for partnerships with local TAFE institutes — you might be able to step into second-year uni with full credit after a year in the VET sector. Move onto the next question for more information about pathways.

3. What are pathways?

A pathway is an alternative route taken to your first-choice course or institution. This might involve starting out with a lower-level qualification, using pre-tertiary courses such as foundation or bridging studies, or enrolling into a similar course at another institution with the intention of transferring. To transfer, you generally need to complete one year of full-time study and maintain a certain academic average. Be sure to enquire about Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) when chatting to course advisers. Another option is to enter your specialisation at postgraduate level once you’ve completed a bachelor degree. This may include studying arts before law, design before architecture or health science before medicine. See Pathways into your course for more information.

4. Should I change my preferences?

The change of preference period allows students to adjust their uni preferences before offers are made, usually based on their ATAR/OP or because they’ve had a change of heart. Our advice is to put in new preferences only if you need to, not just because you can. Even if you blitzed your exams and came out with an ATAR much higher than you expected, there’s no use changing your preferences if your dream course is already at the top of your list. If your ATAR is only slightly lower than the previous year’s cut-off, it may be best to leave your preference list as it is. You may still receive a course offer, as cut-offs fluctuate depending on demand. Check Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC) websites for key dates. If you’re trying to choose between institutions during the change of preference period, check out our University ratings to compare your options side by side.

5. Am I eligible for special entry schemes?

Before you panic about your ATAR, be sure to check whether you will be eligible for bonus points or special entry schemes. These schemes are typically targeted at students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander students, those from rural or regional areas, or those who have experienced educational disadvantage (such as attending a school with low tertiary participation). If you are eligible, an entry scheme could mean entering your course with a lower ATAR or being able to access scholarships. Check university and TAC websites to see what’s available. Universities may also grant extra points to students who perform well in subjects that are relevant to their course (humanities for an arts course, for example). See School leaver entry requirements for more information.

Further information
Institutions run change of preference information days for school leavers who need advice about their options, so you should check their websites for details. Your school career adviser is another invaluable resource. If you can, try to book an appointment to have a chat about your next step.

Useful links:

A A practical guide to university preferences
Accepting Accepting your tertiary offer
ATAR ATAR Q&A: What next?