Karen Lomas
December 13, 2013

Are you ready for your ATAR?

On Monday 16th December secondary school students around Victoria, Australia will receive their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) results and ATAR Score. If you happen to be reading this blog in other part of the world, you will be wondering what this is all about. Clearly it is something to do with an important qualification, but when does this happen, and what is an ATAR?

VCEs are the Victorian state equivalent of a High School Graduation Diploma, in the USA, and A’Levels, in England. The other states of Australia have their own versions. There are a

English: Location of Victoria on Australia.English: Location of Victoria on Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

number of other learning pathways at this level, including school-based apprenticeships, and technical college courses,

however at this time of year a significant number of column inches are dedicated to the VCEs and ATARs. I have first hand experience

of this “day of reckoning”, as two years ago my own daughter, with significant dampness of the palms (yes, of cheeks too) and shaking of limbs, waited for the text message that would, you know, CHANGE HER LIFE FOREVER!!

I will spare you the fine detail of how the VCE results translate into an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), suffice to say that you receive individual subject scores and then, for the purposes of gaining a tertiary (University/College) place in your dream course, some

Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre logoVictorian Tertiary Admissions Centre logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

very powerful and important body, computer, robot, blender spits out a number that will tell you which, from a list of courses you applied for, is within your reach. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Or is it?

So wind back 24 months to my daughter’s VCE Results and ATAR Service opening date, and time. It begins at 7am, but for her it was a full 1 hour and 20 minutes before her mobile phone PING-ed. It was not the score she needed, and so the tissues were in high demand. The poor love thought that she would be branded that less-than-desired number for the rest of her days. Maybe this was going to haunt her.

Finally, with a little shudder she asked what she should do. To which I replied; “Well, you could change your preferences”. A quick detour is needed here to explain that you must list your preferred courses (between one and twelve) with your favourite course in, to borrow from Formula One racing jargon, pole position. You will be offered one course only for the highest course listed for which you are eligible. So as needs dictated my daughter had to drop her first choice and put her second one at the top of the list. The change of preferences process is quick and simple via the VTAC website. My daughter had a good enough score to be accepted for this choice of subject, and she was duly offered a place.

Fast forward 2 years and she has been on the Gap Year (almost obligatory for Australians, either just before university, or upon completion, or mid-course, or whenever you like really), and she has completed her first year in a course that has suited her perfectly. She is a font of knowledge, experienced in so many things that recently her younger sister (17 years old), with due deference humbly asked, “Oi, what ATAR did you get?”. Big sister replies, with feigned indifference;  “Dunno, forgot! You be ‘right (spoken in true Aussie slang). After that, October Fest is a must!”

If you are dreading Monday, or the date at some other time in the year when significant academic results are due, just remember that there are so many options for career pathways, not a single one. The most you can do is the best you can do in your studies, and when the phone PINGs/BuzZes/vibrates off-the-side-of-the-sofa, the number does not define you and will not determine your future path. Only your commitment and determination can do that.

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