When you’re in high school, the ultimate goal is (most of the time) to get the best ATAR you can. Maybe you’ve chosen subjects based on your strengths, rather than what’s most enjoyable in order to boost your score. Or maybe you’ve enrolled in a particular course at uni simply because you achieved the ATAR needed to get in.
The truth is, there are so many alternative pathways to undergraduate study. Did you know that only one in four students are using their ATAR to get into tertiary education?
Re-examining the ATAR
The Mitchell Institute at Victoria University has recently launched a study into how important the ATAR really is. The Director of Mitchell Institute, Megan O’Connell, says the study is investigating whether the ATAR is actually hindering educational goals.
“The question parents, students and teachers should be asking today is, if ATAR doesn’t matter for three quarters of undergraduate admissions, why is it treated as the most important outcome of 13 years of schooling?” says Megan.
Higher doesn’t mean better
It’s a common myth that the higher the ATAR requirement for a course, the “better” it is. The reality? ATAR cutoffs for universities are based on supply and demand. Popular courses like medicine often have a high cutoff score because there are not enough places in the course for the amount of applicants.
Even if you didn’t receive a high enough score to get into your dream course, there are so many alternate pathways to get that qualification. You can complete a year of a similar degree and use your grades to transfer over to a different course. Or, do away with scores altogether and enrol in a Diploma or Bachelor at TAFE.
Alternate pathways gaining popularity
Enrolments in tertiary education have increased by 46% since 2007, however students are increasingly choosing alternate pathways to that study. If it’s no longer a relevant factor for the majority of students, maybe it’s time to rethink how we measure aptitude, says Megan.
“It is time to look across our education system, decide what we want it to deliver for young people, for communities and for our future economy, then consider what role, if any, the ATAR should play.”
Still not convinced?
Check out these successful STEM career professionals that took indirect pathways to their dream career.
Joanne started her career and education in teaching, but it’s taken her to working as a script supervisor on Playschool and now researching the effect of technology on children. Even though Joanne is no longer teaching, her study including a Bachelor of Education and a Diploma of Teaching from the Catholic Teachers College (now Australian Catholic University) has definitely served her well.
Weber wanted to get into medicine – not to work as a doctor, but to innovate the technologies available in medicine. To do that, he started out in science. He loved chemistry and physics, but knew he needed a background in biology to ground a career in medicine. Now he’s studying a Doctor of Medicine at the University of Sydney.
Anastasia wanted to become a vet once upon a time – but year 12 work experience showed that it wasn’t for her. Enrolling in a Bachelor of Science/Laws and then a Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Queensland has seen her become a new product introduction engineer at Cochlear.
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is the Digital Producer for Careers with STEM. Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.