If you’re keen on uni, the disappointment of receiving a lower than expected ATAR can be painful. Then there’s the overwhelming sense of confusion as you’re left wondering well, what now?

You’ve spent 13 years slogging through school and now you may feel like you’ll never study the course you had your heart set on because of your ATAR.

It’s gut wrenching and I know exactly how you feel. After I received my ATAR I knew I wasn’t going to make the cut off for the course I wanted.

People told me to wait for second round offers, to count up my bonus points and to not get disheartened but I knew that no matter how hard I wanted my ATAR to be just a little bit higher, it wasn’t going to magically jump up and land me in my dream course.

Looking back now I’ll never know if I had crammed just a little bit more the night before my English exam if I’d be sitting in a uni lecture right now. I’ll never know if one extra practice exam was the difference between knowing the last answer in my Bio exam or if I’d just read over my essay one more time, I’d be able to come up with English techniques that would have nudged my ATAR up.

But one thing I do know is that not getting into my dream course didn’t mean the end of the world and ditching uni altogether didn’t mean I was a failure.

There is a world of opportunities out there. For some of you it might mean looking for the back door into uni, sussing out pathway programs and diplomas until you’re sitting in front of a lecturer.

For others, it might be looking at a job that you’ve never considered before or exploring a career you didn’t think existed.

And for some, it might mean taking a break from work and study completely, packing your bags and going on a trip while you figure out what the fuck your options are now.

Whatever you decide, trust me when I say that things will work out. Not getting into your uni course sucks but now is your chance to find a new opportunity. We don’t often get chances like this to completely re-write the script of our lives so take it and make the most of it.


1. Pathway programs

These programs are developed by universities to prepare aspiring students and the degree they’re about to enter.

Most universities have pathway programs, they just have a heap of different names depending on what uni you’re looking at.

Pathway programs are a pretty streamlined way to start studying; say you want to study a Bachelor of Journalism but you miss out on an offer because of your ATAR. Through a pathway program, you can enrol in a Diploma that’s similar where you start to learn the basics of your course.

Once you’ve completed the Diploma and got the required grade, you can fast track into the second year of the Bachelor of Journalism.

It’s pretty neat, right? Remember that all universities are different so do some research and find the best one for you.

2. Non ATAR courses

There are loads of study options that don’t actually require an ATAR. Things like short courses or vocational qualifications don’t care about your ATAR and a heap of creative courses will accept portfolio entry.

Not to mention that there are a lot more opportunities for internships, work experience and more practical, real-world experience.

These diplomas and degrees are nationally recognised qualifications, just like a degree from uni but are often cheaper and faster to finish so they’re definitely worth your time.


3. Consider different jobs

I know that you probably had your heart set on a profession that required a specific degree but you might like some similar professions or even whacky careers that you had no idea existed.

What about a festival planner? If you’re a music fanatic and like having a reaaaal good time in the middle of a paddock every weekend in summer, then planning festivals is the job for you. Think of all the job perks.

What about a tour guide? Tour companies are always on the look out for people to manage tours and the lust for travelling is growing so there will always be a business for it. All you need is itchy feet, energy, people management skills and excellent timing.

The rise of Instagram and Facebook means there are a tonne of social media based jobs out there which you’ve already got the skills for down pat. Every business is looking for someone to help them out with their socials and what better excuse to be on your phone all day?

My point is that jobs and careers are constantly evolving. You shouldn’t limit yourself to a traditional line of work that you dreamt of in primary school before you even realised what was out there. There’s a bunch of exciting jobs to explore and skills to learn.

4. Take a gap year

Not getting into uni may be the sign you need to get out there and explore the open world.

We occupy such a small part of this world and getting out there, trying new things and experiencing different cultures is truly life changing.

Uni isn’t going anywhere, so live a lil’. Book a plane ticket, hire a van or load up the back of your car. Go on a little road trip, camp somewhere close to home and explore your own backyard. Build your confidence until you can branch out into the big, wide world or dive headfirst into a country you’ve never thought to explore.

It can be rough when you don’t get into your dream course. It can feel like you’ve let yourself down, that your family are disappointed in you and that your entire career pathway has been thrown off track.

But this is not the end of the world. In fact, I’d say it’s just the beginning, so get out there and enjoy it.