Final exams are wrapping up, which means school leavers everywhere are now stuck in this cruel, collective waiting game. While the newfound freedom of life sans school is incredible, every day spent at the beach and every drink sipped on at a house party is tainted with the knowledge that ATAR release day is looming on the horizon, like a blind pimple that’s about to erupt dramatically on the surface of your forehead.

This dreadful waiting can be even worse if you’re aiming for a high ATAR or OP and a high cut-off course. And sure, if you manage to get the marks to get into something like law, medicine or engineering – then props for you, you’ve done a fantastic job. But before you go accepting any offers and committing the next five years of your life to hardcore studying, we want you to stop and do some soul searching – is this course really what you want to be doing?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the courses with the highest ATAR cut-offs must be the best ones and the ones you should be pursuing. If you’re academic, then it’s likely you’ve been told by teachers and peers that you should be aiming for the prestigious courses, but is it really where your passions lie? It’s a lot of time (and money) to commit to something if you’re only half-hearted about it.

Basically, just because you get a high ATAR, doesn’t mean you have to use it. There’s plenty of amazing and quality courses out there that might be way more suited to your skills and interests.

For example, if you are keen on helping people in the health industry and you get a high mark, you don’t have to go into medicine for the sake of it. There are some awesome options for you in nursing, including the chance to fast track a bachelor’s degree and finish in just 2 years in Sydney or Hobart.

If you’re interested in crime, then law isn’t your only option. In fact, there’s more chance you’re going to enjoy an arts degree specialising in criminology and sociology or justice studies than law. And if you’re more interested in the making of laws and policies, you might want to try arts majoring in international relations or politics and policy, or combine a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Law together to get a feel for both sides.

A Bachelor of Arts is a great degree for choosing your own adventure and focussing on what you are really interested in, but it’s also one of the most problematic degrees for the high achievers. There’s a long-standing stereotype that arts is for people who didn’t reach their cut-off scores or don’t know what they’re doing, but this could not be further from the truth. People often feel pressured out of doing an arts degree, but there are so many amazing and more specialised courses the faculty offers, everything from fine arts and music to legal studies, media and social science.

Getting a good ATAR is awesome and can open a whole host of doors for you, but it can also close some too, if you let it. Just make sure you’re not getting bundled down one path before you’ve had a good chance to evaluate your other options. Stay openminded and stay passionate, ‘cause in the end university is going to be a thousand times more enjoyable if you’re studying something you truly care about and not simply doing it because you think you should.

If you want to check out some alternatives to high cut-off courses, have a gander at the University of Tasmania’s course list. They’ve got some very unique options available, so you can specialise in something you’re really keen on like degrees in natural environment and wilderness studies, marine and Antarctic studies and ocean engineering, plus a heap more. And their university is based in one of the most unique places in the world, so if you’re looking to study somewhere you can get out and enjoy the wilderness, you can’t go past the rugged cliffs and pristine bays of ol’ Tassie.