So, ATARs are out and there’s plenty of mixed emotions flying around. You’ve already heard us going on about how the ATAR doesn’t mean anything and how you’re worth more than a number and yadda yadda yadda.

It’s all true of course, but the more practical amongst you might be thinking–sure, I get that there are other options… but what if I want to go down the ATAR route? You’ve worked pretty damn hard for it, so if you’ve got the chance you may as well use it.

Things can get a little trickier though when you end up a few points short of the ATAR cut-off for your desired uni course. Don’t stress though, there are a couple of ways you can game the ATAR system and still use your score to get into a great course.

First things first, you’ve gotta understand that the ATAR is a supply-and-demand system.

Generally speaking, cut-off scores boil down to a simple formula:

less popular uni courses = lower ATAR cut-offs,

more popular university courses = higher ATAR cut offs.

While there are some exceptions, a course’s cut-off doesn’t usually have anything to do with how hard the content is or how prestigious the university. Basically, a high ATAR cut-off is there to limit the number of people who make the grade into the most popular courses at the most popular unis, while degrees that are in less demand or at universities outside of metro areas will often have lower cut-offs in order to draw more people to the course.

It’s a common mistake to think you should be going for the course with the highest cut-off because it’s going to be the best; in actual fact, the cut-off has no indication on the quality of course.

So, how do you use this to your advantage?

If you want to game the ATAR system, then the first step is understanding that courses with relatively low ATAR cut-offs are still as good if not better than ones with high cut-offs. So, if you end up with an ATAR less than what you need, there’s no need to stress–there are still incredible courses out there that simply haven’t come up on your radar.

Try sussing out some universities like the University of Tasmania (UTAS). They’ve got a heap courses that are far more accessible than a lot of popular unis. Courses such as Engineering are easier to get into, with an ATAR of 70 you can start first year as opposed to 92 at Sydney University. For a Bachelor of Science, you only need an ATAR of 65, and for a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law–a course that often has a cut-off of 99 or above–you either need an ATAR of 90+, or if you get above 65 you have the opportunity to try your hand at first year law and if you get high enough marks you can progress straight on into second year.

If you know for sure what you want to do, then it could be worth moving for university to ensure you get into the right course. Once you’ve got a year of good marks under your belt, then you’ll often be able to transfer to the course you were originally planning on, but we suspect if you head to one of UTAS’s campuses in Hobart, Launceston or the Cradle Coast you won’t wanna leave anytime soon. You’ll be in beautiful Tassie, with plenty of scenic bushwalks and incredible landscapes to explore, not to mention the bloody good wine, cheese and seafood.

If you’re planning on living in on-campus accomm, you’ll have the added benefit of living with a bunch of like-minded freshers who are keen to meet new people (and Tassie has no lock-out laws, so that’s bonus). Or, if you’re a Sydney-sider keen on checking out what Tassie has to offer or wanna stay local and study in the health industries, UTAS also has a Sydney campus for their school of health sciences. If you want to find out more about the Tassie and Sydney courses, UTAS will be holding an info day on the 14th December in Darling Harbour at the Australian Maritime College campus from 12pm til 6pm. You’ll need to get in quick to register your interest, which you can do right over here.

Jump on over here to see what courses are on offer to help you game the ATAR.