How many times have you heard that Year 12 is the most important year of your life? How many times has someone told you that now is the time to put your head down and focus on studying because your ATAR should be your priority? How many times have you felt torn between going to a party or staying in and studying because you know you have an exam coming up? How many times have you laid awake at night, thinking about all the studying you need to be doing?

We have it drilled into us that our ATAR is the be all and end all – that the success of our entire lives depends on this number.

But what if we told you it doesn’t even matter?

I know, it’s hard to believe. Trust me, I never thought it was true when I was in Year 12. But lookin’ back now, I’m dead certain that we’re right when we tell you that your ATAR isn’t as important as you think it is. Let me explain why.

The irrelevance of the ATAR

A 2018 study by the Mitchell Institute showed that only a quarter of the students accepted into university in 2016 used their ATAR to get through.

This means that three quarters of students didn’t even use their ATAR to make it into uni.

Which is pretty interesting considering we’re told that our ATAR is everything.

A frequently overlooked pathway is Vocational Education & Training (VET). It’s super valuable when it comes to getting a job because bosses know that VET training gives you a tonne of important skills as well as the theory knowledge you need in the workplace.

On top of all that, there’s a tonne of careers out there that don’t require a degree at all – which means you can apply to other qualifications (like diplomas and certificates) without ever having to think about your ATAR and still land the job of your dreams.

So, if the ATAR isn’t important, what is?

Turns out, there’s a tonne of other things that can’t be measured in a handful of three-hour exams that are actually super important for your post-school pathway.

Passion and drive are pretty important when it comes to success and, while getting high marks in an exam is handy now, chances are you’re not going to be getting paid to sit exams all day in your career.

Luckily, there’s a provider that knows as well as we do that book-smarts aren’t the only way to measure your potential and they’re opening up options like interviews and portfolio entry that give you a chance to showcase your skills outside your exam results. You’ve probably heard of Australia’s largest training organisation TAFE NSW, but what you probably weren’t told about is the fact that they offer degrees and higher ed diplomas that don’t require an ATAR which just goes to show that that final number we’re all stressing about isn’t the be all and end all.

Is it time to ditch the ATAR?

Ultimately, you’re more than just a number, so is it time we just ditched the ATAR?

Well, with more and more post-school pathways recognising that the ATAR is only one way to measure a student’s potential the ATAR is becoming more and more redundant.

While we can’t see the ATAR disappearing completely in the near future, it’s reassuring to know there already exists an abundance of options for us. If we think of the ATAR as a tool as opposed to a goal, then we’re probably going to have a much better experience of high school and Year 12 as a whole. Plus, then we’ll be able to breathe a little easier and actually have a look at all the options open to us after high school (not just uni) – like apprenticeships, traineeships, TAFE NSW Degrees, certificates and diplomas– purely because we won’t be stressing so much about our final ranking.

To take the pressure off even more, TAFE NSW offers early entry into their Degrees Program which is now open. It’s a good opportunity – you could receive a conditional offer into your chosen degree before you finish your HSC. If you want more info, have a question or want to apply, just head over here and put in your details at the bottom of the page and someone will help you out.