I was the kind of student that didn’t care about final exams. You know those exams that ‘determine your entire life and what you will do forever’? Yeah, those.

The night before my first English exam I was up until 3am dancing around the room in bed socks with my best friend and a stomach full of sour worms. We were delirious with the realisation that we should care but didn’t. We hadn’t studied that day at all. In fact, we spent most of the time lying in bed on a chat site talking to strangers.

We knew we were screwed, but our parents told us we would be okay, that we as human beings were not defined by the five exams we had been so-called “preparing” for over the last 13 years of our lives. We took this sound piece of advice to mean we didn’t have to study. At all.

I always wanted to go to university, though. I really did. In Year 11 I knuckled down and killed every subject. My ATAR calculator was sitting on a nice 95. I wasn’t complaining. But then, at the end of the year, after burning out and realising those ‘top of class’ pieces of paper on Speech Day meant nothing in the scheme of things, I gave up. I finished Year 12 with a 62-point-something ATAR and I didn’t get the mark I needed to get into university. At the same time, I didn’t work myself to death and leave Year 12 anxious, exhausted and copping an insane study hangover. I had a photo album full of memories.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t study and work hard, but the truth is, there are some of you out there who are feeling the same as I was. You’re feeling like at the very core, you just don’t give a damn. You’re over school because it doesn’t challenge you in the way you crave. The structure and that silly curriculum that doesn’t encourage creative thinking or self-directed learning is frustrating to you, but you live in a world that does not listen. You live in a world that seems, for the most part, not to give a shit about a young person’s perspective on school.

I am now five years out of high school. I have achieved more than I thought possible because in high school I had no idea exactly what was possible. I’ve lived in four share houses and overseas, I’ve got an undergraduate degree, I’m doing my Masters, I’ve travelled for 12 months (with my own savings). Turns out that ATAR didn’t mean anything at all, not for what I wanted to do nor for who I wanted to be.

If you want to go to university, you can. Honestly, don’t let your ATAR determine whether you’re smart enough or not. The skills you need for uni are different, and you learn everything there. All you need is passion for the subject you’re paying to learn. And how are you supposed to do that without the right ATAR? Call the uni you’re interested in- they have so many pathways and options available. Don’t forget- universities are run like businesses and without you, they won’t exist. Your enrollment brings them money, so give them a call (it’s what I did, and it worked).

Your ATAR doesn't define your success in life; you do.

I don’t define success as a seven digit income and five investment properties. I won’t be dropping my ATAR into conversations when I’m 50 and I doubt anyone will ever ask me what it was ever again. I have no use for it except to write this article. For me, success is a pile of indescribably joyous moments that have challenged and progressed my character, which in turn has affected my intelligence.

Your potential is in your hands, not the hands of your parents, your teachers and most of all, your final grades. If you enjoy the challenge of working hard at school, that is amazing–keep going, keep achieving. But you’re not less of a person if you can’t do that either.