Mark Twain Chalk board art Year13“The ATAR is just a number” is a phrase that we have all heard or said at least once in our teenage years, yet many of us, myself included don’t really grasp how little it means until all the trials and tribulations of the HSC are a distant memory. As someone who attained an ATAR above 95 in 2009, it is now 5 years later that I realise how it means absolutely nothing once you have achieved it.

Now I don’t want anyone getting the impression that getting a high ATAR/QCE/OP is a bad thing, that couldn’t be further from the truth, I worked incredibly hard in year 12 to gain a good mark and in no way do I regret the hours I dedicated to my studies. However my biggest regret is that I viewed my ATAR as a means to an end, not as a stepping stone towards my future. Throughout year 12, I thought that as long as I got into university then the hard work was done, I could just show up to the bare minimum of classes and graduate in four years. Unfortunately this notion was not entirely realistic, especially when undertaking a finance degree that I ultimately never finished. I found out the hard way that your ATAR means nothing if you are not willing to work afterwards, or especially in my case if you use it to follow a path that you ultimately aren’t passionate about.

Realistically a high ATAR isn’t the only way to get into university, there are bridging courses, summer schools and other courses that you can always take to help you end up in your dream degree. Regrettably four years ago I didn’t have the foresight to realise if I spent a little bit less time studying and utilised that time figuring out what I was truly passionate about then life after high school would be a lot easier.

I could tell your for hours how little my  Year 12 results has affected my life after school, but at the end of the day I am in no position to lecture anyone about tertiary education. What I have learnt in the last four years is that there are a range of skills that are much more important than any exam or subject i’ve studied.  Everyone has heard the expression “communication is key” and having the ability to effectively and confidently communicate with people is one of the most important tools in being successful in business and in life in general. Confidence can be the difference between landing your dream job and being rejected, or the difference between meeting people who will remain in your life forever or just lurking within your social scene. Confidence will help your networking skills, and more often than not, being able to hold a great conversation with someone will land you a job ahead of your university marks.

At the end of the day if you find something you are passionate about, then you are halfway there, the rest is on you. Go out and get involved, if that means giving up a Saturday every month so you can volunteer for an organisation that you believe in, it will be worth it in the long run. It shows outsiders that you do care, and you do work and that you put in the extra yards and ultimately that person brings so much more to a business than someone who is just a human calculator.

It might not be the most responsible outlook on life but I am a firm believer that “If you don’t know what you want to do with your life then you should do what you want to do now.” At the end of the day university or a 40 hour work week will always be around, but if you aren’t 100 percent sold on them now then don’t do it. Enjoy your youth, go travelling or work a job that you enjoy, in the long run you won’t ever regret doing these things. I know so many people who graduate university and then end up working in completely different fields because they hate the industry they spent three years learning about. Do what you love and as long as you work hard things will fall into place.

Not many people know what they want to do for the rest of their life at age eighteen, yet most of us think we have to make that choice. You can never be defined by a number, only by how you choose to live. Take a step back, you have plenty of time to decide.

– Max Thorley

5 Responses

  1. evett

    absolutely agree. i didnt do so well and just graduated. there are other options and ATAR isnt everything. I went to University of New South Wales and the ATAR i recieved was not even high enough for its ARTS degree. I did a year at Notre Dame University and then transferred. Either way dont believe ATAR is your only way.

  2. Alex

    This article is a game changer. Im in year 12 at the moment and all i hear from my teachers is ” This is this biggest/ most important year of your life, Alex” – but how can it be?
    How am i meant to know what the F*ck i want to do with my life when i have been inside the schooling institution since i was 3?
    The only worldly experiences i can recall on, have been whilst on my school holidays, i think its crazy that we are forced to make these decisions in our lives, before we can even have the right to have a beer or even vote.
    This article pin points the problem with todays society, and what everyone thinks is the “right way”

    Max Thorley – You my man, are someone id like to have a beer with.
    Thank you!

  3. Kayla

    Can we vote this Max guy in for PM?
    Rudd and Abbot can beat it.

    We need more people like this in the world.

  4. Max Thorley

    Anyone know if it’s too late for me to nominate my candidacy to run from PM?


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