Your Gen Z teen’s perched on the edge of their bed after what was probably a sleepless night – laptop at the ready – waiting for that magic number to appear on the screen.
It’s the moment when all that studying, frantic cramming, cancelled plans, late nights (or flat-out all-nighters) come to a head.
But as the page refreshes for the millionth time and the number comes up, they burst into tears.
They didn’t get the ATAR they were hoping for to get into uni.
It’s a heartbreaking moment for them (and you), but here’s the thing.
Despite the hype, your child not getting the ATAR they want doesn’t mean they’re not destined to be successful in life or their career.
We know you know that, but here’s how we suggest you handle perceived ATAR failure to make it seem more like a blessing in disguise.
- Put it all into perspective
Don’t get us wrong: smashing your ATAR is something to celebrate. But it’s also important to put it into perspective.
If your child didn’t get the score they were hoping for, it can be helpful to remind them that their ATAR isn’t a true measure of their success.
In fact, the ATAR doesn’t actually measure much. Standardised testing only really takes select quantifiable qualities into account (and the extent to which you can regurgitate content in an exam).
What it doesn’t measure? How all those all-nighters reflect their fierce sense of determination. How knowing how to guide their bestie through a panic attack makes them a fantastic friend. How them taking their little brother to footy practice week in and week out makes them a great older sibling.
An ATAR doesn’t reflect your child’s creativity, their kindness, their resilience or their ambition.
- Remind them they have other options to get them on track
Did you know only one in four students are accepted into uni based on their ATAR?
With the number of students undertaking a university degree significantly higher than that, it just goes to show the myriad backdoors and alternative pathways into university available to your child if they didn’t get the ATAR they needed.
While every institution has a different name for alternative entry pathways, there are countless options available that take a prospective student’s circumstances, special achievements, transferable skills from sport, demonstration of work ethic and other abilities/activities into account.
For example, if you’re located in Sydney, it’s with looking at the University of Sydney’s MySydney, the University of New South Wales’s UNSW Prep, or the University of Technology Sydney’ UTS College which offer bridging courses or foundational study to equip your child with the skills they need to get started on their university journey.
And if they’re keen on taking a break instead?
Encourage them to take a year off to work or volunteer somewhere cool to get some hands-on experience under their belt.
Or (if they have the finances) take a gap year to travel around, enjoy new experiences and find new friends all around the world.
- Remind your child that their ATAR isn’t forever
Schools love to drill into students that the ATAR is the be all and end all of their final years of schooling.
But regardless of how important that ATAR seems right now, now’s the time to remind them that ATARs have an expiry date of about twelve months.
Yep – after all, the ATAR was designed so that uni’s can suss out who will do well in tertiary education and predict who will succeed in a uni course.
But after a year students are able to apply to universities as a non-school leaver which can take additional relevant factors like employment and life experience into account.
- Ultimately, encourage your child not to let their life be dictated by a number
Help your child see that they’re not somehow lesser because their talents can’t be worked out with a formula or market after a two-hour exam.
After all, just because their abilities can’t be measured on a marking rubric doesn’t make them any less capable or intelligent.