Your child has their ATAR, now what?

With the year wrapping up, the wait is almost over for Year 12 results. If you have questions about your child’s score or their next steps, we’re here to address some of the most common parent queries.     

What is an ATAR/OP?

The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) and Overall Position (OP) are used to rank students to determine entry into higher education courses. The ATAR is awarded in increments of 0.05 between 0.00 and 99.95, with a score of 90 representing achievement in the top 10 per cent, 80 in the top 20 per cent and so on. In Queensland, OP students receive a rank between 1 and 25, where OP 1 is the highest score and OP 25 is the lowest. OP-ineligible students receive a Selection Rank, with a maximum score of 90 (OP 6).

What if my child’s score is too low — or higher than expected?

If your child’s score is lower than expected, it’s natural that they will be disappointed — especially if they’ve had their heart set on a particular course. The most important thing is to reassure your child that their score is not a percentage; it is a rank comparing students across a state-wide cohort. It also helps to know that course cut-offs change each year, meaning that all hope is not lost if they have fallen short of the previous entry score. 

At this point, it is important to begin investigating pathways. This might include starting out in the VET sector (such as completing a diploma to gain entry to a degree); studying at a lower-demand institution or campus with the intention to transfer; or completing a generalist program followed by postgraduate study. The school career adviser and student support officers at institutions of interest are vital resources, as they can help your child design the best path to their dream course.

Now for the opposite scenario. It’s not uncommon for students to underestimate their potential and come out with a higher score than expected. If your child achieves a top score, it’s important that they don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a high rank will be wasted on a course or institution that’s easier to get into. Why head into law when your passion is in the arts?   

What about changing preferences?

Once your child has received their score, they may find that they need to change their course preferences. This could be due to either of the above scenarios — receiving a score lower or higher than they expected — or due to a change of heart about study. The Good Universities Guide provides some great tips to help students through the change of preference period.

For more information, including key dates, refer to the Tertiary Admissions Centre in your state — VTAC for Victoria, UAC for the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales, QTAC for Queensland, TISC for Western Australia, and SATAC for South Australia and the Northern Territory. Tasmanian students apply directly to the University of Tasmania and should seek information from the university.

Where can my child get more support and information?

There are many great resources available to students during the application and change of preference periods. Your child can reach out to institutions of interest or their school career adviser as their first step — schools may organise catch-ups with individual students, while institutions often run change of preference expos to help applicants navigate the application and entry process. The Good Universities Guide also provides a course and institution search, along with helpful information to guide your child through tertiary education.

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