Study Advice

Tips for Dealing With a Lower ATAR Than Desired

By Moya Ellis - 5 minute read

Let yourself be upset:

It's totally normal to cry and be upset about receiving an ATAR you consider 'bad'. You are allowed to be upset about it and you should let yourself be upset. The worst thing to do is to bottle it up inside because eventually, you will end up having an even bigger meltdown. If you put in a lot of effort and time into your year 12 subjects and still didn't receive the ATAR you wanted, then you have every right to be frustrated, mad and crushed. Part of the process of receiving a lower ATAR than desired is to let yourself be upset. 

However, eventually, you need to get over it. After you have had your time to dwell on your ATAR, wipe away the tears, and try to move on. It's easier said than done but trust me, you can't spend your whole life or even your whole day upset. 

Surround yourself with loved ones:

Spend the day with close family members. I know telling your family can be hard but if you put in a lot of effort throughout the year, then they will understand that you did everything in your power to do well in year 12. Your family will support you no matter what and will lift you up in this time of need. Also after you have had your time to cry and be upset, being surrounded by others will help you not think about it. Obviously tell your family your ATAR but afterward talk to your family about other stuff not related to school. Try to get your mind off it and just relax. 

I wouldn't recommend talking to friends (who are also in year 12) about your ATAR initially. This may make you feel more upset hearing about them getting into their courses. I'd say try to stay off your phone and in particular, avoid texting friends to hear if they are happy because that may just make you more sad about your own ATAR. Before you celebrate your friends' success, you need to take care of yourself and only ask them when you're ready. 

Get some fresh air:

Don't spend the day sitting inside your house. That'll make you even more sad and upset. You need to go outside, play sport, go out for lunch, or go to the beach. It's summertime, so take advantage of the good weather and do something fun. You shouldn't punish yourself for your 'bad' ATAR by sitting inside upset. You will feel better by being active and having something to do. 

Swap your university preferences:

Check the necessary ATARs to get into all the university courses on your preferences list on the VTAC/QTAC website. If your ATAR is lower than all the courses that you have put down, start researching similar courses with a lower ATAR. This may mean doing the same course at a different university or it may mean doing a more general degree first. For example, if you were desperate to get into Occupational Therapy at Monash (which is an 83.9 ATAR) but received an ATAR of 78, try looking at OT courses at Deakin (74.9) or ACU (median ATAR of 74.30) which both offer a great education. Also, you could try looking at similar courses that aren't specifically OT but are in the same field. For example, you could look at the Bachelor of Health Sciences (77.75) at Monash. Basically, you need to work out whether you are more interested in doing OT or going to Monash because if you just want to do OT then you can go to another university but if you are desperate to go to Monash, you can apply for another course there and then try to transfer into OT in the following year.

What I'm trying to say is there are always other options and you just need to work out what other option is best for you. 

Once you have narrowed down what you want to apply to for university, make any changes necessary on the VTAC/QTAC website. If you have the option to meet with your school's career counselor then I'd recommend doing so because they'll make the process easier for you. 

Get excited about a new university course:

Instead of being mad at yourself that you aren't going to be undertaking the university course, you desired, try to research a new course or two, and get excited about that course. Look on the university's website and research the course outline and all the subjects you are going to be taking. This will make you happier with your new university course. You no longer will be as upset about your dream course you didn't get into because you will realise the positives about the new course. And even if you end up hating the new course or university, don't worry, there's always going to be a pathway for you to get into the course you really want to get into. 

Know that you're not alone:

There are so many other people going through the exact same thing as you. On ATAR day, whilst you tend to see a lot of people posting their amazing ATARs and happy smiles on social media, there are always going to be heaps of people sad and depressed on this day. Even though not many people talk about receiving a bad ATAR, there still are many people who aren't happy. What may make you feel better is searching up on Youtube people's reactions to bad ATARs. It may bring you some comfort seeing other people going through the same thing as you. 


We hope this was helpful and you are able to find joy in whatever university course you end up doing. If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to contact us. 

The Studyclix Team