Home AATIS Blog I didn't get the ATAR I wanted. Now what?


I didn't get the ATAR I wanted. Now what?

School has finally finished for the year, and ATAR results are about to be released. After 13 years of study you have finally finished school! We know you are feeling nervous, excited, happy, scared, or maybe even just content to see what happens.

All of these emotions can be made worse by the big question - Now what? There are so many options for next year. Regardless of whether you got a good ATAR or yours was lower than you hoped, there are heaps of things you can do. There are also loads of options for anyone who didn't get an ATAR!

You might consider taking a gap year, working, going to university, TAFE or a vocational training provider. You could combine some of these into an apprenticeship or traineeship.

Gap years

Gap years are really popular in Australia, with lots of school leavers taking time off. Travelling is one of the most common activities for gap years, but you might also work or do some vocational education before moving into a higher-level qualification like university.

A gap 'year' doesn't need to be a whole year of just one thing. You could travel for a bit, then get a job. Or take half a year off to work, then start university or vocational education mid-year.

Things to remember:

Think about what you want to get out of a gap year. Are you just taking some time off to think about your future? Do you want to earn some good money? Get some experiences travelling?

A gap year doesn't have to mean spending your time on a beach in Thailand. It can be a great launching pad for your career. If you want to travel, think about the ways you can improve your skills at the same time. You could think about volunteering or working overseas, or plan a trip that is going to teach you a new language.


Some students work when they are at school, but many do not. If you already have a job, you might consider taking on more hours and earning some extra money. If you don't have a job, start by putting together your resume and think about what type of work you could do.

Start to think about what type of industry you want to work in, but don't narrow down your job search too much. Also think about things like how many hours you want to work, if you are happy being on your feet, active, or at a desk, and what skills you want to develop.

Things to remember:

You will develop important skills doing almost any job. Customer service and hospitality are both great industries with entry level jobs: you will learn how to work with customers, work in a team, develop your communication skills, and probably work with money.

Just because something isn't your 'dream job' doesn't mean it isn't valuable, and I don't just mean earning money! Work experience is something you will need if you want to get into a better job in the future. Everyone starts at the bottom!


So you didn't get the ATAR you hoped, and now you think you won't get into the course you really wanted. Don't panic! There are other options.

The first thing you need to think about is whether you really want to go to university next year, or whether you need some time off to think about what you want to do. Still set on uni? You can change your preferences by contacting your state's tertiary admissions centre, and take a look at some of the university websites for tips and tricks to help you out.

Things to remember:

Once you are at university you can change courses. Make sure you get decent marks in your first semester or year, and have a chat to the student centre to work out what you need to do.

If you decided not to go straight to uni, take some time to think about what you want to do.

Did you know? You might be able to do a vocational qualification in that area then get credits towards the degree. You might even discover that you don't need a degree to work in your chosen field! Talk to your university and TAFE or vocational provider about what pathways they can suggest.

TAFE or vocational education

Thousands of vocational education courses are run at TAFEs and other vocational training providers across Australia. These courses vary in length from several weeks to a couple of years, depending on the qualification level and area of study.

A vocational qualification does not have to be the end point in studying. Some universities offer credits for vocational study (check with the university if you are interested in this), while a vocational qualification is a fantastic way to develop work skills.

Things to remember:

Cheaper and shorter courses aren't always better, but they aren't always worse either! Make sure you take a good look at the provider and the qualification you are doing before you sign up to anything.

Think about whether you want to do a course to help you in the short-term, for example with getting a job or getting some experience before doing more study, or whether it could help lead to your dream career. Even popular university qualifications have similar vocational courses that you can do, for example engineering can be done as a vocational or university qualification. It might give you a great idea whether you want to continue in this area!

Australian Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships (including traineeships) combine work and study, meaning that you get paid to get a qualification and get work experience in the industry at the same time.

Most people think of apprenticeships as trades: carpentry, plumbing, electrical or hairdressing. These are all important jobs and in need of more people doing them, and doing an apprenticeship means you get your trade papers!

There are also lots of other options including business and finance, childcare, animal care, and tourism. These are industries that you can work your way right up though, or can be a good area to work before moving on to something else.

If you aren't sure about doing an apprenticeship, take a look at pre-apprenticeships: shorter courses that lead into an apprenticeship.

Things to remember:

Apprenticeships and traineeships start from around 12 months (gap year while earning?) but can be as long as 4 years. Do your research into what areas you are interested in, what the job market is like, and how long it will take.

Doing an apprenticeship combines the benefits of working and doing a vocational qualification, because the apprenticeship is made up of these two things. 

I just want a break

There is nothing wrong with taking a break! School can be really tough emotionally and mentally, and sometimes we all just need some time off. You might want to take some time to think about what you really want to do, and to make sure you make a good decision.

Taking a break can mean anything from binge watching TV, to working on your physical and mental health. It can include getting back to your hobbies, spending time with friends, and taking time out to help out others.

Things to remember:

Taking a break doesn't necessarily mean doing nothing. There are a lot of ways you can develop your skills and experiences while doing something you like. Think about your hobbies: are these things that could lead to work, volunteering, or just developing your skills?

If you take a break for a long time (half a year to a year) it can be difficult to get back into work and study. Think about how long you want your break to last, and whether you could do a small amount of something else at the same time. This might mean working 1 or 2 shifts a week, doing a short online course, or volunteering some weekends.

Getting school results and your ATAR can be a wonderful or horrible experience, or both (or none) all at once. The main thing to remember is that the ATAR is not the end of the world, there are lots of pathways into university and the workforce that don't require an ATAR.

If you need help making a decision about what you are doing, talk to your school career adviser or a teacher, or contact a university or TAFE to find out if they can help you with career advice. There are many career adviser associations that can put you in touch with someone if you need some extra help.

If you want help with information about Australian Apprenticeships, give us a call on 1800 338 022, or email contact@aatis.com.au.

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