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Didn’t get the ATAR you wanted? Let’s explore some of your options

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Students conversing and laughing.

The group chats are filling up and the DMs are flying back and forth. Your notifications are lighting-up fast and the TikTok FYP is springing to life with #ATARreactions videos. It feels, for a moment, like everyone and their friends are celebrating their ATAR scores. Except, perhaps, for you.  

Now, and regardless of whether you have the score you wanted or not, the first thing to say is that ATAR results day can be a lot. Taking a moment to congratulate yourself on your achievement even before you’ve opened that email is important. And if it is the case that the ATAR score you read back isn’t what you’d hoped for, here’s an interesting fact: as at last count, only 3% of students studying at Curtin were admitted via the ATAR-only pathway.  

So where does the idea that getting into uni starts and ends with ATAR come from? Maybe it’s the result of received wisdom, or just because the diversity of pathways into university aren’t always well-understood (more on that soon) … but it’s an idea that’s clearly part a of a broader anxiety: in a 2019 survey, 75% of Australian senior students said their ATAR score would impact on the rest of their life, while more than 80% said a score under 60 would be detrimental to their life (Cluey Learning).  

The fact is, though, that your ATAR is not the number that defines you. Just because your ranking might not be exactly what you’d hoped, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on what you wanted to do next (far from it – all that effort you put into your ATAR was never going to be a wasted endeavour!). In this article, we’re going to talk you through the many practical pathways that you could follow to get into the course you want.  

Welcome to life after ATAR.   

First, what should I do right now? 

Tim Pitman, Associate Professor in Education at Curtin, offers the following words of advice for students receiving their ATAR news:  

“First, take a breath … it’s not the end of the world and you’re definitely not the first student to have received a grade that was less than they were hoping for. Countless students have been in this position before you and have gone on to study, and succeed, in higher education. 

“The second thing to remember is, don’t lose sight of what you want to do. If you’re passionate about a certain degree or profession, it’s better to take some extra time and effort to get there, than do something else that your heart might not really be in.” 

(Read the full article on The Conversation here.)  

Perspective and self-compassion can be powerful tools in overcoming moments of disappointment. Treat yourself with some kindness, understanding, and patience,  and remember that you have unique strengths and abilities.  

It’s true that, every year, many students find themselves in similar situations and then go on to achieve success in their chosen fields. Stay open-minded, remind yourself that you have options, and most importantly, believe in your ability to overcome this challenge.  

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the pathways into Curtin available to you.  

Changing your preferences 

When it comes to choosing your path after high school, knowing your options is key. Now that you have your ATAR results, you have another opportunity to “maximise your TISC preferences” in anticipation of second round offers.  

(Note:you can view the most up-to-date TISC timings on the TISC website’s important dates calendar.

Think about it this way: Curtin offers a wide selection of courses, with each course having varying ATAR requirements. If your ATAR falls below the requirement for your preferred course, that means you may have the option to change your preferences to a course with a lower ATAR threshold – a course that either aligns with your future career aspirations or creates a scenario whereby you can later switch courses

For example, you can study the Bachelor of Science (Health Sciences) to help you qualify for admission into a variety of health sciences courses, or you can study Bachelor of Multidisciplinary Science as a pathway for admission into Bachelor of Science majors and STEM courses such as Computing, Engineering, Actuarial Science, Surveying, Medical Radiation Science and other health sciences courses. Successfully completing your first year at Curtin with a course weighted average of 70% provides eligibility into the Bachelor of Laws.  

If your ATAR is lower than the entry threshold for the above listed courses, then rest assured that you still have other options available to you right now. In the following sections, we’ll look at the portfolio entry route (experience-based admission) and the UniReady Enabling Program.  

Portfolio entry 

Two students from culturally diverse backgrounds sit together with a laptop

We know all our students’ experiences and journeys are unique, and portfolio entry allows you to showcase your enthusiasm and creativity to demonstrate why you’re the perfect fit for studying at Curtin. 

The portfolio entry route is ideal if you want to let your practical talents speak for themselves. Through portfolio entry, you apply for your preferred course with a portfolio of documents that showcase your academic achievements, qualifications, work experience, extra-curricular activities and suitability for university study. 

 You may be eligible for portfolio entry if you: 

  • Have successfully completed or are currently completing year 12 studies. 
  • Have other qualifications or work experience that don’t otherwise meet Curtin’s admission criteria. 

As a current year 12 student having just recently received your ATAR – then you can apply to Curtin via the portfolio entry pathway via TISC. You do this by changing your preferences, and being considered for second round offers. 

  1. Select the ‘Portfolio Entry’ version of your preferred course. Note that the portfolio entry version of a course on TISC has a different course code to ATAR entry.  
  1. Upload your supporting documents. You will need to upload an application form for each portfolio entry course you apply for. 

Further instructions on applying via TISC can be found under “Auditions and portfolios” on the TISC website

Portfolio application is also available to anyone who meets Curtin’s general criteria. If you’ve decided to take some time away from study, and so are not a current year 12 leaver, you don’t need to bother with TISC, you can submit your portfolio application directly to Curtin.  

For all the details on the Portfolio entry route, visit our Portfolio entry page – and be sure to be sure to read the Portfolio entry toolkit for helpful tips on optimising your portfolio application.   

Cameron Howard took the portfolio route into Curtin to study Fine Art. Cameron discovered Curtin’s portfolio entry option while studying at TAFE and saw it as the perfect aligned pathway to his passion for painting and drawing. 

“I decided to study Fine Art because of my passion for painting and drawing – I wanted to learn more about it and become a better artist. I chose Curtin because I think it’s the best university for Fine Art, and I was able to gain entry through the portfolio option – I found it was the best option for me. I enjoyed studying at Curtin and being able to learn in the university environment. My lecturers gave me plenty of support for developing my artworks and skills.” Cameron Howard, Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) (Honours) 

UniReady enabling program and Indigenous enabling courses 

Curtin’s UniReady Enabling Program is an alternative pathway to Curtin degree courses, specifically tailored for those who may not currently meet our standard entry requirements. This program is an excellent option if you missed out on Curtin’s indicative ATAR – and is available both online and on-campus.  

It might be the case that you’ve already selected UniReady as part of your TISC preferences – in which case, you’ll automatically be invited into the program. If not, changing your preferences in TISC may still be an avenue open to you – or you can apply directly to UniReady via our online system.  

Successfully completing UniReady not only equips you with essential academic skills, but also builds the confidence necessary to excel in higher education. It’s an excellent starting point for anyone looking to begin their university journey. Read more about UniReady – including key information on dates for direct applicants – on the UniReady pathways page. 

If you’re an Indigenous Australian, you can also apply for one of Curtin’s Indigenous enabling courses. These enabling courses – designed for future students of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent – lead to a range of Curtin undergraduate degrees, in business, health, science and engineering. 

Explore our Indigenous enabling courses: 

Explore all your pathways 

Not getting the ATAR you hoped for is far from the end of your study journey. So, while it’s natural to feel disappointed after receiving difficult news … there’s plenty to suggest that protecting your positivity and letting that carry you forward is a brilliant idea. Your options are open, we can’t wait to see what you do with them! 

As a reminder, Curtin provides extensive support services to help guide you toward your best next step:  

  • Our Pathway Finder tool is an excellent resource to explore different options based on your current qualifications and interests.   
  • Curtin’s support services are there to assist you every step of the way, from navigating your course options to providing personal support, to ensure your educational journey is a success.  

Whether you need advice on course selection or just someone to talk to about your concerns, feel free to contact us at any time.  

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