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More Than Your ATAR Score!

— By 17 December 2014

It’s that time of the year again where many of you cherry blossoms are finishing up the school year and for many of you, this will be your last! Finishing up at high school can be a super daunting time and often you can feel a little anxious about what the world has in store for you.

Whether you’re nervously awaiting your ATAR score and university acceptance letters, attempting to break into the workforce or just trying to figure out how to spend the 30+ hours of your life previously dedicated to high school, it can be a very trying time.

The team here at Minus18 have decided to share some of our stories about how we got from being lost, little ones fresh out of high school, to slightly less-lost, medium-sized ones out in the big wide world!

Getting a lower score than anticipated

So it’s possible that some of you will have received your ATAR and it’s not exactly what you’d been hoping for. While it can initially be disheartening, you still have an abundance of other paths you can take to get to your goal, as our Crew member Maddi learnt:

“When I was in year 12 my heart was set on studying at Monash University. As I’m sure you all know, year 12 is taxing on a young person’s mental health – and I was no exception to that, suffering multiple anxiety attacks as the year went on.

Regardless, I finished my exams and I left Monash as my first preference and prayed I’d get in. I didn’t. I didn’t get the ATAR that I expected, and I didn’t get into the course I wanted. I got an offer from Deakin which was my second preference.

At first I was extremely let down. I thought of myself as a failure as everyone had been so sure that I would do extremely well and I didn’t live up to that expectation. It was a pretty upsetting time for me.

However I knew I could transfer to Monash if I did well at Deakin. I accepted the offer and embarked on my first year at university, and now looking back over the past year I’m extremely happy that I didn’t make the cut for Monash. 

I love what I’m studying and I’ve enjoyed every moment of my course for the past year. Deakin closer to my house and has the most amazing staff I’ve ever met. I have made some amazing new friendships and received fantastic support from my lecturers and the faculty. 

I’m still on track to completing my degree and doing the same post graduate studies I would have done after Monash, and I’m extremely happy with where I am.”

Studying a different degree

Sometimes, like Maddi, you might need to re-adjust your plans a bit. Another of Minus18’s beautiful crew members, James had to change his original plan of studying an Architecture degree.

“I was always interested in a career in some facet of design. So I worked my absolute butt off in year twelve to get me as close to where I wanted to be as possible. 

As well as placing my degree preferences on VTAC, I had to, for eleven of the twelve degrees I wished to apply for, submit an external application directly to each university institution. This was a super stressful process of both trying to study for end of year exams while also filling out super detailed and comprehensive, individual and unique applications. I was really fortunate and got an interview for nine of the eleven applications I submitted, and from that eight subsequent successful placements (pending ATAR results of course though!).

Ultimately, I didn’t get into the Architecture degree I had initially wanted to. But I got into Landscape Architecture, which is incredibly similar, but also vastly different! Nonetheless, here I am, two years down the track and absolutely loving my degree, the university I’m studying at and my life at university itself.”

Deciding not to go to university

You might decide that uni isn’t the right fit for you, for now at least. That was the case for me!

I had always preformed really well in school but during my first year of VCE, my grades started to slip. The pressure I felt to perform well in exams became unbearable and both my grades and health started to suffer. I started to question whether VCE was the path for me. I had no intention of attending university so I began to wonder why I was working so hard for a number I wasn’t intending to use.

At the end of year 11, I chose to transfer to VCAL as I still wanted to complete high school but wanted to prioritise my health. This allowed me to finish up school with a VCAL and VCE certificate and in a better state of health than I had been in in years! 

After completing school in 2012, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Most of my friends went off to university and I felt a little lost. So I took a ‘gap year’ (which turned into two years) and tried a bit of everything! I volunteered for a bunch of different orgs (including Minus18!), fell into an assistant manager position in a retail store and dabbled in nannying for about 7 months. I then decided to move back home and take some time to really think about where I wanted to go from there. And recently in just the past month, I was awarded a traineeship at Bendigo Health which will allow me to work full time and study Health Services at Bendigo TAFE!"

Following another study path

Completing high school isn’t always the best way to get where you’d like to be. Mitch discovered that there was a path better suited to him and achieving his goals:

“I left VCE at the end of year 11 in 2012 so that I could start a full time performing arts course. Many of my peers and teacher warned me that I’d be closing a lot of doors for myself and that I wouldn’t be able to get in to a university without an ATAR. They also warned me that there’s no career in the performing arts. But that’s for another time. 

I moved to Melbourne and completed a Certificate IV in Live Production, Theatre and Events in 2013 and then went on to complete a Diploma in Screen and Media this year under the same program I left VCE for. Both years I was awarded ‘Outstanding Achievement’ for my class. 

Recently, I received news that I have been accepted in WAAPA (Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts) to study theatre making. The same performing arts university that produced talents like Hugh Jackman, Tim Minchin, Lucy Durack and a variety of other quality Australian entertainers. This is an amazing course for me and will undoubtedly help me achieve my goals as a creator of theatre as well as a performer.”

Dropping out of year twelve

And finally there’s dropping out of high school. High school isn’t for everyone, and that’s completely cool! Dropping out has many negative connotations with it in todays society, but in reality, it can be a really fulfilling and amazing experience. As Crew member Indigo shares with us, for her it’s been an incredible journey:

Ok, so I didn't exactly finish VCE. Due to some stuff going on in my life and some pretty bad mental health issues, I chose to stop year 12 a few months before the final exams. It felt shit at first, everyone told me to stick it out for the next few months, but I committed to my choice of taking time for myself and getting better. 

The first few months out of school were slow, but I saw an immediate improvement once the stress was gone. I started getting really involved with Minus18, helping out the MinusTV Crew and the communications team. Before I knew it, I was comfortable, confident and learning more than I had in my last two years of VCE! I've been sticking to volunteer work since, and a year later I'm looking to start some internships, and look for paid work in the skills Minus18 has taught me.

I thought going to university was the only way I could secure a good future. But I was so wrong. Alternatives such as volunteering, internships and going to public lectures and workshops have made the past year so amazing and fulfilling.”

So, long story short... 

As you can see from all the stories from our lovely Crew, there is absolutely no one way to get where you want to be. You will find the best way for YOU to get there!  

Sometimes life will present you with hurdles and sometimes you need to work hard to get over those hurdles. However sometimes you look back and realise those hurdles were actually a detour leading to something bigger and better! It’s important not to let yourself be reduced to a silly number. You are so much more than some score. You are capable of anything! 

You may not know what direction you want to head in just yet, and that’s okay too! Don’t feel pressured into anything and make the best decisions you can for yourself. Life has a funny way of presenting you with opportunities you may never have even imagined.

Congratulations to you all on completing your high school journey. Welcome to the roller-coaster that is ‘adult’ life (I’m still not sure exactly what that means yet). It can be a big adjustment but just tackle each day as it comes and before you know it, you’ll be a fully (or in my case, a some-what) functional adult!

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