How Much Does My ATAR Really Matter?

May 5, 2021

The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is a ranking system that determines admission into colleges and universities. All Year 12 students are given an ATAR rank between 0 and 99.95 in relation to all other students in their state regardless of the courses studied and the school curriculum.

It’s important to remember that ATAR is a rank, not a mark. An ATAR of 80.00 means that you performed better than 80% of all Year 12 students in your state. As such, it’s not a test of your intelligence nor a predictor of your future success!

Does My ATAR Matter?

Reducing 13 years of schooling to a single ranking is quite reductive. After all, ATAR is a percentile rank that shows your position relative to other students in your state. It’s a mark of where you stand in a queue, not an objective fact of your academic ability.

However, graduates with an ATAR of 95 to 99+ will undoubtedly have many more doors open to them when it comes to university admissions. For example, an ATAR of 95 means you can get a bachelor’s business degree from the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney. An ATAR above 80 will grant you entry into one of the top five universities in the country—which are still pretty good odds.

Despite that, it’s best to remember that your ATAR does not define you now—and it will not determine the rest of your life, either. It doesn’t even define your intelligence! A high ATAR doesn’t automatically make all your career choices a breeze, and not getting a university degree doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your dreams.

The entire HSC process and the ATAR are only important because they are the first small taste of the obstacles you will face after graduating high school. The number itself will not dictate your future, but your attitude towards it will inform your behaviour and future goals. It’s a character test, not a life-determining exam!

Will you let the disappointment overcome you and ruin your confidence, or will it drive you to ask more of yourself? Will your success turn you into an insufferable brag or will you use it to fuel your drive in doing the best you can in uni and beyond?

What Are My Options?

If you don’t get the score you want, it doesn’t mean you should stop pursuing your dream career. It doesn’t even mean that you won’t be able to get into uni. Most university institutions don’t use the ATAR as the be-all, end-all of their admissions—so regardless of your score, get an application form, and still try out!

If you can’t get into your chosen course in your preferred uni, there are other paths you can take. You can enter uni in another course and work on transferring to your preference in your second year. Uni-bridging programs are preparatory courses that can help you get into the program of your choice.

Tertiary education is considered the ultimate goal of any student, but it’s not the only path to future success. Use your setbacks as motivation, a challenge you will face head-on, an inspiration to keep doing better and better.


A high ATAR grants you entry to any university and course you want, but it is not a mark of current intellect or future success. Instead, it is a small taste of how you will react to future accomplishments and setbacks. When you receive your score, it’s important to be level-headed and forward-facing, no matter the outcome.

If you are looking to boost your confidence and academic performance, Young Growth Academy is a high school tutoring program in Penrith that offers guidance in English, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Math. Contact us today for more information on our services, and book your free trial!