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High ATAR points a means to an end

Author: Neena Bhandari
Date: 22/12/2013
Words: 401
Source: SHD
        Publication: Sun Herald
Section: Supplement
Page: 8
Students should study what inspires them, says Neena Bhandari.

When Katrina Young, pictured, enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts course at the University of Sydney with an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) of 99.75, many wondered why she was not doing a degree in law or medicine.

ATAR is the scaled number that ranks students Higher School Certificate (HSC) marks against their peers. It is calculated by the universities admissions centre (UAC) based on a student's overall academic achievement in year 12. For example, an ATAR of 80.00 indicates the student has performed well enough in the HSC to be in the top 20 per cent of his or her cohort.

Universities generally determine ATAR cut-offs for courses based on the demand for a course and the number of places available.

I wasn't at all interested in law, and didn't want to do it as a career, so why would I study it? Young says. For me, the ATAR was a means to an end. It enabled me to study the subjects I am passionate about. The fact that I had almost 20 points to spare was entirely irrelevant.

Young is majoring in English and French, and has taken German, linguistics and Latin, to follow her passion of becoming an English and languages teacher.

Unlike schools, universities offer flexible programs that allow students to pursue multiple interests and the freedom to change study direction. Some students want a broad experience and choose to study diverse subjects, while others focus on a specific field of study.

John Lawson is a second-year medicine student at the University of Sydney. With an ATAR of 99.05, medicine was on my mind, but I decided to do a general degree and keep my options open, he says. In doing a broad arts and science degree, I was able to explore a lot of areas before deciding that medicine was, in fact, what I wanted to do.

So should your ATAR drive your study choice? Students should be guided in their choice of degree by what they enjoy, what inspires them and subjects of genuine interest, says University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence. ATARs are not frequent-flyer points  you dont have to use them or lose them. If you sail into the degree with 10 or 15 ATAR points to spare, that is better than using all those points for admission to a degree in which you have no interest.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any content is expressly prohibited without the permission of the writer and the publication.


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