Why you don't need a high ATAR to excel at university

Erin Horrigan working on laptop at Murdoch University

Did you miss out on achieving your dream ATAR? So did Murdoch graduate Erin Horrigan. Thanks to our free enabling course OnTrack, Erin went on to complete her first degree, receiving the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence along the way.

With disruption in her schooling years, Erin struggled to find success in high school. Constant relocating and school switching meant Erin missed out on a consistent education, which was reflected in her low ATAR score. Despite this, Erin never gave up on her dream of going to university.

"I moved around a lot as a child and attended seven different schools – meaning that I was never able to settle in or get a consistent education.

"I struggled a lot, and was not confident that I would be able to achieve the ATAR score I needed to get into university - this proved to be true… However, I always knew that I wanted to attend university."

Thanks to her mum, Erin discovered OnTrack, Murdoch's free enabling course. Offered at Murdoch's Perth, Rockingham and Mandurah campuses, OnTrack gives students the opportunity to apply to any Murdoch University course requiring a Selection Rank of 70.

OnTrack the first step to real-world success

Unsure if she would be accepted into OnTrack, Erin visited Murdoch to speak to one of our Student Advisors. With her fierce determination to succeed, Erin was told she was the perfect candidate for OnTrack.

"I wanted to prove that even though I was from a single parent family, raised in low socio-economic areas, did not do well in school and would be the first university student in my family, I could still successfully obtain a degree."

While some of her family members struggled to understand her desire to complete OnTrack, the overwhelming support of both her mother and her OnTrack tutor helped Erin to succeed.

"My mum was always a great source of support and I was lucky enough to have a fantastic tutor for OnTrack who understood my situation and was always supportive."

Erin conveniently completed the OnTrack course close to home at the Rockingham campus, and believes it set her up for success at university and was a better entry pathway than ATAR alone. She's a testament to the fact that not doing well in the school system doesn't translate to academic failure at uni.

"OnTrack gave me skills that proved to be practical throughout university. I didn't feel thrown in the deep end and ended up spending time helping students who didn't do OnTrack with skills like referencing.

I am happy that I did OnTrack, rather than enter university with an ATAR."

From barely passing Year 12 to excelling at a university level

Initially wanting to study psychology, Erin quickly made the switch to public relations and journalism, where she found her true passion.

From leaving high school believing she wasn't capable and would only scrape through university, Erin excelled in her studies and received multiple awards, including the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence and the Public Relations Prize.

"I was lucky enough to be a recipient of the Vice Chancellor's Award for Academic Excellence in my final year. I didn't know the Award existed until I was told that I was a recipient!

"I was also the recipient for the Public Relations Prize in my graduating class. I enjoyed public relations and worked very hard to be the best I could be. Again, I didn't know that this prize existed and couldn't have imagined that I was the top student. I was extremely honoured to have received both of these awards."

After finishing her degree, Erin accepted a communications position at the Department of Health, in part thanks to the recommendation of the Public Relations Course Coordinator at Murdoch University.

The sky really is the limit

Erin credits her success to the friendly and open-minded atmosphere of Murdoch University and can't wait to see where the future will take her.

"It was really refreshing to be a part of an inclusive learning environment. I didn't feel cut off or ostracized due to my below average academic background, I felt just as welcome and like I belonged as much as everyone else.

"I learnt at Murdoch that I can do whatever I like if I am willing to work for it - the sky really is the limit."

Explore your options and more online or contact our Student Services team to map out your options. 


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