My child came up short on the ATAR. Now what?

Woman and daughter sitting on stairs

Your Year 12 student receives their long-awaited ATAR and it’s not the score anyone wanted. It might feel like the end of the world to your child – and to you. So what do you do now?

There are plenty of ways for high school students to apply to university without an ATAR. Chances are, the long-term impact to your child’s career planning will be minimal.

First of all, don’t consider this a failure. Your child hasn’t failed at high school or university. The only thing that’s happened is they won’t get into university using the most direct route. No one cares how your child started university, especially not any future employer. No job interview will ever have questions about grades on specific exams – especially high school exams. Encourage your child to explore other avenues to qualifying for university. Explain the importance of resiliency and how this is a normal step for work in the future.

Depending on your child’s strengths, interests, and career goals, they can apply to complete a course that helps them catch up or gives them the foundation they need to be a successful uni student. Murdoch has a number of enabling courses and other pathways to university admission. Some of them are designed to fill a gap over a couple of weeks and others may extend to a year. The end result is your Year 12 student can fulfil a high school dream of applying to university regardless of their ATAR. There are numerous opportunities for recent high school graduates to take alternative pathways to uni.

How to apply to university in Western Australia

All Year 12 students need to apply through TISC (Tertiary Institutions Service Centre. They are the body who processes admission applications for all students in Western Australia. Every student must apply through TISC, even if they are considering an alternative pathway for admissions.

This handy video gives you a crash course on how to apply. You can also visit the TISC website for more information. 


Enabling Courses at Murdoch University

If your high school student came up short on the score they wanted or needed to get into a specific program, there are a number of other options for university admission. These enabling courses are free and include:

  • OnTrack — a 14-week course allowing a direct application to Murdoch for admission into any course that has a minimum Selection Rank of 70 required for consideration.
  • OnTrack Sprint — a 4-week, on-campus course for students who were close to achieving their ATAR and have demonstrated English competency.
  • FlexiTrack is an online course allowing a direct application to Murdoch for admission into any course with a minimum Selection Rank of 70 required for consideration. FlexiTrack has a number of options for study to accommodate any schedule.
  • K-Track is a 14-week course to help Indigenous students develop the skills needed to succeed at university.
  • TLC110 Learning for Tomorrow is a weekly class held February through September while completing the WACE. You must meet attendance requirements and achieve a scaled score of 50+ in ATAR English or a grade of ‘C’ or better in General English.
Important information about TISC preferences

If your child failed to reach the ATAR they wanted, they can change their preferences within the allocated change dates to include an enabling course as an entry method.  Make sure to check the TISC key dates so they don’t miss out.

Creative Portfolio admissions

If your Year 12 student has an interest in the arts, encourage them to consider a creative portfolio application. This allows them to demonstrate capability for coursework based on past creative endeavours. This might be an especially attractive choice for an independent teenager. Creative portfolios are accepted for entry into the following majors:

Find out more about a creative portfolio pathway to applying to university.

If you child is feeling down about their university prospects because of a lower-than-expected ATAR, encourage them to get firsthand advice about university life.

It’s not too late for your teen to explore their options into university, get in touch with our Student Services team to chat through the options available to your Year 12 student.

Posted on:

7 Dec 2020

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