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

Year 12 students can either apply to universities directly through early offer programs or through TISC (Tertiary Institutions Service Centre).

Murdoch's Year 12 Early Offer Program

If your teen is graduating from Year 12 this year, they can apply now to study at Murdoch via our Year 12 Early Offer program using their Year 11 ATAR subject results, or by identifying that they are on a recognised pathway to meet entry to Murdoch, for example through studying a Certificate IV or an enabling program. This means your teen can be offered a place at Murdoch, with the condition that they either complete Year 12 (for ATAR students) or another approved pathway (for non-ATAR students). 


In a normal year unaffected by a global pandemic, students are usually only required to apply to university through TISC. In addition to the option of applying through the Year 12 Early Offers Program, students can still also apply through TISC. Applying through TISC can be broken down into five simple steps:

  1. Register at the TISC website. Make sure to get your WACE number from your school before you start.
  2. Select six career preferences and rank them in order of desirability. (Confused? Find out more about choosing TISC preferences.)
  3. Complete your online application and pay your fees.
  4. Submit the supporting documents listed on the application.
  5. Wait for your TISC email confirmation. 

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.

Media portfolio admission

If your Year 12 student has an interest in the arts, encourage them to consider a media portfolio pathway. 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 our media portfolio pathway.

Portfolio entry

If your Year 12 student has a strong pass in at least one Year 12 subject directly related to their desired course of study, or significant demonstrated ability, learning, and motivation via extra-curricular activities directly related to their desired course, they may be eligible to apply through our portfolio entry pathway. They'll just need to complete their Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) (or equivalent from interstate), meet our English language requirements, and get a letter of endorsement from their school. 

Find out more about portfolio entry.

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 Jul 2021

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