When D-Day becomes A-Day: ATAR Day from students’ perspectives

Classrooms may be empty but Year 12 students are still feeling trapped by the mystery of their final score (image source: Holly Royce)

By Viki Ntafillis | @viki_ntaf

Right now, while most people are stressing about Christmas, a certain number of individuals have another pressing date on their minds.


For Year 12 students wishing to attend university, it is one of the biggest days of their academic career.

woman biting pencil while sitting on chair in front of computer during daytimeStudying? Check. Nervous? Check. (image source: JESHOOTS)

The ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking) ranks students from all over Australia who have completed Year 12 and ranges from 0.00 to 99.95.

It is calculated by gathering a student’s best three scaled scores of 20 credit subjects, along with another set of scaled scores made up of 30 credits (that’s where the Research Project can come into play). 

This number provides a university aggregate out of 90, which is then converted to a national ranking.

The higher the ATAR, the more university courses a student is eligible for.

Throughout my own senior year, I remember the mystery of the ATAR lingering in the back of my mind like the creepy drum sequence from Jumanji. 

It got steadily louder and faster the closer I got to ATAR day, i.e. imminent danger.

When that moment arrived, with shaking hands, I logged into the SACE website.

The drums reached their almighty crescendo and then, with a final pound, the dreaded four-digit number appeared on my screen.

jumanji-1994-20th-anniversary-blu-ray-and-4k-ultra-hd This is basically how Year 12 feels the entire time (image source: The Entertainment Factor)

So, how do other students feel about the whole ordeal?

Katie Verney, 17, having just completed Year 12, is currently experiencing the ATAR dread.

“I am feeling extremely nervous for ATAR Day!” Ms Verney said.

“However, throughout the year, I have learnt to put the final result into perspective and understand that there are other pathways into courses.

“It’s been important for me to comprehend that an ATAR doesn’t define you.

“My final exam was on the 8th of November and since then, I’ve kept myself busy to ensure I don’t stress myself out about the results.”

“I also feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders because I know there’s nothing I can do about it now.

“I’m hoping my ATAR will take me to university so I can study Occupational Therapy.”

Sarah Jeisman, 19, a Bachelor of Health Sciences/Master of Occupational Therapy student at Flinders University, admitted to sharing a similar sentiment when she completed Year 12 in 2017.

“I remember feeling a mix of fear and excitement on ATAR day,” Ms Jeisman said.

“I was quite shocked when I opened my results… it took a while to sink in.

“Ultimately, there was a wave of relief when I realised I had obtained a high enough score to secure a place in my preferred course.”

However, Ms Jeisman said her perspective of ATAR day has changed since leaving school. 

“Throughout Year 12, there was such a build-up towards the release of results… part of me thought that if I didn’t get a good score, I had essentially ‘failed’,” she said.

“Since then, I’ve realised that an ATAR does not define who you are, and no one will really remember or care for the number you received.”

three men and laughing two women walking side by sideAfter a while, the ATAR just starts to feel irrelevant (image source: Elliot Reyna)

For those students not accepted into their first preference with their ATAR straight after Year 12, Ms Jeisman said there was definitely hope. 

“I have met many people who didn’t obtain a high enough [ATAR] to enter the Master of Occupational Therapy stream,” she said.

“Instead, they achieved a satisfactory GPA throughout their bachelor’s degrees to transfer them into the program.

“Personally, I wish I didn’t spend so much time worrying about my ATAR, because there would have been several other pathways to get into my course if needed.”

End of year results for Year 12s in SA will be released tomorrow at 8:30 am on the SACE website.

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