4 Tips To Help Your Teen Cope With ATAR Anxiety


What Your Teen Needs To Know About Their ATAR


There is huge hype surrounding the HSC. It dies down slightly after exams finish, but just when the stress of exams starts to subside – results come out.

Hype aside, the HSC will not make or break the rest of your child's life.width=

Hype aside, the HSC will not make or break your future.

After an anxious wait, responses can be mixed. For some teens, results will bring happiness and relief mixed with excitement about the future. For other teens, results will bring tears, disappointment, and panic.

FACT: Despite the hype, the HSC does not make or break anyone’s future.

If your teen is in a post-ATAR slump or stressed about their future – pass on these tips.

Tip #1: Don’t Try To Calculate Your ATAR

There are countless calculators on the internet that claim to be able to give you an ATAR estimate. They can’t. The scaling and moderating process for calculating your ATAR is extremely complex and without the Board of Studies formula, it’s impossible to predict your ATAR. Save yourself some stress by not punching your assessment marks into an estimate calculator – wait for your actual ATAR to be released.

It’s also impossible to predict your ATAR just by looking at your assessment marks. Your assessment marks might be in the 80’s but your ATAR might end up being in the 90’s or vice versa depending on your subjects.

There’s no way to tell from your assessment marks what your ATAR will be so either keep this in mind when you check your assessment marks or hold off looking at them until your ATAR is available.

Tip #2: Don’t Panic If Your ATAR Is Lower Than You Wanted

Despite the hype, your ATAR will not make or break the rest of your life. Once marks are released there will be 3-4 days of people asking about your assessment marks and what you got for your ATAR and then the hype will die down.

If you’re not happy with your ATAR keep in mind that it’s only a means to an end. If it’s lower than you wanted but high enough to get you into the course you want to do, let it go. I promise you that twelve months from now you won’t care what mark you got for your ATAR. Five years from now you won’t be able to remember what mark you got for your ATAR.

If your ATAR isn’t high enough to meet entry requirements for any of the courses you want to do – do your research. Look into what courses you can do with the ATAR you have and enroll in one of those courses. Once you’re at university, go to the university student centre and make an appointment to speak with someone about pathways for getting from the course you’re enrolled in now, to the course you want to be doing. If you work hard, chances are you’ll be able to switch degrees relatively easily and if you’re smart with your subject choices (the student centre can help you with this) you can be credited with for the subjects you’ve already completed and not have to do them again.

Not getting a high enough ATAR isn’t the end of the world – even though it will probably feel like it at the time. If there’s a specific course you want to do, there will be a way for you to do it.

Tip #3: It’s OK to Not Know What You Want to do with the Rest of Your Life

Some people know exactly what they want to study at university, but lots of people don’t. A lot of people also think they know exactly what they want to do, but get to university and switch courses when they change their mind mid-way through their degree.
Lots of people defer university until they figure out what they want to do with their life, but that’s a lot of pressure. You don’t need to know what you want to do with the whole rest of your life, just think about what you’d like to do with your life in the next 5-10 years. The average person changes careers 7 times over their lifetime so it’s unlikely that what you study at university will be it for you.

Knowing what you want to do comes from trial and error - don't worry if you're not 100% clear on what you want to do with the rest of your life

You don’t have to have all the answers now

You also don’t need to know exactly what you want to do before you start studying. Sometimes the best way to figure out career options is to start studying and figure out what you like and what you don’t like. If you start a degree and realise that you don’t like it, that’s progress – you can cross that course off your list and not have to wonder any more if it’s a career you’d be interested in.

The only way to really know if you’ll like something is to try it.

So you don’t have to have all the answers right now. The only question you need to be able to answer is “do I want to go to university?” If you do want a tertiary education, start with a more general degree like a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts and pick subjects that interest you. Once you’re at university, speak to other people about their degrees and visit your student centre to look at other course options.

Tip #4: Change Your High School Way Of Thinking

Studying at university is a world away from life at school. You’re responsible for your own learning, and if you don’t show up to lectures, no-one cares because how you perform at university has no impact on anyone else but you. The marking criteria and assessment structure is different at university as well, not harder or easier, just different.

If you’re used to performing to a high level at school don’t be alarmed if you don’t rake in distinctions and high distinctions in your first year. Give yourself time to adjust to the different learning style and the new marking criteria.

It’s also worthwhile keeping in mind that while your marks were a huge deal at school, they’re less important at university. When you finished school you finished with a number that determined which courses you had access to at the start of your university career. When you finish your university degree there’s no number, only a piece of paper that says you’ve completed your degree. Someone with a high distinction average will receive the same piece of paper as someone with a credit average.

So while you’re adjusting to university life remember – at school, marks were everything, but at university, passing is everything, your specific marks are less important.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.


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