Why an ATAR score isn't the only route to success

Why an ATAR score isn't the only route to success

We speak to three people who followed alternative study pathways to achieve their career dreams.


For some of us, a high ATAR simply isn’t realistic. Perhaps you were unwell during your final years of school – or maybe you found it difficult to study in a traditional classroom environment.

The good news is that receiving a lower ATAR than you wanted doesn’t mean your education is over – and sometimes you don’t even need an ATAR at all. As these three case studies show, there are plenty of different ways to achieve your career goals.

Zach Page

Zach dreamed of doing something in the healthcare field but found high school a tough slog. “I just didn’t work very well in the normal classroom setting,” he says. “All the general high school stuff just didn’t interest me whereas the medical stuff did.”

Then Zach heard about Chisholm’s VCAL (now called VCE Vocational Major) and Nursing course, which allows Year 12 students to begin a Diploma of Nursing while also completing a Victorian Certificate of Education.

“The VCAL (VCE Vocational Major) component was two days a week and just covered the basic stuff like English and maths, The rest of the time was spent on the nursing.” Zach says.

In his second year at Chisholm, Zach was able to complete his Diploma of Nursing and begin working at a hospital. Now, he’s studying the Bachelor of Nursing, which is offered at Chisholm in partnership with La Trobe University.

Zach says he has no regrets about leaving high school early. “Even though most of my friends stayed and got the ATAR, very few of them have gone on to university,” he says. “But I’ll have a university degree soon.”

Simon Koczy

Simon graduated from Year 12 with a “mid-range” ATAR that wasn’t high enough to get him into his preferred university course, a Bachelor of Accounting. But he was determined to keep studying.

“I knew that, if I put in the effort, I would end up with a qualification that could get me a decent job,” he says.

At Chisholm, Simon completed a Certificate 3, Certificate 4, and Diploma of Business Administration, followed by a Certificate 4, Diploma, and Advanced Diploma of Accounting. “For me personally, TAFE was a great way forward,” he says. “It was time well used in my life.”

He continues: “It was very practical, which suited me. There was lots of discussion in class and you could always approach teachers for help.”

Using his TAFE qualifications, Simon was able to enrol at university to study accounting.

His advice for others who are disappointed by their ATAR scores is to simply keep going. “The ATAR has merit: it’s worth something, and it means a lot to people. But it’s just a stepping stone to get where you want – it’s a reflection of your ability at that point in time. If you keep going, and if you put in the effort, everything will follow.”

Jenna Cooper

Jenna completed Year 11 at high school and decided to do a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care instead of Year 12. She then used this as a pathway into the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care.

After completing her certificate III course, Jenna was able to secure full-time employment at a local childcare centre enabling her to practice what she had already learnt while gaining new skills she could apply to her further studies. “Although I could have gone on to Year 12 and then directly into university from high school, after research and advice from my career teacher I determined that a pathway was a far smarter option,” she says.

Jenna then went on to complete her Bachelor of Early Childhood and Primary Education (Honours) at Monash University.

While completing her degree, she began working at a local after school care service as an assistant.

In her final year she was promoted to a coordinator role.

By the time Jenna completed her degree, she had acquired three qualifications, a decent salary, industry experience and a promotion.

She then went on to teach at a primary school as a primary school teacher.

“Not only could I gain multiple qualifications, I was able to get working in the industry sooner,” she says. “I was fortunate enough to receive a promotion in my chosen industry whilst my high school friends were still working in fast-food stores and in some cases, struggling financially. We all graduated at the same time, I just happened to take a different path.”

If you can relate to Zach, Simon or Jenna’s, why not join them? Chase your calling, no ATAR required. Learn more today chisholm.edu.au/courses.