What to say to your child if their ATAR isn't what they hoped.

Western Sydney University
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Let them know it’s not the end of the world.

Let them know you are proud of them and who they are as a person.

Let them know that you can work together and that you have options….

On Tuesday December 17 parents in NSW will be waking up to either a very excited school leaver or a very disappointed one. At 7am on that day the ATAR scaled study scores for students completing Year 12 HSC will be released.

I’ll be there with my son.

It’s been a harrowing 12 months. It’s been a marathon. There have been late nights, small triumphs, and petty arguments.

There has been jubilation and frustration in equal parts. It’s been a very emotional year.

When he finally finished his exams, it was a time of tears for me and relief for my son. I know how hard my son has worked, I know the score he probably deserves, but I can’t guarantee that is what he’ll get.

Parents all around the country are holding their breath nervous about how to support their young person if their ATAR score isn’t what they expected. Sometimes it means that the university entrance score may mean they don’t get an offer.

When you think about it, something as momentous as the ATAR couldn’t come at a harder time for most young people. They’re having 18th birthdays, driving their first car and gaining independence they never had before. A lot of kids will have fallen in and out of love, and already gone though some of life’s big ups and downs.

Combine this with hormones, and those natural parental conflicts that happen between adult and child, it certainly adds extra pressure to their result.

I saw my brilliant bright daughter go from a top student to a very low ATAR mark because she literally lost the drive to keep going.


So this isn’t my first time as a mum of a kid who’s waiting for their ATAR.

This is my fourth child and my third one to do their HSC and get their ATAR. Each time around, you hold the hopes of your child close to you.

My eldest daughter left school in Year 11 and  later took advantage of the alternative pathways to university. It was a real learning curve for me as a mother to realise that there are many ways into university.

It showed that although disappointing at the time, a lower ATAR doesn’t mean the end of the beginning of your academic career. Or your career in general, if you’re not the academic type, which is perfectly OK.

Smart universities know that some of their brightest minds may not start to shine until they’re a little older. In fact, my husband is an associate Professor with a PhD who only passed his HSC by 1 point. He went to uni as a mature-age student.

Knowing this, I tell my kids that there are many roads to their dreams. A person’s worth or intelligence cannot be measured with numbers.

More and more academic institutions are starting to recognise that some kids need support and nurturing to get them on the academic super highway. Not all universities offer alternative pathways but there are some very good ones that do.


The College at Western Sydney University has a pathway option. It's there to help students secure their spot at Western in the course they want to get into - even if they didn't get the ATAR required. It’s a pathway, where ambition makes a degree possible.

Some universities require students to do a general Diploma or Foundation course, but The College doesn't. It has the pure goal of getting young people into their dream courses. If you or your child is nervous, you can even apply directly to Western Sydney University right now.

There’s no application fee and it does mean that on December 17 if things aren’t as rosy as you hoped, that you do have a plan B.

Chances are those phone lines to universities who support students with alternative pathways are going to be pretty busy on December 18.

So, be prepared. And of course, be there for them and listen to them. Their future is waiting.

Visit The College at Western Sydney University for more information on a pathway option into Western.

Western Sydney University

The College at Western Sydney University can help guarantee you entry into your chosen uni degree so you can start building your career.