'If you didn't do well at school, this is why it's okay.'


That was my ATAR score. 

When I first saw the number, my dad was with me and he immediately hugged and congratulated me. My final year of school was a bit of a struggle for me so this score was something I was ecstatic about. It wasn't until later that day at a congratulatory tea hosted by my highschool did I realise that my ATAR score perhaps wasn't something to feel proud of.

Watch: From yoga to gratitude journals, these are the ways schools have changed over the years. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

When the head of my year group asked me if I was willing to share my score with her, I proudly (and loudly) said "71.7". Immediate silence. She asked me if I was okay and requested that I make an appointment with the school's career counsellor. Bit dramatic I know, but at the time I went into straight panic mode.

Thankfully, I had extremely supportive parents who helped me realise my strengths and laid out the unspoken facts about how Australia's education system is set up in a very specific way which isn't for everyone.

Listen to Emily Vernem on Things You Didn’t Learn In School podcast. Post continues below.

Here are some of the things they told me that still ring true to this day:

Not everyone can memorise 8000 words.

First and foremost, we need to acknowledge that not everyone's talents and learning abilities are showcased in a traditional classroom setting. The education system tends to favour certain types of learners – those who excel in memorisation. We were taught to memorise every single essay and answer, and shape them to suit the questions that were given to us. It's a skill that the higher education system rewards. It's important to note that not everyone can memorise four essays per exam. It doesn't mean that those who don't perform well in this environment lack intelligence or potential.


Life is not a straight path.

We've all heard it before: Life is anything but predictable. This especially applies to life after high school where we have to make decisions for ourselves instead of an institution making them for us. While school performance can have an impact on your future, it is just one tiny element. I want to mention that there are many students who don't have the privilege of "not doing well in school", however, there are so many post-high school opportunities that don't rely on you needing a 99.9 score in order to have a good life and career. I personally landed my dream job after taking a 10 week course online.

Learning is a lifelong journey.

School performance does not define a person's capacity for growth and development. I've had so many conversations in my 20s about how much we actually didn't learn in school. Things like investing, fertility and how the hell to talk to a mechanic. This is why we've launched a brand new podcast to address just that. Things You Didn't Learn In School is the show that will teach you all the things you never learned in a traditional education setting - but really do need to know in real life.

Listen to the first episode of Things You Didn't Learn In School below. Post continues after podcast.

Lastly, success is subjective.

Success is deeply personal, and it doesn't always align with society's narrow definition of achievement. My parents constantly tell me that worth and value as a person is not determined by academic performance but by character, values, and the positive impact you can have on the world.

If you want more from Em, you can listen to her every Monday on the Things You Didn't Learn in School podcast or you can follow her on Instagram @emilyvernem.

Feature Image: Instagram @emilyvernem.

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