Want to hear a funny story? Of course you do.

If your high school was anything like mine-a generic public high school with the demographic of students ranging from uninterested drop-outs to academic geniuses-an average ATAR score above 70 was considered a great result.

Yet for me, the stress of year 12 and the pressure that the future implications an average ATAR score placed on me, meant that my 86 ATAR score left me in tears.

Yep, I cried. I got 86, what some would consider an impressive result, and I locked myself in my bedroom and blubbered like a baby for hours, completely inconsolable.

It sounds dramatic, and to be fair, it probably was, but at the time it was my natural reaction to what I considered to be a less than favourable result. My 86 ATAR didn’t get me into my first preference University course, and even though I was above the entry ATAR for my second preference, knowing that I wasn’t going to get the result that I slaved away for 10 months to achieve wasn’t ideal.

I was aiming to get a score in the 90’s, end of story. If I didn’t get in the 90’s, that would probably be the worst thing that could happen to me, and I didn’t know how I’d deal with that perceived sense of failure.

Now, a touch over five years later, I don’t think I’ve mentioned the term ATAR since I graduated from high school in 2011.

Why is this? Well, to be honest, an average ATAR score doesn’t have to matter that much, and after senior school studies, it really doesn’t. That being said, I wouldn’t change the way I approached my studies in year 12 in terms of my motivation and dedication, but I would change my attitude towards the results.

I’ll tell you why.

An ATAR score is only relevant at the time

As I mentioned earlier, after I received my ATAR score, and after I cried…I don’t think I mentioned or thought about the term again.

For the 10 or so months that year 12 studies take up, a lot of students revolve their entire lives around that one number. I know I did.

We spend a year agonising over something that will only be of real relevance for that particular period of time.

It can’t be denied that ATAR marks are the primary method of entry to University, so I guess it’s valid to be concerned over where you will be ranked.

Yet the evidence, like what can been drawn from The Sydney Morning Herald, seems to reveal that while the number holds value, it doesn’t define you or your long term success.

So much seems to ride on ATARs of 90 and above that students as well as their parents are almost conditioned to think that a high ranking is a sign of complete success.

The reality is that most students arrive at university with an ATAR of less than 90.

So while the chances of receiving an average ATAR score may take up 100% of your thoughts during your final year of high school, it’s important to remember that in all honesty, you are likely to find an opportunity no matter what number you achieve.

ATAR’s might not apply to your future pathway

If I look back at my year 12 experience, my teachers, although incredibly supportive, may have been slightly too pushy on the whole ATAR idea. In their minds, if you found yourself past the common year 10 dropout population, well you must be aiming for the stars!

This isn’t necessarily the case. There were plenty of students in my year 12 year that had no intention of pulling their hair out over a number, and were merely there to receive their piece of paper that accredited them a year 12 pass.

A year 12 pass is underrated, if you ask me. While there are plenty of students who leave school in year 10 or earlier in pursuit of work experience, a full time job or other opportunities, those who do stick out senior school should be given more credit. It’s surprising how well a simple year 12 pass fares on a resume.

Many career paths out there have no use for an ATAR, and completion of year 12 is looked upon as favourably in some industries as a number is to higher education. Just because you’re in year 12, doesn’t mean you need to be putting yourself through stress.

For many courses, you don’t really need a high ATAR

Like I said before, there is evidence to suggest that student’s concern about achieving an average ATAR score could be unnecessary.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the higher education courses that require an entry score of 90 or higher are actually few and far between.

Interestingly, Victoria vice-chancellor Peter Dawkins said last month that very often an ATAR is a “meaningless piece of information”.

An examination of advertised ATARs for courses around the country shows that a score of 60 and above will get you into a very long list of degrees.

The article then goes on to mention that the courses that do have a 90 or higher admissions expectation often only have a small intake of students.

So, if there really are that many courses out there that offer positions to students with scores much lower than 90, why do we stress out over it so much? Why are we conditioned to believe that a high ATAR is the only entry point to tertiary education? Sounds unreasonable to me…

There are pathways where ATAR’s are completely irrelevant

Let me ask you a question; what would you say if I told you that there are alternative higher education pathways on offer that have absolutely no use for an ATAR mark?

I’m guessing you’d stare at me blankly and wonder why you hand-crafted all of those posters you blu-tacked to walls in your house, and spent countless sleepless nights highlighting every sentence in your textbooks…

I’m not going to totally discredit the importance of hard work and diligent study in year 12 and the purpose of your schooling career, but I am going to disregard the perceived holy grail implications of an ATAR result.

College admissions in the US, for example, have no use for a score that is based on one year of study and absolutely no idea what ATAR even means.

In order to gain entry into a higher education in America, colleges look at something called a GPA, or a Grade Point Average, whereby students are evaluated based on an average of their results from year 9 through to year 12. This method allows higher education institutions to gain a more well-rounded and long term insight into a student’s academic performance. Also, the student is afforded a more realistic opportunity to display themselves in the best light.

For some students, this might sound more concerning as this means they would have to prove great marks over the course of three or four years, rather than one solid year of academic commitment.

For me, this option for gaining entry to University/College is appealing. In year 9, 10 and 11, while the work got progressively harder, it couldn’t be compared with the extreme expectations of year 12. With this in mind, being able to represent myself to US colleges as a committed and well-rounded student over the course of high school would have been more attainable.

Therefore, the entry requirements of a US education opportunity could be more appealing for some Australian and New Zealand students. A proven long term commitment to education and a favourable SAT score can gain a wide variety of students access to higher education in America.

In addition to this, a keen interest in an extra-curricular activity such as sport or performing arts, can also help students find a point of entry to an overseas education. For an international education pathway like what the US can offer, it’s important to gather as much information and resources as possible to make the opportunity realistic.

Gaining more information on a new education pathway to your future could be your best option for pursuing a unique opportunity.