Life after ATAR – now what?

LIFE AFTER ATAR – NOW WHAT?

This article was written by Imogen Van Der Meer, a current VCE English tutor. Imogen is currently accepting students, so if you’re interested in her services, you can see her profile here

The time has come. You sit in front of your computer, waiting until the exact second the clock ticks over to the hour, so you can refresh your screen which will reveal your ATAR fate.

The number pops up on the screen… a very respectable number. A number that gives you a good amount of choice regarding the next step you take in your education journey. You’re happy. You’re excited. You’re relieved. You can sleep tonight knowing you’ve managed to keep your options wide open.

Fast forward a couple of months, and it’s time to decide which direction you’re heading in. And you’ve just realised that keeping your options wide open has backfired; because unlike all your friends, who know exactly what they’re going to do next, you have no idea how to make the next biggest decision in your life. And that big decision is; what course if any, do I take?

I’ve been there. I’ve been right in that spot, talking myself into a whirlpool of ‘what ifs’ and ‘better nots’ and ‘maybe justs’ and ‘this sucks’. I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school. For years, I wanted to be a vet, but three VCE biology dissections taught me that maybe I wasn’t cut out for that career. So then I figured, well, I’ve always had a knack for English, and I love writing, so maybe I could do something with that. But a few hours of Googling, along with multiple lectures from superiors, made me realise that the English field is extremely broad and vague, while at the same time highly exclusive and, for the most part, financially unstable.

So I panicked. I freaked out. I cried. I felt lost, uncertain, and directionless. And I did the only thing someone could do in that crazy emotional state; I hit ‘defer’ on my acceptance into an Arts Degree. In other words, I did the university equivalent of ‘biding some time’.

So I took a gap year, which in hindsight, is the best decision I ever made. I burnt myself out in VCE; I sacrificed a good 24 months of social engagements to get the highest possible ATAR I was capable of. And that sacrifice worked in my favour, academically. But in terms of self-growth and identity-awareness, I was way behind the 8-ball. Jumping straight into the strange world of university without even really knowing who I was, or what I wanted to become, would have been a disaster.

Instead, I used that year to check off a couple of things on my bucket list. First, I booked the dates for what has become a young adult’s rite of passage in the 21st Century; a Eurotrip (yes, I followed the cliché. Who wouldn’t? It’s a Eurotrip!). So I had something to look forward to in the latter half of that year. And in the meantime, I decided to do something that always interested me, because I had the time to earn the necessary qualifications; personal training.

It was an eventful gap year, to say the least. And I definitely learned a lot about myself in those 12 months. I’d encourage anyone, who is in a situation where a gap year possible, to take advantage of it. Having that extra time to grow up a little bit more, and become more confident and comfortable with who you are, is so incredibly valuable. And most of the time, by the end of it, you’re still unsure what you’re true calling is in life. I definitely was. But what I was surer of, was what I didn’t want my life to be like. I didn’t want to be a personal trainer. And I didn’t want a life without writing. So, I logged back into my university enrolment, and, with still a touch of anxiety, clicked ‘accept’ on my deferral application.

Now, let me just point out that I am all for Arts degrees. I believe they are a very reasonable choice for those who are uncertain which career path to take; Arts degrees provide a wide range of fields to study in, and you have the freedom to mould your subjects around areas you enjoy the most. Sure, they don’t often lead to a promising career on their own, but in this day and age, hardly any degree does. In fact, in almost any field you study, employees are looking for people who have done more than a degree; they’re looking for those with experience, with drive, with a willingness to challenge themselves. And Arts degrees give you the flexibility to do all these things, as well as help you appreciate the pursuit of your greatest passions.

The problem is, you don’t know any of this before you start doing it. At the time, you just think you’ve signed up for four years of ridicule by everyone else who has chosen a more serious career path; who are actually working towards something, who aren’t wasting time. Little do they know how much they are missing out on.

I still have no idea what I’m going to do as a full-time career. I don’t know if teaching is the way to go (though LearnMate is slowly solidifying that idea), or if I bite the bullet and try to make it somewhere with my passion for words. But I don’t have to make that decision yet. Right now, I just have to decide what to pack in my suitcase for my semester abroad.

Yes, that’s right; I am leaving to study overseas in just a month’s time. Because one of the many beauties of a vague Arts degree is that, when it comes to studying, the world is your oyster. And I figure, while I still can, while I have the time, and I have the freedom, I’m going to have a go at everything this world has to offer me.

I guess the moral of my story is; don’t ever feel guilty for wanting to take your time through life. It’s okay not to know what your next move is, so long as you don’t make a move for the sake of it. It’s okay not to know where you’re heading, so long as you keep exploring. It’s okay not to be the hare in this race through life, so long as you’re fine with being the turtle. Remember; even though he was slow, the turtle still crossed the finish line. He never gave up, no matter how fast the others were going. And he ended up finishing first because he was okay with finishing last.

And whether I finish first or last, I know I will have enjoyed every step of the race.


LearnMate is Australia’s leading tutoring agency offering private lessons in all primary & high school subjects including English, maths, science, humanities, foreign languages, and so much more. Our mission is simple: to provide professional, engaging and enthusiastic tutors to students, while also ensuring the student feels empowered and confident during their assessments! Ultimately, our goal is to empower students all over Australia to achieve amazing results and make their dreams come true!

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Life after ATAR – now what?

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