6.32am. I’m awake. Of course, I’m awake, ATARs are released in 28 minutes.
6.41am. I need over a 98 to keep all of my options open… Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten drunk at that 18th in September that one time.
6.45am. I’m resolved to be happy with whatever I get… although I will be disappointed if it’s below 90. Why did I ‘wing’ that one SAC??
6.53am. I’m up. My laptop is on, my phone is beside me. I’m going to be sick.
7.01am. No text message. WHY HASN’T IT COME THROUGH AND WHAT IS MY PASSWORD.
7.04am. 99.20. Relief floods over me and all I can think is, ‘it’s there, I did it’.
ATAR day was a blur of giddiness and phone calls. My whole family was ecstatic, and I was on the greatest high. All of my friends were happy enough with what they’d gotten, everyone felt like they could get into a course that they’d enjoy. I felt like everything was clicking into place, that I’d fulfilled some ancient mission I’d set myself.
Not to burst that bubble, but it turns out real life doesn’t really care too much about your ATAR.
A month after the excitement of the reveal I was accepted to study Biomedicine at the University of Melbourne, a course I had once blatantly dismissed as a possibility because of the entry score. I rejected two scholarship offers, feeling that the universities were too far away from the life I was just returning to, post-VCE.
My summer was spent working, and with friends and family. Without realising it, I’d had blinkers on all throughout VCE, and I felt like I was getting to know all of my loved ones again. I felt like I was getting to know myself again - what had I done before studying had become my priority? Hadn’t it always been my priority? Didn’t I, once played the guitar?
I realised that I had no idea who I was. Somehow my whole identity had become wrapped up with my VCE experience- the result of focusing so intensely on one thing for so long.
March swung around, and suddenly I was studying again. There was a large part of me that was questioning why I had to keep proving myself and getting good results. I’d done it, I’d gotten the ATAR… and now I had no less than six chemistry lectures to catch up on whilst country kids, who had told me how lucky they were to scrape in, we're getting H1s and taking on extra reading. Me, I found myself picking up extra shifts instead of textbooks. It didn’t add up; I was so confused and overwhelmed by it all. Had I chosen the right course? Was I just burnt out from year 12?
A month in, I started looking forward and realised I needed a break from studying. Not just time off, but a chance to focus on myself and what I wanted to do with my life. My goal became to finish the semester. I was able to enjoy it more, knowing it was the last time I’d be studying for a while. I scraped passes in all of my subjects, only really doing well in my elected breadth.
Even if I decide to change courses or even universities, last semester was not a waste of time. Despite the cliché that it’s impossible to make friends at uni, I actually found a couple that I’ll keep in touch with. I now know that I really do love maths, and thanks to a few mandatory dissections, I know for sure that I cannot be a surgeon.
I came to understand that the ATAR I got doesn’t mean I’m always going to come out on top, but that I have the ability and the potential to work hard and reach my goals.
As my friends return to uni for their second semester, I’m working hard to save for a projected eight months of travelling. I’m treasuring my last few months in Australia with plenty of time spent with the people I love. I’ve slowly started writing and drawing again, two things that I loved, and gave up on, about five years ago.
Ultimately, reaching your goal and keeping your options open in terms of an ATAR - that’s awesome. But you have to be prepared to leave VCE with an open mind and you have to be prepared to be wrong. There’s no hurry. If you choose the wrong course or defer because you still have no clue what you’re doing, it’s fine. Take the opportunity to listen to yourself and discover what you need to be doing to feel happy and proud to be you. And trust yourself that you’ll figure it all out if you just keep moving.
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