Nervous about your ATAR? Here’s our advice to VCE students

Dear VCE students,

You might be anxiously waiting for your ATAR on December 16. There are numbers to agonise over, futures to plan, questions from parents and friends to field. You are thinking of career paths, discussing and justifying decisions, and perhaps you are uncertain about your choice.

Year 12 students at Marymede Catholic College celebrate finish their English exam.Credit:Eddie Jim

Not everyone will choose the path of university, but for those who do, picking a degree can be daunting and it might seem that everyone has an opinion.

You might feel pressured by the hopes of teachers and family. Perhaps you’ll choose the degree that “matches” your ATAR or think about a career that sounds stable or lucrative.

However, the most important thing we urge you to consider is that the university experience relies on your own passion for learning. There are no teachers checking to see if homework is done, so learning must be self-motivated and directed.

University provides a platform for transformation, freedom, autonomy and independence.

University experience relies on your own passion for learning.Credit:Eddie Jim

Relating university degrees and subject choices to your personal life and experiences is more important than thinking only of job prospects and social assumption of “success”. If you can connect the content and context of your discipline with thoughts that are formed and driven by your personal experience, you will get so much more out of your degree.

So, try to think beyond what degree to enrol in. Consider what aspects of learning motivate you the most. Ask yourself, “What are my goals in life?” while being mindful that these goals might change in the future, and that is completely fine!

As we grow and change, our goals change too. So, rather than stressing over this looming choice, focus on becoming lifelong learners.

Learning how to learn is more important now that knowledge, and its means of acquisition are changing so rapidly. When we are trained to be lifelong learners, we can adapt to any situation.

As we grow and change, our goals change too.Credit:Louise Kennerley

If you are now dreading choosing your career path, or even if you have decided what you want to study, you should ask yourself these Four W questions:

Why am I going to university?

What do I want to learn?

Which are my greatest personal attributes and how can I use them in my learning journey?

We all need to adapt as learners.

Where do I see myself in a few years?

This Four W Approach is our personal care package for you, to help you thrive in your studies and elsewhere. These questions remind us that we all need to adapt as learners.

If we know ourselves deeply, we can understand how we want to approach our own individual futures. This self-reliance helps us grow as learners, in university and beyond.

So, if you are anxiously awaiting your ATAR and are apprehensive about your future pathways, remember that learning is a continuum. It’s not all about an ATAR or a degree. It is a means towards profound self-development.

At the end of the day, it is not just about what you learn, rather it is about learning how to learn.

Dr Nira Rahman and Dr Elizabeth Lakey are academics in Arts Teaching Innovation, University of Melbourne.

Follow The Age’s VCE results day live coverage on Thursday, December 16. Our blog starts at 6am.

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