BlogLearnWhy You Should NOT Aim For a High ATAR

Why You Should NOT Aim For a High ATAR

Do you actually need to get a high ATAR?

The general goal when it comes to the HSC is to do as well as possible right? Whenever I talk to students and ask what their goal is, so many of them simply say that they want a 99.5 ATAR.

But is it actually worth all that effort?

In this video and article, I’m going to take you through WHY you could actually be better off aiming for a lower ATAR as well as HOW this can contribute positively to your University prospects!

There’s a Sweet Spot
Your ATAR Isn’t everything
So…Why 85-95 Range?
You Need to Be Strategic

There’s a Sweet Spot

So what ATAR should you be aiming for? 

As it turns out there are actually very few courses that require an ATAR over 99. In fact, there’s very few that require an ATAR over 98, let alone 97.

Yes, there are a number of key courses that do require a really high ATAR. However, on a broad spectrum, there are thousands that don’t!

That doesn’t make sense right? Let me prove it to you. Here’s a list of the few key courses that do require an incredibly high ATAR:

Law (USYD)

Medicine (UNSW, USYD)

Physio (USYD

Dentistry (USYD)

Optometry (UNSW)

Engineering (USYD)

Philosophy (ANU)

Economics (USYD)

Generally speaking, you’ve got about 8-10 degrees at 4-5 Universities across Australia that have an incredibly high ATAR cut-off.

What this means is there are thousands of other degrees that don’t require an ATAR any higher than 97. 

Even the degrees mentioned above will be available at various different Universities, many of which have a lower ATAR cut-off.

This means that there’s a sweet spot you should be aiming for as an ATAR.

Roughly and depending on a range of personal factors, the 85-95 ATAR range is the perfect place to aim for. 

But how do we know this?

Your ATAR Isn’t Everything

So, why does this sweet spot even exist?

lot of it has to do with how Universities select potential students.

To understand why the 85-95 ATAR area is a sweet spot, we need to go on a few tangents to explain the bigger picture.

Tangent #1: Universities are Changing

Things have changed greatly recently in regards to how Universities look at applicants and courses.

The big change was this: The Government moved to a demand-driven model of University placement and enrolment.

While this demand driven model has now been changed, what it does mean is that universities can take more students than they could in the past.

This has made Atar requirements at Universities way more flexible.

As a result, Universities like ANU are increasingly looking for qualities in potential students that go beyond the ATAR.

This includes things such as:

  • Leadership
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Volunteer experience
  • Work experience

From 2020 onwards, the ATAR is only going to be a single factor among many others that Universities take into account when considering entry.

For example, Macquarie Universities Global Leadership Program already works in the same vein. Currently, the University is accepting applicants without knowing the student’s ATAR at all!

This reveals a broader trend within Universities of looking beyond the ATAR.

Tangent #2: Scholarship Applications

Generally speaking, while there’s often an academic requirement for scholarship applications, this isn’t what differentiates students.

Most of the students who are applying for scholarships have all done really well. If you have a high ATAR, this isn’t really going to be the thing that makes a difference.

What matters the most is:

  • Leadership
  • Volunteer experience
  • Work experience
  • A project outside of school

All of these are non-academic related!

Very few students actually maintain these non-academic pursuits during Year 12. This is usually because they’re making sacrifices in order to focus on achieving a good ATAR.

This means that focusing on non-academic aspects can really help you STAND OUT when applying for a scholarship.

Universities consider far more than just your ATAR when you apply for a scholarship.

We need to keep this in mind if we’re going to understand why scoring an ATAR of around 95 can be far more beneficial than attempting to reach that coveted 99.5.

So…Why 85-95 Range?

In Year 12, your goal should be to do as well as possible.


Getting a 99.5 is going to be hard. You’re going to need to make some sacrifices.

Unless you’re trying to get into that very narrow range of high ATAR courses, where is a 99.5 actually getting you? The truth is that it’s not necessarily giving you anything tangible in terms of options.

So.. Why aim for a 85-95 Range?

Reason #1: It Gives You Lots of Options

Excluding the 8 or 9 courses that have an extremely high ATAR requirement, an ATAR of around 85-95 enables you to do pretty much all the courses that are available at University.

This contributes greatly to your freedom of choice when deciding what to study.

Reason #2: Time!

Pursuing an ATAR of around 85-95 frees up a lot more time for you to pursue non-academic commitments.

Whether it be extracurricular pursuits, sport, leadership or a part-time job, these are the activities that are going to help you STAND OUT!

You Need to be Strategic

When it comes to University and employment, your success is going to be based on a far broader set of factors than just your ATAR. 

If you’re in an environment where everyone around you is aiming for a really high ATAR, this sort of mentality can get stuck in your head.

However, you need to be strategic.

While it sounds great to get a 99+ ATAR, you need to find the perfect balance between achieving a good ATAR and creating options for yourself in terms of scholarships and early entry.

You can do this best by aiming for that sweet spot of 85-95 ATAR. This way, you can make sure that you kick ass not only in the HSC but in all facets of your life. 

Learn more about the average ATAR here!

Need some extra help with a scholarship or University application?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC tutors and mentors!

Whether you need to get a really great ATAR for your desired course or if you aren’t sure how to work strategically towards scholarships and early-entry, we can help!

We provide award-winning tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a large variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or 1 on 1 or in small classes at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

Our tutors aim to help you build academic strength while also guiding you through your transition into University!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today! 

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at [email protected] or check us out on Facebook!


45,861 students have a head start...

Get exclusive study content & advice from our team of experts delivered weekly to your inbox!

AOS Website Asset 2

Looking for Academic Support?

Discover how we can help you!

AOS Website Asset 1