This time last year I was sat with the same unease that you and close to 50,000 other year 12 students in Victoria are feeling right now. The good news is that it gets better from here. But what happens next?

Firstly, let's talk about self-care.

The nerves of waiting to find out what your ATAR and study scores are can make you pull an all-nighter like you've never experienced before. Ideally, you'll want to spend the evening beforehand relaxing as much as possible and giving yourself the best chance of a good night's sleep. For this reason, I suggest avoiding stimulants like coffee ‒ tea is a good substitute here. This worked so well for me that I managed to completely forget about results being released and woke up only five minutes before they were scheduled to come out.

"I have my result. What do I do now?"

Hopefully you're content with your results, but of course that's not the reality for everyone. The first thing to know is that you're not alone, and there is plenty of support at hand. The reality is that the ATAR process is only designed to give universities and tertiary institutions a ranking system for determining placements. It isn't a determinant of your abilities, and doesn't necessarily correlate with the work you put in throughout the year.

If your ATAR was at or above the 'clearly in' score required for your top preference, then you can rest easy. If you ranked below this, there is still a likely chance that you will receive a first round offer for that course. Depending on which course you have applied for, anywhere between 15 and 60% of students who take up that course will have received an ATAR below the clearly in score.

If you have your heart set on a particular place, don't lose hope. Some institutions have up to five rounds of offers for domestic students, and even then this is only one way to get yourself into university. Many offer other undergraduate qualifications (certificates, diplomas) that lead into a Bachelor's degree the following year.

"If someone asks you for your ATAR and you don't want to tell them, how do you respond?"

Your ATAR is your own concern. Deflections I have used include "it's good enough for my course", "it's about where I expected" and "I'm really happy with it, thanks." Remember, a bit of passive aggression never hurt anyone.

While I'm on the subject, from my experience of university life I can say that ATARs mean absolutely nothing. You thrive not on your past achievements but your desire to learn and achieve your goals. Some further unsolicited university advice: get to know your tutors and your lecturers – they are what get me through any banal pieces of assessment.

"I'm reconsidering my options. Is this normal? Who should I speak to?"

This is entirely normal, especially when most applications are made back in August and September. There is currently a change of preference window open with VTAC until 12pm on Wednesday, December 19, with a further 25 hour window opening at 3pm on Thursday, January 3. Details on additional change of preference windows can be found on the VTAC website.

A good starting point is your school's careers advisor. In addition, many universities offer course advice sessions for year 11 and 12 students, which will give you further information on studying at that institution. If you're interested in an institution rather than a particular course, it's worth taking some time to explore the campus and discover whether you see yourself fitting in there.

"I still have no idea what I want to do"

This is also normal, and I'm afraid to say that once you get into university you'll be even more prone to changing course. It's also entirely unreasonable to suggest that every single person who completes VCE does, or should, know what they want to spend their life doing. For instance, I've completed my first year as a journalism major in the Bachelor of Media & Communication, and I'm now considering changing course into sociology or urban planning. Nothing is set in concrete.

If you're really stuck and you have the means, take a gap year. Finding work and travelling are two productive uses of your time – for extra points, combine both and your resume will look particularly impressive. Regardless, don't do nothing: taking two and a half months off can be challenging in itself, let alone deferring study for six or twelve months at a time.

"Does this storm calm down? Will I be okay?"

Fortunately, yes. You will do a lot of growing over the next twelve months, and for some of you it will start with your VCE results. Because a ranking can't do it for you, take some time to look back at what you achieved in 2018 and realise you've put in one hell of an effort. You have so much ahead of you and, while the road ahead may be bumpy, you can come out of it okay.

Results and ATAR –
Post Results and ATAR support service –
VTAC Dates and fees –

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