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School Leavers: What to do when you do not get the ATAR, university offer, TAFE offer or job you hoped for

22 Dec 2021

The first round of undergraduate university offers in South Australia have been made this week.

This is a time of trepidation for many young people. For some, this is also an exciting time but for others it might be tinged with disappointment.

It is helpful for young people to know that what they decide to do next year after leaving school will be just one of many career steps in their lives. Self-worth does not hinge on one decision, an ATAR, a job or an offer for tertiary study.

To school leavers:

The first step beyond school is usually filled with uncertainty and anticipation. It can feel scary to finish school knowing that you will not be back next year – this is a perfectly normal and OK feeling to have. It is uncomfortable to not really know what lies ahead but learning to be comfortable with uncertainty is a very important skill to develop.

To students who achieved what they had hoped for, congratulations.

To students who did not gain what they had hoped for, please understand that there are many different pathways from school. Even if the course or job you wanted is not going to work out for next year,

It is also true that getting the ATAR you want or the offer for a course that you are certain you want, is no guarantee that things will work out as planned.

So, what should you do if you don’t get the offer that you want (or you have changed your mind about what you planned to do next year)?

  • Think about the skills and knowledge that you think would be good for you to  develop that align with the career area or course you want to do.
  • Search for courses, jobs, apprenticeships, traineeships or internships that require similar skills to what you had hoped to do.
  • Look at career resources like Your Career – School Leavers Kit,  myfuture or Year 13.
  • Speak with the Career Development Practitioner (sometimes called the Careers Counsellor, Pathways Coordinator or Director of Futures) at your school. Even if you have just finished school, contact them to make an appointment when they will be back at school after the school holidays.
  • Speak with advisers from TAFE SA, universities or RTOs to check what other ways there might be for getting into the career area you want.
  • Investigate doing a short TAFE SA course or private RTO course or qualifications. Having a nationally recognised qualification makes you more employable, might bolster future applications for courses and can help you decide if that is the type of career area in which you would like to work.
  • Finding out what type of work or learning is not a good fit for you can be very useful.
  • Trying things, even things that you are not sure if you will like, is a great way of narrowing down alternative options.
  • There is more than one way of getting into a career. Create a list of all the relevant courses or similar jobs that you could do, to get started.

Is a Gap Year a good idea?

It can be but it really depends on what you do during that year. Typically, most students taking a Gap Year do so because they feel unsure about what they want to do after finishing school or they don’t feel ready to commit to one long course, like a university degree.

If you are thinking about taking a gap year, explore what types of learning you can do during that time, in addition to any paid work or volunteer work that you might do. People benefit the most if they integrate some type of learning into their Gap Year experience. There are many short courses available that might be fun, interesting or develop some skills without requiring a big commitment or assessments! Think about doing a range of things that can bolster your resume such as volunteering, doing training, mentoring or work placement (work experience). It is also useful to attend career expos during the year. 

The key to a beneficial Gap Year is have experiences and do things that move you closer to deciding what you don’t want to do in the future and what courses or jobs that you might want to do. Just working in a job that you have previously had or was something that you could have gained whilst at school, is sometimes not enough to help people doing a Gap Year feel that the experience is developing enough new skills and knowledge, to move you towards narrowing down what types of study or work you might do next.

Whatever you do next year, remind yourself that new knowledge and skills will be useful to you in lots of different ways in the future. Choosing something that is the best fit for you at this point in time is what you need to focus on.  Good luck!

The TAFE SA offer round is on 7 January 2022.

The second round of undergraduate university offers is on 14 January 2022.