Don’t let your ATAR define your future

Friday, 18 December 2015

Tracey Morton

Occupational therapy student Tracey Morton was determined that her career and her life amounted to more than the sum total of a single number.

One number – isn’t it crazy how it feels like your future will be defined by this one number? How the weight of the world is on your shoulders, all because of this two-digit number with two decimal places.

Looking back some seven years after going through the same stresses you are experiencing now I’ve come to the simple conclusion – this one number does not define your future.

At the time it’s so hard not to get caught up in the hysteria, especially when it’s all your friends are talking about, asking ‘What do you think you’ll get?” over and over.

It’s all school has been drilling into you for years and years – all the classes, all the study groups, all the late-night reading, it all culminates in this one number.

Sometimes you can’t even escape it at home, with family members constantly asking you about which subjects you’ve chosen, how much study you’re doing, which course you want to get into – at times it feels like there’s no escape.

My own experience was a unique one because I was focused on my athletics and reduced my study load to the point where I wouldn’t get a score. I was aiming to represent Australia on the biggest stage in sport: the Olympic Games – a goal I’m still striving for today.

At the time I had no real intention of going to university and aside from my athletics, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my career. I applied for an exercise science course, but in truth I had no desire to study at university.

So at the end of high school I studied at TAFE to become a personal trainer – it was this time working as a personal trainer that I found my true calling.

I was working at a local gym in Sydney when the opportunity to assist within the disability programs came up through the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Immediately I knew this was what I wanted to do and where my passion lay – I wanted to become an Occupational Therapist.

Initially I felt genuine apprehension. How was I going to get into university without the scores needed? Thankfully, I found out there are many avenues into university beyond your high school score.

Talking to the people at TAFE, I discovered that if I completed a diploma in fitness I would gain the necessary prerequisite to apply for the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy.

Since getting accepted into Australian Catholic University (ACU), the past three years of study have solidified in my mind that this is the course for me and Occupational Therapy is what I want to do.

I look back at the time when the scores were coming out and realise that even if I decided to go to university at that time, I don’t think I would have lasted. Everyone’s circumstances are different – I wasn’t ready for university and needed that time working and studying through TAFE to find out what it was that I really wanted to do.

It’s amazing how the same pressures people around me were feeling when I finished high school are still just as relevant today. I see it in the young girls I coach, who are about to enter into their final year of high school, and already the stresses are telling on them.

I try to use my experiences and journey to ACU as a lesson to not let one number define your future study aspirations. There is a path to the course you want to study and if you want it enough, you’ll find that path.

It’s funny, that saying "everything happens for a reason” to me was nothing more than that – just a saying, but I look back on my journey from finishing high school to where I am now at the end of my third year at uni, and my philosophy has changed.

I don’t look at that time between high school and when I started my Bachelor of Occupational Therapy as a waste. In fact every step on my journey has led me to where I am today, which is where I want to be.

I defined the path of what and where I wanted to study, not a number.

For more useful insights and advice about university life and courses check out ACU Student Talk.