Did you get a university offer?

Did you get a university offer this week?

Universities in Australia are sending out their offers to new students this week. For Western Australia, first round offers were released yesterday. Many students will receive an offer, hopefully their first preference, but many other students won’t. Why? For some it could be because their ATAR score was too low and beneath the cutoff score for course entry. However, it could also be because fewer students are being offered a place this year, as universities respond to the federal government budget cuts.

Just under one month ago in December, Year 12 students doing university entrance courses received their ATAR scores. These scores are used by the universities to make offers to new students. The high schools are also ranked in terms of how well their Year 12 students did in the ATARs. As reported a week ago by Reformed News (John Calvin Christian College #20 of 186 schools in WA: Year 12 ATAR score) the John Calvin Christian College (JCCC) ranked highly among other schools in Western Australia.

The Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking (ATAR) score is not like an average grade among subjects for the student, but rather a relative ranking of where they fit among all other students. For example, an ATAR of 80 means that they got better results than 80% of all of the Year 12 school leaver students. The ATAR is a complex calculation based on the best four scaled subjects undertaken in Year 12. Bonus points are given for certain cohorts of regional students or for particular subjects such as LOTE (Language Other Than English) and mathematics (Mathematic Methods and Mathematics Specialist). More information on how the ATAR is calculated can be gleaned from the TISC website.

The universities use the ATAR scores to decide on which students will be offered a place, based on the students’ preferences of the courses they would like to do. They use the ATAR scores plus any additional information about a student that may provide evidence of the student’s ability to learn (eg. additional studies, certificates, diplomas, other qualifications, etc.). There is also competition among universities to attract students, particularly talented students who are able to complete and perform well in study programs.

The universities decide how many places to offer based on the quality of students applying, and on the availability of resources for teaching and learning. The federal government cut the education budget for 2018 which may lead to fewer places being offered in addition to universities having to be leaner and make more effective use of resources. There are claims that fewer students will get offers overall this year. See the article by the West Australian: Up to 10,000 students could miss out on uni place.

Given that the ATAR score is an important factor in obtaining a university place, it receives substantial attention. Many students use it as a means to show their academic abilities, even though it is really only a ranking. The high schools often also use it as a means of reputation with the aim to get higher in the rankings relative to other schools.

However, we must realise the limitations of the ATAR. It is a means (but not the only!) used by universities to select students to offer a course. Comparing with others is not the final means to judge how well you perform. In fact, as covenant children, we are to use our gifts and abilities to God’s glory and to the best of our ability. Many students with a low ATAR may have used their abilities much more diligently and faithfully than others with a high ATAR. The Lord doesn’t judge by ATAR scores but by where our heart and soul lies. We must be good stewards and faithful servants with our God-given abilities to apply towards our tasks and responsibilities. Jesus taught this through the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30) with the encouragement of ‘’…‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ “ (Matt 25:21).  “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17)

Similarly, the ranking of schools based on ATAR scores is not a judge of how well the school does its job. In fact, our reformed schools cater for a wide range of capacities and abilities, covenant children whom the Lord has given different abilities and gives different responsibilities based on those abilities. This was illustrated in the Parable of the Talents where a different number of talents (eg. ten, five and one) was given to the three servants “…to each according to his own ability” (Matt 25:15). So our schools do not only cater for highly gifted students, but also for those who are less gifted, but nonetheless have responsibilities and tasks set before them. Hence we cannot expect to be compared to other (especially private) schools. However, it is with gratitude to the Lord, that with (or despite) the wide diversity of student abilities, the JCCC did rank remarkably well among the schools in Western Australia; that can only be a result of God’s blessings and His work!

The ATAR may be useful in the context of university offers, and may have limitations in comparing with others, but continues to be a means of gaining a university place. (There are other means and the universities do advertise various pathways.) So whether or not you receive an offer, continue to press on using the abilities the Lord has given in His Service, and may the learning and career pathway that you embark on, be blessed by Him.