Why Doing A Degree Just Because I ‘Got In’ Was A Huge Mistake

My ATAR might have deemed me as a "smart" person but the real world replied with, "Oh, honey."

When I logged on to check my ATAR score way back in 2011, I couldn’t believe it was so high.

Yes, I know this is an excruciating brag, and not even the humble kind. But stay with me.

Throughout Year 12, the physics and chemistry kids couldn’t stop telling me how much my arts subjects were going to drag down my average. And despite how often I would fight back at them, I definitely believed it. All I wanted was a high enough score to do arts or journalism, anyway. Who cared if my final mark was low?

So come ATAR morning when I opened up my results, I thought there must have been some sort of mistake.

An ATAR Is Not Something To Be Spent

Now that I had this shiny high ATAR, enrolling in the arts based courses felt like a waste. Instead, I stupidly applied for a law degree combined with communications. And I got in.

*Sound the huge mistake horn!*

Yep, I had more ATAR points than sense and yep, you guessed it, my first semester of uni was one of the most confusing and stressful periods of my life. Hell, I didn’t even like legal studies, it was my worst performing HSC subject, and yet there I was trying to make sense of the super dense world of Torts law. I was copping fail after fail, a particularly nasty blow to the precocious overachiever I’d always been.

It was when I spoke to my peers about why they chose law that I finally realised how silly I’d been. They spoke passionately about legislation, making constructive change and how much they liked the black and white world of right and wrong. When they asked me, I replied, “I got a good ATAR.”

Doing A Low ATAR Course Doesn’t Make You A Failure

I liked how my Dad loved to tell people what I was studying, and I loved telling people myself what I was studying. But that was it. External validation was the entire driving factor for my future.

I ended up dropping the law part of my degree after one semester, barely scraping by with a 50 and a 52 respectively in the units I completed. I went straight to communications, then on to a sort of mini crisis that resulted in me deferring all together.

After two different degree changes and a semester off, I landed where I should have started all along: an arts degree in English. A course nearly 40 points lower than my original score. And you know what? Nobody gave a shit.

Look At My Burning Pile Of Cash

When I think about – and frequently look at on MyGov – my HECS debt, I get so mad that a portion of that is from my law semester. If you could put a dollar amount to my ego, that extra three grand or so would be it.

An ATAR is nothing more than an entry requirement to university. Sure, a higher score gives you more choice, but itshouldn’t mean that it makes the choice for you. Whether you get a high or low score, an ATAR shouldn’t limit you from what you really want to do.

Besides, even though I was doing a degree I once deemed “too low” for me, I was absolutely smashed by every single other person in that course. They were so much sharper, so much more studious and so much more passionate that I was.

My ATAR might have deemed me as a “smart” person but the real world replied with, “Oh, honey.”

Josephine did one semester of law and always thinks about how dumb that was. She always forgets to tweet @josieannparsons