Perspective: Before you open your ATAR result: My message to year 12s, their parents, educators and friends

Perspective: Before you open your ATAR result: My message to year 12s, their parents, educators and friends

Learning Creates asked Michael Lim to share his post about his experience with recognition at school through to his higher education degree. Our recent paper, Recognition of learning success for all, explores the possibility of a new recognition system that works for everyone, – those who find a way through, those who are held back and those who thrive despite the challenges. Every learner stands to gain from a recognition system that meets our collective needs.


I completed my 15,000 word Honours thesis roughly 3 years ago. As evidenced by the photo below, this was a really proud moment for me.



Because in Year 12, I got below average for English (I scored a 27) and did not get the required ATAR to make it into the University of Melbourne.

I am a Special Entry Access Student (SEAS). This is a program targeted for students who experienced hardship and/or attended a selected disadvantaged school. Your ATAR requirement is much lower and without this program, there was no way I was getting in. 

In my first year at Melbourne Uni, I felt an enormous amount of shame if anyone were to find I was a SEAS student. Being one of the few students to come from Melbourne’s west and not attend an elite academic high school, I felt like an imposter. A sheep amongst wolves. I simultaneously craved the validation of my peers whilst hoping they would never uncover the truth. The way I avoided any discussion of my ATAR score would have made most politicians blush. 

I still distinctly remember my English teacher's reaction when I told her I would be studying for a Bachelor of Arts at Melbourne University. She almost fell off her chair laughing, followed by a combined look of pity and sympathy.  

Well, I ended up receiving First Class Honours for this thesis. The highest possible mark you can get. I now work in a full-time job that is essentially about writing and reading complex policy documents. 

So to all the Year 12 students about to receive their ATAR score on December 30th, or if you’re a parent, educator or friend supporting a young person who is, my message to you is - don't stress. I am living proof that no one subject, score or number is going to determine your future. No one teacher can take away your passion for writing and reading.

Keep following what makes you curious, even if you are repeatedly told you are below average at it.

Michael Lim, YLab Senior Manager