In the countdown to the much anticipated HSC results, some Illawarra school-leavers are feeling optimistic while others are biting their nails awaiting that career-defining moment.
The Mercury spoke with three graduates from across the Illawarra about their expectations and career goals: Lani Taylor from Bulli High School wants to study quantum engineering, Molly Campbell from Oak Flats High School wants to work behind-the-scenes in performing arts, and Ellie Iskra from Keira High School who wants to become a maths teacher.
The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is a ranking between 0.00 and 99.95, which calculates how a Year 12 student performed in comparison to other students. Universities set ATAR criteria for each degree which students must meet to enrol in the course.
Results are released state-wide at 9am on Thursday December 14.
ATAR hopes for Illawarra students
"I keep my [ATAR] standards low so that if I get higher I'll be very happy," Molly said.
"I'm excited to see what happens and how I go, but I'm not too distraught if I don't get somewhere where I'd like to be ... I know it's going to be good anyway."
Molly wants a score around 70, but plans to take a gap year before hopefully going to the National Institute for Dramatic Art (NIDA). She wants to learn more about lighting, audio, and stage management.
For Lani the ATAR results are potentially career defining, she needs an ATAR of 93 to study quantum engineering at the University of NSW but is hoping for a higher rank of 98.
She does, however, have a fallback plan with an early entry position in an engineering and science degree at the University of Wollongong.
"My goal is definitely to go to UNSW, so I'd be a little bit disappointed if I didn't get that, but it is definitely good knowing that I've got a university placement for next year," Lani said.
Ellie also has a guaranteed position through early entry, in her desired courses of general and advanced mathematics at UOW, but the wait is still nerve-wracking.
"Even with early entry, there's still that nervous anticipation of waiting to see the results of something I put effort into," she said.
"It was better for my mental health in the way that I wasn't staying up every night all night, stressing to the point where I was feeling nauseous."
This year UOW received more than 8,000 early admissions applications for future study. The program provides students with a placement at university before sitting the HSC exams, International Baccalaureate or interstate equivalent.
Advice to future HSC students
Ellie advises students to strive hard in the HSC but to not let it negatively affect their mental health.
"Go into it with a level of dedication but don't stress to the point where it's detrimental," she said.
Lani recommends to revise past content from Year 11 and to practice past HSC exam papers.
While Molly's message for Year 10 students was to choose HSC subjects they enjoy.
"Just making sure you really love it and that you're doing it for you and not for anybody else is really important," she said.
"It becomes less of a chore and you can actually strive for really good results."
Plan B- if you don't get your desired ATAR
UOW will hold an Options Day at their Wollongong and Liverpool campuses on Friday, December 15 to provide expert advice on what options graduates have with their ATAR.
The Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Eileen McLaughlin said UOW College also provides pathways into university through diplomas or other programs.
"For those students who don't get the ATAR result they hoped for, remember that there are many alternative pathways into university," Professor McLaughlin said.