HSC student Adriana Roncone loves caring for and playing with children, and despite a tertiary entrance score 20 points higher than she expected, she has not been tempted to change her preferences.
''I want to do something with kids because I love being around them, and helping them in places like childcare,'' she said. ''I'm going to stay in education.''
When Adriana submitted her list of university course preferences in September, she wrote down degrees that required an Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking of 80 or below. At the top was a teaching degree at the Australian Catholic University.
''I thought I'd get in the 60s and I'd be so lucky to get in the 70s,'' said the student from Our Lady of Mercy College, Parramatta. ''I'd be frustrated when I walked out of every exam. I didn't think I was capable.''
But on Thursday morning the 17-year-old discovered she achieved an ATAR of 85, opening up a deluge of courses she would be able to study.
Her friends and family asked her whether she would change her preferences, and Adriana began considering sports science. But she is determined to stick with her passion: education.
Jenine Smith from the Careers Advisers Association said education can be a degree where people may feel they have ''wasted'' their ATAR. ''Forget the number, and do what you feel passion for,'' she said. ''Friends and family may say, 'Do law or medicine', but they should do what they're interested in.''
But for 18-year-old Dean Shachar, a higher ATAR score allowed him to realise his dream. He saw a law degree as a ''pipe dream''. He thought his marks were too low and did not include law on his preference list.
''I could not believe it, I got 98.55,'' the Rose Bay Secondary College said. ''One of the first things I did was to change my preferences, which originally were all commerce and economics.''