Carmen’s Story – From a low ATAR to high-flyer in law enforcement

Like many high-schoolers, Carmen felt the pressure, but didn't perform like she'd expected. Her success today is because she refused to let a number define her.

Law enforcement police car

We all experience pressure during our lives. Pressure from our family, employers, friends and often from ourselves. However, as a teenager it can be tough to put things into perspective – especially during the last couple of years at school. Being expected to have your whole life mapped out when you’ve hardly left the school grounds seems unrealistic. In the lead-up to exams, panic sets in – and following the exams – fear arises as you wait for your results. But if don’t achieve the ATAR that you had your sights set on, you can still get into uni. Carmen is living proof.

"I got one of the lowest ATAR’s in my class and had no idea what I was going to do. There’s an expectation that everyone will go to uni straight after school"

Carmen was happily one of the best students at her Primary school, but she struggled to adjust to the rise in academic standards when she transitioned to a Selective Secondary School. She felt that she didn’t receive a lot of guidance and was incredibly disappointed when she received such a low ATAR.

Lucky for Carmen, her super supportive Mum was on stand-by. She’d heard about Open Universities Australia (OUA), and knew that her daughter could start studying towards a degree without entry requirements. Carmen embraced online learning, as it enabled her to establish her career, while studying.

"OUA was the perfect opportunity for me to get into uni. I was living out of home and needed to work. I was able to join the police force when I was 20 and study at the same time. Because my friends were at on-campus unis, they didn’t have career jobs. I was always motivated to get straight into a career. Online study really suited me."

criminology-and-criminal-justice-student-carmen-wells
Carmen - Studied Law and Justice with Griffith University, online through Open Universities Australia.

Carmen studied a Graduate Certificate in Criminology and Criminal Justice with Griffith University, through OUA. She connected with lots of other students who were studying the same degree online via forums and Facebook groups. She even took up the role as a study group administrator to help guide conversations around balancing work, study and personal commitments.

"In the beginning, I did fail some subjects. But I could easily take them again and I got better at managing my time and my studies. The flexibility of online study out weights the remoteness. The support is there. You can easily connect with other people."

Since Carmen started studying online through OUA, a lot has changed. She now has an amazing family who she adores, and proudly boasts two Postgraduate qualifications from Griffith university in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her day job is centred around making a difference to peoples’ lives and her community. "I’m a manager in community corrections in Batemans Bay. In New South Wales we supervise around 20,000 offenders. I manage the office and the officers. Our primary goal is to implement strategies to reduce re-offending."

"High school is not a reflection of career ability. I’m about to have 3 qualifications from a leading uni and I’m in a top management position."

If you thought for a second that gaining a Graduate Certificate and then a Master of Criminology and Criminal Justice was enough for Carmen, think again. She’s still studying online through OUA with Griffith University, with a new goal of a Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management.

Carmen is keen to spread the word about her study experience through OUA. She hopes to alleviate some of the pressure on secondary school students – or anyone who thinks that getting a degree is out of reach.

"High school is not a reflection of career ability. I’m about to have 3 qualifications from a leading uni and I’m in a top management position. This is after getting one of the lowest marks at school! There’s a lot of pressure because you’re told there’s only one way you can get into uni. OUA smashes that belief. I have friends who studied through OUA as a means to get on-campus, and even my Mum is studying online through OUA, and she’s 67! Anyone can study towards a degree through OUA".

If you don’t get the results you’re hoping for – or you put getting a degree on hold – know that it’s not impossible, and never too late to start uni. OUA can help you find the right degree for you and guide you from start to finish. You’ll graduate with exactly the same degree as on-campus students, but it will be on your terms.


To express your interest in any of the courses on offer through OUA, fill out the form on this page and a friendly student advisor will get in contact. Otherwise, start browsing thousands of courses from leading Australian universities right now.