A singular focus on the ATAR as a measure of success might be robbing students of further learning opportunities, a report has found.
Instead of worrying solely about the final ranking in the HSC, the Education Council's Looking to the Future report suggests students work on building a "learner profile" over their 13 years at school.
The profile would bring into consideration the extra-curricula, sporting, volunteer and other non-academic pursuits of the student, to provide a more holistic understanding of who they are.
Before receiving his early-round offer last year from the Australian National University, Calvin Combs was required to provide an ad hoc 'learning profile' to the admissions centre.
Last year, Mr Combs completed his HSC at Wagga Christian College, achieving a 93.90 ATAR, which was well above the cut off for his chosen course.
Even still the university requested to see evidence of Mr Combs' past sporting and leadership successes.
"ANU wanted to see that I've done more than just academics. I had to show that there's diversity to what I've achieved," Mr Combs said.
Riverina organiser of the NSW Teachers Federation John Pratt told The Daily Advertiser that experience is becoming more common, but that the ATAR should never lose its status as the "great filter of students".
"Early admittance is almost entirely based on aptitude and interview, and it's proven a godsend for some students," he said.
Mr Pratt said there were a variety of factors that are already brought into calculating the ATAR, but as a tertiary admittance ranking, the ATAR cannot be all things to all people.
"It's not just the naturally gifted that achieve high ATARs," Mr Pratt said.
"It's kids who are motivated to do well and that aptitude carries through to the rest of life."
Designed to encourage university enrollment, Mr Pratt said the ATAR is "probably pretty meaningless" to a student who does not choose to go on to higher tertiary qualifications.
"There is societal pressure on that student who [for example] has a 90 ATAR to attend university, but that student does still have many options," he said.
"The 90 is an insurance policy to choose many potential career paths."
Mr Combs agrees on the function of the ATAR, admitting that his recent experience leaving school has been accompanied by a bit of "culture shock".
"Some of the skills I needed to get a good mark, I have used outside of school. It's just hard to get real-world skills unless you're in the real world," he said.
The Education Council report also comes as the NSW government completes its final review of the school curriculum.
Over the next four years, NSW Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said, the curriculum will be de-cluttered and classrooms be brought "back to basics".
Among the changes is will be the removal of some HSC subjects that do not show clear links to job opportunities.
While welcoming the attempt to de-clutter teachers' time, Mr Pratt warns against anything that could "weaken the HSC" from its "world class standard".
"We don't want to see the HSC diminished at all. In the HSC kids who are usually disadvantaged can unlock new pathways for themselves and compete on the same level as other students," he said.