What should I do after high school?

Choosing what to do post-high school can be very daunting. You’ve spent the last 13 years with life dictated by the limitations of school. Now the choice is yours... How will you spend your time? What career path are you interested in? How will you bring this to fruition?

2 years ago   •   4 min read

By Dylan Kay
Photo by Joan Kwamboka / Unsplash

Choosing what to do post-high school can be very daunting. You’ve spent the last 13 years with life dictated by the limitations of school. Now the choice is yours... How will you spend your time? What career path are you interested in? How will you bring this to fruition?

While tertiary education might be perceived as the traditional post-high school path, there are many other options that can be just as fulfilling. Ultimately, you have to consider what path will provide the greatest fulfilment and purpose. It can be easy to fall into the trap of following the herd - choosing the same degree and university as your friends or taking a gap year just because everyone else is (and no one wants that FOMO!!) Although these choices can be comfortable and safe, it is so important that you challenge yourself to step beyond your safety net and ask: What do I really want to be doing with my time?

1. University

If you are unsure about whether you want to go straight into tertiary education, it is still a good idea to accept all offers since you always have the option of deferring. This means you won’t have to go through the lengthy re-application process and you can use the time off to consider what you really want to study. Remember, you are not alone if you feel uncertain or unsure as to where your study interests lie. You’ve just spent the past year, head down, managing multiple subjects. So, if you feel you do need some time to reflect and find some clarity, trust that instinct. Some time to find what you are interested in will likely save you from jumping around courses and degrees once you get to university.

That being said, if you are uninterested, unfulfilled or simply not enjoying what you are studying, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from changing your study path (although you may be adding on a semester or two to your degree). The beauty of tertiary education is its flexibility and immense choice. When you enrol in a degree you are not strictly bound to it like you often are when you select subjects in school.

What if I don’t get the ATAR I need?

Even if you don’t receive the minimum ATAR for your dream university course, there are many other pathways to reach that end goal. It is possible to start off in another course with a lower ATAR requirement. If you maintain a certain GPA (grade point average) or WAM (weighted average mark) in your first year of study, it is often very possible to transfer into your desired degree.

Another option is starting with a single degree and then picking up your second desired degree (that has the higher ATAR requirement) in your second year… provided you have the marks to do so.

Many universities also offer bonus points or selection rank adjustments that allow you to receive an offer to a course even if your ATAR is below the published lowest selection rank. These 'bonus points' are based on range of factors including performance in certain Year 12 subjects, living or attending a school in a certain area or consideration through the Education Access Scheme (in NSW/ ACT).

2. A Gap Year

For many, finishing school = freedom: no more exams, homework, teachers, extra-curricular activities or 7am wake-ups. This calls for a time to celebrate and perhaps reward yourself with a year of travel and fun. You may have an overseas destination that has no doubt gotten you through the turmoil of year 12! Travelling will give you time to learn more about yourself - your strengths, weaknesses and desires. Through practicing the disciplines of saving, planning, booking and scheduling, a ‘gap year’ is the perfect opportunity to strengthen your independence and find out what it is that you are truly interested. This will help make your following years worthwhile (whether or not those years involve further education).

3. Charity Work

You could also take some time to volunteer and devote yourself to a charity that means something to you. Spending time working for a cause that you care about and surrounding yourself with like-minded people as well as professionals in that field can help offer some more clarity.

4. An Internship

An internship is another possibility that might provide a bit of guidance when choosing the type of career to pursue. While some internships rely on tertiary education, others can be undertaken with limited experience. It is a good idea to research those internships that are tailored to high school graduates in a field that interests you…

Internships can offer valuable hands-on training and might allow you to secure a job with that organisation or company in the future. They might also invite the opportunity to travel abroad.

5. Vocational education and training (VET)

If you are looking to work in a particular trade or hands-on field then a VET course might be the answer. The purpose of vocational education is to equip individuals with the specific skills and knowledge for a particular occupation - maybe building and construction, healthcare or project management. While university courses are typically more geared towards theory and broader professional career paths, VET courses tend to focus more on specific occupational skills. However, VET also covers a comprehensive range of courses and qualifications ranging from apprenticeships and traineeships to semi-professional vocational training. You can complete VET courses at different qualification levels including Certificate I-IV, Diploma, Advanced Diploma or the Vocational Graduate Certificate. You can research what NSW or VIC VET courses might suit you.

Whatever you choose to do after school, you should always make sure that this choice brings you a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. Although there will always be moments where work or study seems like a slog, it is important that you are motivated by what you do (with the knowledge that it's never too late to change).

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