Whether you leave in Year 11 or 12, you’re about to enter the world outside school and start making moves towards your dream career. A lot of students find themselves overwhelmed with the burden of choice, because there are just so many options unexpectedly available.

It’s important to stay calm and think clearly about what your career goals are and how you’re going to achieve these goals. Really take the time to think about your passions, not just following the same path as the rest of your friends.

These are just five of your post-school options, no matter which path you pursue, be prepared to put in the same effort to making your adult years productive.

University.
University is often thought of as the only option for becoming qualified and making a reasonable income, but that isn’t the case.

Uni classes aren’t anything like your regular high school classes. Whilst it may seem like a dream come true not having teachers on your back to get work done, you’ll have to hold yourself accountable for getting assessments completed on time and to a satisfactory standard.

University offers flexibility in regards to choosing between online distance education or face-to-face on campus learning environments. Additionally, you can choose to complete your degree on a part time or full time basis.

University also offers mammoth opportunities for your social life! You’ll get to hang with a community of like-minded students, be invited to heaps of events, join an array of groups and clubs, and get to fully exercise your independence.

Is university right for you?
• Is a university degree essential for your ideal job?
• Do you prefer an independent learning environment?
• Are you proactive and effective with time management?

Still considering uni but worried that your ATAR wasn’t high enough to get you into your preferred course? Bridging courses offer you a second chance, however the workload is often very intense over a short period of time. The course can also set you back the equivalent of your first year at uni so you’ll definitely want to ensure you’ve made the right decision prior to commencing a bridging course!


VET.

Many people who did not do well academically in high school choose trades, leading to the false perception that tradesmen are not “intelligent.” This is certainly not true. The university learning environment just isn’t for everyone.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) provides numerous pathways that help you to gain a certificate or diploma, whether this be through TAFE, a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) such as Skillset, or completing a traineeship or apprenticeship with an organisation directly.

The labour market is very favourable in the trades, and blue-collar work is quickly becoming one of the better-paying career choices. Studying VET provides a much more hands-on, practical learning experience in your chosen profession.

Is VET right for you?
• Do you prefer to learn in a practical, hands-on environment?
• Were you hoping to complete your qualifications in less than 2 years?
• Do you enjoy physically demanding work that is also mentally challenging?
• Do you want to be able to earn while you learn?

VET graduates are more likely to be employed full-time.
Up to 82% of VET graduates are employed after training;
compared to only 68% of university graduates finding full-time work.

From July 1, 2018, the NSW Government made new apprenticeships fee-free – meaning no more upfront training costs for students or employers. This also ensures that VET graduates have a lower HECS-HELP debt than university graduates.

If job security is more of your concern, learning a trade is a smart way to secure your future – in the next 12 months alone, experts predict NSW will need another 50,000 skilled construction workers and 19,000 chefs.


Work.

For some, the transition to work right after high school will be a permanent one, and that can be another pathway to your dream career.

You may start casual, which means flexible, usually minimal hours. There’s also part-time, which is for roles that only require you to work a few hours or days a week, and full-time, which means you’ll be working around 38 hours a week in your role.

Consider whether the position is a career or a job. A career has two key components that a job does not: room to advance and increasing earning potential. In contrast, a job just pays the bills.
Going straight to the workforce out of high school is a good choice if your work qualifies as a career; if not, think twice.
Settling for a job rather than a career can send you to an unfulfilling dead end. While a job can provide extra spending money in high school, chances are it won’t pay the bills as you enter adulthood.

There are plenty of benefits to working: You get to start earning money immediately and begin building your superannuation, which is money set aside from your pay to help you later on in retirement… which is something you have to think about once you finish school!

You’ll gain some great experience, develop communication skills and learn how to navigate professional environments, which is its own very valuable skill.

No further study also means… no further study. Also: no HECS-HELP debt or study loans.

Some people consider working first and studying later in life as a mature age student when they’ve decided what industry they’d like to work in where they can take their valuable, practical knowledge with them. There are still a number of things you’ll need to keep in mind though. By jumping straight into work, you might be limiting your opportunities for structured, formal learning later on.


Gap Year.

Still not sure how you want to spend your days after graduation? We get it. You might be so overwhelmed with your high school workload, you’ll want to take a break and unwind before plunging into the next stage of your life. Sometimes, that’s the best thing to do, which is why a lot of students consider a gap year after high school.

If you don’t really know what you want to do, or completing assessments wasn’t really your thing, why would you rush into doing it for another few years?!

What do you do in a gap year?
• Travel – interstate, internationally… wherever! Just take off and learn about other cultures and discover what the wider world has to offer.
• Work casually/part-time – You could start working; save up a bunch of money at a casual job, or gain some work experience in a few of your different dream industries.
• Chill out – do nothing. Read, watch movies, learn a new language, do whatever you have always wanted to do! Just take time for yourself.

Gap years allow you to gain life experience and grow on a personal level. They’re also a chance to take a break from academic pressures and explore what options are available whilst also travelling, working or volunteering, to experience other cultures and broaden your horizons.

Gap years have plenty of benefits: They get you out of the study bubble and help you gain some life experience, either by leaving home to see the world, or by putting others first through volunteering. Even the ‘chill out’ option helps you reboot if you’re burnt out from study, and gives you the time and mental breathing room to think about what it is you want to do with your life and helps to discover your passions.
Keep in mind though, gap years can be expensive and set you behind your peers who may be studying and focussed on progressing towards their careers. If you’re thinking of taking a gap year, ensure you’re choosing the path for the right reasons.

 

It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong choice – you can change direction at any time, it’s just a matter of reminding yourself of your goals and getting started. No matter what pathway you choose, you will gain independence and life experience and that’s the exciting thing about finishing high school.

Good luck with everything that lies ahead for you and remember to stay calm, the best is yet to come.