Making a life decision at the end of high school

The idea and expectation seems ludicrous but is not entirely uncommon in Australia.  Our schools encourage Year 12’s to go down the university pathway straight away, and if the students aren’t interested some schools recommend they drop out of upper school, as it will make their overall marking results look bad.  I imagine it is similar for students in other countries like the US and China but having only first-hand experience here I cannot comment on those as much.

I suspect the reason we are enthusiastically encouraged to move straight to higher education has something to do with the universities and schools working together to boost attendees and produce students that excel at University entry level subjects.  Therefore enhancing the schools results in competition with other schools.  Another reason i have often wondered about why schools encourage the University direction is that the teachers and counsellors probably have no idea what else to advise, seeing as they are teachers who came from school, went to Uni and then came back to school again.  What makes them qualified to counsel students any particular way when they have such a narrow biased view on education?

There are most definitely a few other options once one finishes high school such as getting a job, studying when your more mature and travelling that your school counsellor, teachers or family may not be keen on you trying but are definitely worth knowing about as there are detrimental effects making such a rash decision can have on your future.

One such consequence of jumping straight into University without knowing what you want out of life is that of incurring more debt changing courses.   The vast majority of school kids really don’t know what they want as their minds are still enclosed within the realms of high school life and being judged about what they choose.  They feel forced to make a decision based on what they think they want to do in life only to realise within a few months they had no idea what they were getting into.  At that point the school has done its job, has gotten them into higher education, regardless of the outcome their work is done.

Some students are incredibly decisive from a young age and have their mind set on a path they have a calling for, such students make up a small minority within the school and probably go on to become doctors, nurses and engineers. While going to University is the most logical choice for kids who are driven to achieve and succeed, most are still dealing with the complicated task of growing up.  When forced to make a career decision is piled on top of that what hope do they have of making the right or logical choice for themselves.  There is nothing wrong with having different career changes in their lifetime and many people do.   However at school we are lead to believe we are only on one path and not encouraged to consider the others.

I have a lot of friends who went to uni straight away and by the middle of the first year had already either changed courses more than once or realised they weren’t really interested, subsequently dropping out and finding work elsewhere.  I have two other friends who committed to all the years of study and eventually graduated, however the subject they chose has very limited job openings.  At the time of choosing there were a lot of jobs in the industry, however things can change rather quickly and by the time they had finished studying it was no longer a growth area.

Another friend of mine changed courses four times since finishing high school, hasn’t travelled anywhere and has only now, six years after commencing studies gotten a job using one of the later degrees he did which only took 12 months.  He is now nervous as hell at being in the real world and actually putting those skills to more use than assignments and deadlines, not to mention the years of debt he has from studying things he thought he was interested in trying to find the right one.

Getting out of the school environment and into the real world changes your perspective and interests and often your chosen career path no longer interests you. When I graduated school I really had no idea what to choose, making decisions has never come easy to me and no matter how many uni course handbooks and outlines I looked at, nothing appealed to me in any way, nor did any of my interests last long enough. I applied for something random like Arts with the intention of deferring if I even got an offer.

Sure enough once all the offers came out I was successful, to which I clicked defer for six months and decided to continue working instead, I was able to increase my hours to full time having no other weekly commitments and by the end of the first six months, I was no more ready to go to uni than I was at the start, so I deferred the course yet again.

I had a two year plan at the time of going back to study eventually as I wanted friends and that college life you see in all the American movies.  But when the time came to decide whether to apply or not I still hadn’t made a decision and kept on working.  I was also used to the money and being 18 my friends and I wanted to go out a lot so having money made that easier.  I am now 22 and have bought a house with my earnings from working a full time office job over the past five years, most of the people I know who went and studied live in either share houses or with their parents and with the Perth job market the way it is might be stuck like that for some time.

My job isn’t by any means exciting or where I see myself working forever, but it allows me to travel and do the things I want to do out of work and for now that is all I need.  Plus the experience of being in the work place from school onwards has given me a different perspective on the world and society that I will always be grateful for.

Travelling is something I have also been lucky enough to do as a result of working over studying, I have now been to England, Hawaii, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and Europe more than once.  Travelling broadens your perspective on your life at home and what you see yourself doing therefore I would recommend it instead of making a decision you are unsure about and committing to study.

One of the biggest things I learnt from not going to uni was also that its never too late.  There is no law that states you must go when you are young, it is only expected seeing as often people don’t know what else to do to get set up.  But if you work at a job for a while, get yourself set up, see the world, or do whatever you fancy there is nothing stopping you deciding later on down the track to pursue a career path you have developed an interest in and then go on to study. You will have be more stable financially and have gathered more life experience to actually be certain you are making the right decision.  Therefore being able to focus on learning easier than you would through your twenties which is often spent partying, socializing and figuring out who you are and what you really want.  I still don’t know.


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