Choosing what you want to do with your life after you finish school can feel like a daunting decision. 

Do you want to go straight into university? 

Do you need to take a gap year to take a break from studying? 

Is TAFE the right option for you or would you rather go straight into full time work?  

There is a lot of pressure to make the right decision as this singular choice shapes your entire career, right? Well not necessarily. It is estimated that the average Australian will have 13 different jobs within their lifetime. Despite this choice being less life defining than what it is made out to be, you still need to make a choice. So, we have put together a list of the four of the most common options you have when you leave school, you can identify which pathway might be the one for you. 



Going straight into university after high school is a popular choice and is often what schools present as your main option after you graduate. University is a great option if you want to further your education. It can help you get the degree you need to enter a specific field of work or it can help you to improve your career prospects overall. There are many different types of university degrees that you can pursue that vary in how specific the content is. For example, you have what are known as general degrees such as a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Business. These types of degrees allow you to study many different subjects and allow you to pick multiple specialisations within the larger domain. These degrees are great if you have an idea of what field you want to work in but don’t know what specific job. 

On the other hand, you have what is known as specialised degrees. These are typically the degrees you choose when you have some idea of where you want to end up. If you want a job that is related to psychology you may want to pursue a Bachelor of psychology. If you want to become an accountant you may want to go after a Bachelor of Accounting. 

When considering what university degree you might want to pursue, it is important to consider any entry requirements such as the expected ATAR entry, any perquisites and if you are required to submit a folio. If you are worried about these requirements, it is important to remember that there are often multiple pathways into the same degree. For example, if you don’t make it straight into a Bachelor of Psychology you can often do a Bachelor of Arts and after one or two semesters you can transfer into it and keep some of your credit points.  Alternatively, if you end up choosing a degree and don’t end up liking it you can always switch out of it and choose something else.

Check out our blog post on our top 3 tips when choosing the right university degree. 



TAFE is a great option if you want to continue studying but don’t feel like university is the right option for you. TAFE courses are typically very hands on and focus on skill competencies rather than academic achievements. These courses are also typically much shorter than university degrees and have lower entry requirements. If you are a Victorian under the age of 20 you may even be entitled to a free TAFE course. 

To be able to choose the right course for you however you will need some idea of what field of work you want to go into as these courses can be quite specific.  For example, some of the available TAFE courses include trades, hairdressing, pet grooming, child care and mental health.  


Gap year

Another option that you probably have heard mixed reviews about is taking a gap year. A gap year is essentially a year where you don’t study and pursue other things. Ultimately this will look different for everyone. Some people will get accepted into their university course at the end of year 12 and then defer for a year essentially putting their degree on hold. Others will take a gap year to find what they want to do with their life and may apply to university at the end of it.  Some people may choose to travel during their year off while others choose to work.

To decide if this a gap year is the right option for you, you should consider why you want to take one and what you will do in your year off. It is perfectly reasonable to need to take a break from studying especially after completing the marathon that is VCE. However, it is important to consider that you normally get over a three-month gap between finishing high school and starting university. You may also want to consider if you will want to go back to studying if you take a year off. Is it better to go straight into your university or TAFE to get it over with or do you need a year off so you don’t burn out? 



The last option is to go straight into the workforce after year 12. This option isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive with the other three options as people often juggle work and study while at university or TAFE. However, focusing on work specifically allows you to put in more hours and really focus on building your income. It is also a great way to learn how to support yourself financially and can also help you to gain independence. The type of job you will get after you graduate will depend on what your resume looks like and if you have any prior work experience. If you already have a job, it may just be as simple as asking them to increase your hours after you graduate. 


Knowing what you want to do after school can be a hard decision. However, you cannot make the wrong choice and you can always go back and change it later. Many students switch between degrees if they choose a course, they don’t end up liking. Other people often go back to university as a ‘mature’ age student to study their newly discovered passions later in life. Whatever option you choose, remember that this is just the beginning. You will never know what choice is the “right” choice long term, only what feels like the right choice right now. 

Good luck! 


Post by Student Coach – Megan Ross

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