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Here’s Some Advice on Nailing That First Year After High School

We asked influential people what they'd recommend.
Image via Shutterstock

The first year out of high school presents a mix of fun and uncertainty. You finish exams, party, and then face a brand new life where everything changes. So should you go straight into study? Or should you take a year off? Or maybe those are both a waste of time and you should just start work. These are the big questions, and the ones that really aren’t helped every time your parents ask what your plans are.


If you don’t know—or don’t really know—that’s OK. Because we’ve asked a bunch of people with their shit sorted out for some advice. These people are nailing life in one way or another, and here they give you their experience and learnings.

Georgia Maq
Musician With Camp Cope

I was discouraged from making a career out of music and in the first year out of school I studied nursing and smoked bongs. I never did anything with my nursing degree, but don’t let anyone make you feel like there’s a set path you need to follow. Don’t rush it. I got a bad ATAR and was told I had no direction… but I’m just a firm believer in taking as much time as you need to figure it out.

Julian Burnside Australian Human Rights Lawyer

Aim for a profession, job or course that interests you: not one that your parent or teachers have selected for you. Learn everything you can that interests you. Then you will be ready for the right opportunity.

Hannah Bertram

Take a step in any direction. It might be the wrong path or not the right time. I went to uni, dropped out, had a baby, and then returned to finish my degree seven years later. Doing something or anything will help you work out what you want to do and be. Just start.

Here's something related. Our long-time VICE presenter Thomas Morton talks you through preparing for college:

Mariam Veiszadeh
Lawyer and Daily Life Woman of the year

After high school, I went straight into a five-year combined law degree, working full time at the same time for close to a year of that. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you're doing something that brings joy to your life. I've always tended to err on the side of caution and be risk averse, but life is too short to be stuck doing something that makes you a living but not a life.

Adam Bandt
Federal Greens Member for Melbourne

Relax! I spent a year travelling, working, and generally doing nothing, and it was great.

Minna Gilligan

Ride the sweaty wave of youth momentum after high school and into art school. Champion sincerity and challenge irony in all you make or do. Borrow all the films you've ever wanted to watch from the library and spend one night a week doing so. On Saturdays go to ridiculous art school parties and drink Gossips branded wine. You'll be happy, depressed, and nauseous. It works out okay.

Dr Naomi
Instagram-Famous Cosmetic Surgeon

Get straight into it! It doesn’t matter if it’s not right. I started medicine at 18 and after finishing at 23 thought, “Damn, I don’t really want to be a doctor,” but soon after I found my path. The earlier you get started and do your 10,000 hours the sooner you can reap the rewards of your efforts.

Jordon Steele-John
Youngest Federal Senator in Australian History

Do something for yourself, something you’re passionate about. Either that or just take the pressure off a bit and reflect on what you have achieved before embarking on your next adventure.

Joe Williams
Indigenous NRL Player

I knew the importance of schooling, but my personal goal was always to play NRL. I think too many people spend years doing a job or career that doesn’t really inspire them—so make sure you do something that makes you bounce out of bed each morning.

Shuang Hu

Don’t be in a rush to impress people with money or valuables. Use this life sculpting time to add value to your life by learning as much as you can so that in the future, you can add value to other people’s lives. I learned the hard way in high school, but uni was a turning point and I got my act together.

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