With the first semester of uni just about done and dusted, there’s a lot of us that might be left questioning every life choice that led us here. Sure, the first few weeks were pretty fun with all the new-found freedom and awkward introductions with new classmates and whatnot. But between the countless weekly readings and intense exam periods, it’s obvious that uni isn’t the sweet option people said it would be.

The problem is that, while we’re growing up, most of us are only really told about uni. We’re told that if we want to make something of ourselves, that’s the option to follow. And yeah, for some people it is the perfect pathway to get where you want in life. But for the rest of us, going to uni just isn’t the right fit and unfortunately some of us only realise this when we’re a semester deep and drowning in convoluted academic texts.

Thankfully, you do have other options. Vocational education and training (VET) in particular offers a range of courses and qualifications with a different approach to learning than the one that’s got you run down.

VET is a mix of theory and practical, hands-on learning that equips students with the skills they’ll actually need on the job. This includes transferrable skills like critical thinking and creativity, which are applicable across heaps of different jobs and industries. Part of the reason is because VET teachers aren’t just academics – they’re working practitioners in the field with current industry experience who know what’s important.

It’s the case for your classic construction trades like plumbing and carpentry, but it’s also true for jobs you didn’t know you could get into through VET, like investment broker, digital media designer, architectural associate and even aerospace engineers.

Heaps of VET courses are also subsidised by the NSW Government, which means you pay less for your training. Here’s a full list of subsidised VET courses.

VET qualifications are available in a range of levels from certificate to advanced diploma, and many of these take less time to complete than a degree. This means you’ll be qualified and job-ready quicker than you would at uni and making heaps of dosh while your mates are still studying.

There are also apprenticeships and traineeships, training options that combine study and work where you learn how to do your future job by actually doing your future job. Better yet, apprenticeships in NSW are fee-free which means there are no upfront costs to starting one, plus you actually get paid for your work.

All of this is worth thinking about even if you’re still in high school and haven’t yet experienced the hard slog of uni. If you’re set on a certain career, but you’re not sure uni is for you, it’s worth finding out if there are similar qualifications you can get through VET. Knowing this as early as possible can save you loads of time and money, especially since dropping out of a degree costs students an average of $12,000. And if you’re not sure why heaps of people are off uni by now, just check out what one of our readers had to say about it.

“The thing that causes me the most stress is uni exams. Exams can come with a lot of pressure and specific criteria you have to meet and achieve in order to get a good grade. The amount of content, time restrictions and sometimes extremely specific criteria make exams quite a stressful and draining period.”

17, Male.

Click here for more information on VET courses, including traineeships and fee-free apprenticeships.