Dearest high school,

I want to preface what I say by first thanking you. You and me, we had some great years together; you introduced me to new friends, you filled the time I would otherwise have spent watching Netflix, and you shaped the person I am today. Sure, there were some mornings when I’d wake up hating your guts, cursing you from beneath my toasty doona cover and vowing never to step through your doors again. But for the most part, you supported me through those troublesome years when I had pimples on my face and no idea what the hell I wanted to do for the rest of my life. For that, I am sincerely grateful.

But, high school, I have a bone to pick with you. There was one thing you did not prepare me for, something I came face-to-face with only two months into my university degree: what happened if I hated university? I understand you might not have seen it coming; being a selective school you just assumed that all any of us wanted was a degree. But for myself and for a surprisingly large number of my peers, that wasn’t the case.

Our teachers always said to us, ‘when you go to uni’ and ‘when you start your degree.’ Where were the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’? Where were the options outside of university? In a way, you brainwashed us, making us think that university was the one and only option we had after leaving school and that taking other paths was in some way shameful.

When I realised I wasn’t coping with university, I was terrified that there was something wrong with me. I thought that somehow I wasn’t good enough or smart enough, and I believe you are in part to blame for that. Whether you realise it or not, you attached a stigma to being a ‘drop out’. And I struggled for months before I figured out that stigma doesn’t exist outside of your little bubble of academia.

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So I did it, I dropped out of uni. And you know what? I’m proud to say that university wasn’t for me. University is a fantastic institution that is very worthwhile for a lot of people, but I’m just not one of them. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I know now that I am good enough and strong enough and smart enough to be successful without university, but it took me far longer than it should have to see that.

So, high school, there is something I need you to do for me. I need you to spread the word to all those students still roaming your halls, the ones who are working their arses off to please you whilst trying desperately to figure out what they want to do when they leave the safety of your nest. Tell them that it’s okay if they don’t think university is the right place for them. Let them know that it’s great if they want to take a year, or two, or ten off to decide what they really want out of life. Reassure them, if they do drop out, that they aren’t some faulty good that gets thrown off the production line. Give them options! Fill their minds with opportunities! There are plenty of people and resources out there, Year13 included, that will welcome those who are a little bit lost, and will try their darndest to get them to where they need to be.

For the sanity for all those students to come – and for my peace of mind – please make sure you let them know that university is not the only choice. High school, that’s all I ask of you.

Oh, except that the canteen really needs to bring back those beef curry puffs. Damn, they were good.

Yours forever,

The university drop out.

photo cred: ella-bates

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