When you’re in high school, your final exams become all-consuming. Your life becomes focused around marks and rankings; how you can scrape together a few extra points or whether you managed to top someone else in the latest test.

Year 12 for me was a mess of deadlines, sleepless nights and cramming. Essays were written while the rest of my family was asleep in bed and I was fuelled through study sessions by caffeine and the fear of failure.

During that last year of high school, I felt like there was a massive pressure on me. I had always been one of those overachievers- the kid that got green ticks on their exams and who took home report cards with comments like ‘has a bright future’ and ‘is ahead of their class.’

Because the schooling system worked for me, it was automatically assumed that I’d be heading to uni when I finally graduated. Any other options would be a ‘waste of my potential’ and pathways like doing an apprenticeship or taking a gap year were never on my radar- I had honestly never realised they were a choice for me. My route was university- end of story, no questions asked.

So, after waiting (not-so) patiently for my final marks like you probably are right now, I accepted an offer and started studying a degree.

To spare you all the bleak details of how I ended up dropping out of my course (and throwing in the towel altogether when it came to uni) I’ll tell you some of the things I wish someone had told me about my final mark.


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1. That final mark isn’t a reflection of you

To be completely honest- it’s not even a reflection of thirteen years of study. All it says is how much you can remember from the syllabus and how well you can regurgitate it into a readable answer under a strict time limit- that’s all.

2. If you’re not passionate about what you want to study- don’t do it

(basically, don’t try and ‘use up’ your mark)

You know how hard it is to study is something you have zero interest in- you’ve been doing it for thirteen years. So why force yourself to keep doing it? Sure, there’s always going to be parts of what you’re learning that are more interesting than others, but if you’re really not keen on an area of study- why head to uni for it just because you’ve got the marks?

3. Trying things out is the only way to know what you want to do

If you have no idea what you’re passionate about, figure it out. Try short courses, do your research, volunteer and ask people what they actually do at their jobs.

Figure out what you actually like doing; if you hated typing up massive reports in high school, you’re probably not going to enjoy a job that requires you to do it for eight hours a day, seven days a week. If you hated being stuck behind a desk while you counted down the seconds to recess and lunch then- surprise, surprise- an office gig probably isn’t going to be ideal for you.


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4. Don’t write off ‘back up’ options just because you get a good mark

Even though I knew that apprenticeships and traineeships existed- I never considered them for me. I bought into the myth that they were back-up options; not for students who did well in school.

Don’t make the same mistake I did. Getting practical experience, being paid to learn and doing something you’re genuinely interested in makes sense- more sense than half-heartedly slogging away at a qualification just because everyone says you should.

Don’t listen to the stereotypes and cross pathways like VET off your list straight away. Don’t let yourself get pushed into doing something just because that’s what expected to do.

I know it’s hard; you’re just trying to figure things out, and for a lot of people going down the pathway that everyone is telling them to does work. Just don’t be afraid to do you own thing and give yourself a chance to try out all the opportunities that are out there for you. Don’t let yourself think that your final mark defines the rest of your life because ultimately, it’s just an insignificant measure of how well you can sit an exam.

If you’re located in Queensland and keen on sussing out your options when it comes to apprenticeships- check out our mates at Construction Skills Queensland. Careers in construction aren’t all that you expect, so if you’re curious or just looking at all your options, check ‘em out here.

@christinamca

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