Natalie Di Paola

With the stress of exams finally over, you may be wondering what to do in the time you have before you start the next chapter of your life. Here are some tips to guide you through your next steps.

1. Don’t obsess over your marks and ATAR

It’s easy to worry about how you did in your exams, especially if you’re worried you’re not going to get a high enough ATAR to get into your university of choice. Our best advice is to relax. An ATAR is not the only path into university. You can do bridging courses or start in a course with a lower ATAR and then transfer when your marks are high enough. There is also the option of doing a TAFE course, or you can work and enter university as a mature age student later. Remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

2. You’re not sure what career you would like.

It’s hard to decide what career you want at the tender age of eighteen. Some people don’t figure it out until they’re middle-aged, or even older. While some of your friends may have a clear idea, it’s okay not to as well.

Our advice is to think about what your skills and interests are. For example, if you’re skilled at writing and interested in politics, you can become a journalist that specialises in politics. Still not sure? That’s totally fine. Get out there and research what degrees universities are offering, and you can even talk to career advisors at TAFE for extra guidance. Try out different things that you’re interested in until you find the one you like. Or you can work full-time until you figure something out (you can even work your way up to a managerial position). That way you have some money in your pocket, and you can save for a property or travel.

3. You start university and you don’t like it

The worst scenario has happened. You were deadset on this degree, and now that you’ve started it, you’ve realised it’s not for you. Never fear! This happens to many students along the way because you don’t know what you like until you try it. You have options to fix this. You can transfer to a different degree within your university or through a different institution. Or you can leave university if the that life just isn’t for you. Don’t feel pressured to stay in your degree because you’re not sure or if it’s what your parents want you to do. In the end, it’s your career, so it’s your decision. It’s also better for your overall wellbeing to do something you love and enjoy.

4. You don’t know what to do with all your free time

There’s a lot of time between when you finish your HSC exams and when the next stage begins. Enjoy it. Go to the beach with your friends, go to lunch and dinner with them too. Book your driving test or some driving lessons. Catch up on all those books you didn’t get to read or any series that you want to watch (Stranger Things is pretty popular at the moment). If you’re over 18, you can hit the city with your mates.

5. I want to go on holiday, but not to Schoolies.

Schoolies isn’t the only holidaying option after the HSC. You can still go to the Gold Coast, but you can visit all the theme parks instead. You could take a trip down to your friend’s holiday house or rent one in places like Terrigal, Jarvis Bay or Nelson’s Bay. Stay for a week or two and enjoy soaking up the sun at the beach or poolside. You could even take a trip down to Melbourne for the weekend, where you can enjoy shopping, eating and, if you’re old enough, the Casino. For a more “adult” trip, you and your friends could drive up to the Hunter Valley and stay in a hotel. You can go wine and/or cheese tasting, as well as Go Karting and visiting the National Parks and museums.

6. Work or keep my allowance?

Part of being an adult is earning an income all on your own. If you haven’t already got a job, get one now. Saving money is important, especially when it comes to travelling and buying houses, so it’s best to start now while you’re young. The workplace is also a great opportunity to develop your independence, interact with a multitude of people and improve your social skills, as well as to make contacts that may help you later on in life.

Most places are hiring Christmas casuals now, so this is the best time to start applying. Retail is an easy and flexible option, so head over to your local shopping centre or fast food joint and apply at all the stores you’d be interested in working for. Retail isn’t the only option, you can be a secretary, baby or pet sitter, waiter/waitress, or get mum or dad to get you into the family business. If you’re over 18, you can get your RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) licence and work casually as a bartender. It’s long night hours, but the pay is great pocket-money.