Graduating Year 12 This Year. Lacking Motivation and Still Have No Idea about What to Do after HS

There's only a few short months left which leaves me feeling under pressure. Almost all my classmates and friends have at least some idea of what they are going to do after school and I just feel so left behind/lost. My parents never really push me into doing anything. Which, although they have good intentions, isn't helping me right now (or is it?).

I don't particularly have interests in anything, such as in sports or hobbies. I mean, I like to play video games but what person at my age doesn't. That doesn't mean I want to develop a game though. I did try a bunch of musical instruments but it's either I lack persistence and perseverance or none of the instruments were right for me, since I quit playing all of them (piano, violin, flute, saxophone). I do have almost-perfect pitch and good musical knowledge though, but what use is it now. Regarding school subjects, I prefer STEM subjects (maths & science based) than language-based or art-based subjects. But that doesn't mean I love maths & science subjects… They're just okay. While on the topic of school, I get average-to-decent grades, at least for maths… I finished Methods last year and got 37 raw although I hated the subject and only started to really study the week before EOY exams (not proud of that though). I'm aiming for an ATAR of 90+, preferably 95-ish but I'm definitely lacking motivation right now and more worried about what to do after school.

When I look at undergrad degrees, there's nothing there that interests me. Both my brothers have commerce degrees with CPA/CA but it just doesn't seem like my thing, you know - sitting in front of a screen analysing and revising financial reports, drafting finance stuff, working with Excel spreadsheets, etc. etc. Sure, the pay is high but I feel like it just doesn't make a difference in the community and the effort is only acknowledged and seen in the confines of that accounting firm. I would prefer doing something that benefits and makes a difference to the whole community, which is why I'm (kind of) considering police jobs or studying teaching (doctors fit this category too but it's way too competitive, maybe civil engineering?).

I would love it if you could post anything motivational or advice/your experiences graduating out of high school/uni and finding a job - it would really help me. Thank you so much!


  • +14

    If you don't know what to do, maybe take a gap year. Earn some money, do some travelling where possible … You don't need to go to uni straight out of high school.

      • +19

        some life experiences are worth more than money

        Definitely work and travel etc (if things were like normal) are not "doing nothing"

        • 100k buys a lot of life experience.

        • That's if OP can work and travel.

          But IMO even if they did that it wouldn't be enough if OP doesn't know what they want to do in the first place. Working and travelling could just take them away from the reality that they need to figure out what they want to do with themselves.

          If OP takes a year off I highly suggest they don't waste it, i.e. read widely, volunteer, start a new hobby (or hobbies), do a whole bunch of free Udemy courses to see what interests them etc. Plenty of people take a gap year and just work casually, relax and do nothing to actually help themselves grow.

      • +1

        Don't just think about the money, I didn't give a shit about studies and a lucrative career, I got a mystery park and I'd say I'm making more than most who graduated in my year.

        If you enjoy what you do, you'll be more passionate about it and will naturally excel. If you take the advice from "nah" (negativity of username checks out) you may end up getting into an area which you think would be great at your age. But give it 10 years, when you pretty much will be a totally different person, you could regret making that choice.

        If you have the freedom to do so, take some time off, figure yourself out and figure what you really want to do. Hopefully you'll do something that you love and if you do it well, you should do well financially.

      • +4

        I'm pretty sure people will pay more than $100k in order to be 17 again and have nothing to do for one year.

      • +8

        I had about a 10 year gap year and I’m still further ahead than 90% of the population. If you are only living for your retirement savings what is the point?

        Kid who made this post is well written, has confidence, and is brave enough to NOT jump into doing something they don’t want to do. Spend a year or five and enjoy your youth. You will figure it out in time.

  • +2

    If the unis open soon I'd say pick a subject or two you're remotely interested in and give it a crack. Hanging out with a bunch of people your age might help you figure out what your interests are, where you fit in and what you actually like. If you decide it isn't for you, you've hopefully made a few friends and expanded your network which can lead to other opportunities.

  • +5

    I actually think for many students taking a year or two to pick up some work, travel, and experience life a little may change your perspective of what you want to do in life, or what you want to study.

    Plenty of people are successful without having studied and you may find something else you enjoy?

  • +7

    Hey there,

    It sounds like your feeling a bit down and uncertain about all the things you've mentioned - sorry to hear but I hope you know you can have the ability to make the most of your future even when you aren't even sure what that may be!

    My own advice from personal experience:

    1. STUDY - now don't go overkill with it and study 24/7 but put in effort consistency and persevere in the few months you have left. Don't look back with regret that you didn't make an effort because you were feeling lost and unsure.

    2. Take a gap year if you can and are able/allowed to if you're truly unsure what you want to do. Do something you feel like doing - travel, work, volunteer. Try and reflect a lot in this year about what your passion in life is.

    3. Things change and it's okay - it's okay if you choose a course that you don't like and want to transfer into another, it's not wasted time if you know you're on the path to doing what you like.

    4. Get help and advice - speak to a counsellor, psychologist, aunty, older cousin, someone you trust about how you're feeling. I'm not saying you have issues with your mental health (it's okay if you do and this might be beneficial here too) but these people often can see you and understand you differently to how you perceive yourself and they might be able to give you some insights.

    I work in a field very loosely connected to what I studied but I am happy with where I am going. I wish you all the best.

    Take care :)

    Edit: Some typos + reworded some things that were written the best way

  • +1

    Just forget about keeping up with the Joneses. By 45 you'll be glad you aren't 75% of them. :)

  • +7

    As someone who didn't take a gap year and struggled to figure what he wanted to do through uni - I'd also recommend taking a gap year! I know it seems like all your friends know exactly what they want to do - but from my experience many of them will change their minds. Push yourself in these last few months and get as high an ATAR as possible, then you will at least know that you can get into whatever course you do end up picking! At the end of the day, a year spent learning about yourself and learning about the world around you is a year well spent and will help you feel more certain and motivated when you do pick a uni course.

    I'd also strongly recommend travelling (if we're allowed to and its safe to do so) next year - so many incredible experiences out there!

    Godspeed OP, everything is going to be okay - you've got this!!

  • +9

    imo uni was the biggest waste of time for me and would have 100% been better off in a trade but parental pressure got the better of me and now I have a hugeeeeee HECS debt, 2 half finished degrees and a degree that I've literally never used as by chance I got into a job that pays decently and I find engaging.

    • +4

      Welcome to the club brother.

      80K hecs.

      Work in retail.

      I objectively failed life.

      • +1

        hah. only about 50k hecs… but in wholesale. Somehow worse than retail (did about 7 years retail).

        • +1

          As much as we would like to complain, this is still very fair compared to the ridiculous student loans in US. At least ours is interest free, and no one will come to bankrupt you if you don't work immediately!

          • +1

            @ozbking: Not complaining g. Hecs is more than fair. More like regretting following my parents/ society expectations I guess?


            • @Jimothy Wongingtons: Perhaps, but its easy to complain "in hindsight". However, from the perspective of 17 year old you, it may have been much harder to appreciate the available options to you. Back in high school for me, there wasn't even a career as an "Instagram influencer"! :P

  • +17

    Another ‘gap year’ fan here! Who you are at 17/18 is not who you’ll be in life.
    I walked out of Year 12 shell-shocked and with a TER in the top 2%. Not quite doctor scores (just as well, I hate blood) but everyone advised me to go into law or biomedical engineering.
    I took a year out in the UK- nannied, went to Haiti and worked in an orphanage, helped set up school libraries in Bali. Decided my calling was in Education, so I came home, got qualified and I’ve been teaching kids for 20 years with more or less satisfaction and a great work-life balance.
    Could I be richer? Sure. But I could NOT be happier. All thanks to having had that year to get my head together!

  • +2

    In the current COVID19 world, I do not think the gap year idea is good at all as maybe international travel etc won't be back to normal next year….

    I'd suggest you do an undergrad of anything really at UWA(or any other uni offering similar) as you get to choose 2 of your 4 units each sem from any degree/course so after trying units from different areas, it'll give you a better insight of what you wanna continue with

    • And possibly take a gap year after the first year. Most degrees allow some flexibility in accepting previous subjects, even if they're not related.

  • +2

    If you end up at uni because that is what everyone else is doing and there is a lack of gap year funds / options post pandemic, don't be afraid to study part time.

    From memory 3 subjects a semester is enough for a transport concession and will leave you plenty of room for extracurriculars and to keep the HECS debt manageable whilst you take a bunch of electives and test your options. is a good adventure within Australia that fits within uni breaks.

  • +1

    I went to school with a guy who was exactly how you're describing yourself. He was extremely clever (note not intelligent, clever). I assume if you're considering that you could do any career (engineer, Doctor) you're pretty bright OR kidding yourself. Dr's have incredible recall, engineers incredible problem solving skills.

    If that is the case, do something that will challenge you incredibly and commit to it for a minimum of 12 months. Life's not thrown anything at you you couldn't fail at yet. it will, it'll just be harder to find.

    He ended up decided to coast and never challenging himself, took a regular job, resulting in his fair share of redundancy and bill stress. If he'd have gone with his amazing natural science talent, he'd have been a lecturer/researcher, I have no doubt in the top few % of his field in physics/math.

    Study hard, study early, reward yourself with travel (no point now, Covids ruined travel for the moment). Give yourself a foundation to build a future on. Or coast.


    For the next 12 months, act as if you are completely and solely responsible for everything that happens in your life, and behave accordingly.

    Good luck, hope you're intelligent enough to use your potential to build a future.

  • I suppose it depends on your mentality. When I was your age, I was told to do a course that you are passionate about, so it will keep you motivated and take a gap year and all that. But if I could go back and tell the 18 years old me what to do, I would say to him, do a degree that you know you are good at (not necessarily enjoy) and also make lots of money, e.g. IT or engineering. Once you earn the income and start to invest, you can use the those income to do things that you are actually enjoy doing, e.g. playing music, playing games, scuba diving etc, without the uncertainty of no income hanging over your head if those passion that you like doesn't earn you good income.

  • That doesn't mean I want to develop a game though … Both my brothers have commerce degrees

    There's plenty of interesting career paths from a computer science degree, aside from becoming a developer. Most of the employees at Apple/Facebook/Google/Netflix/Uber have a computer science degree, but they don't code coding day-to-day. Think product manager, project/program managers, sales, etc

    Similarly, there's plenty of career paths from a commerce degree, aside from becoming an accountant. Think general management, human resources, marketing, etc.

    My point is, don't get caught up in figuring out your future job title now, just pick a degree you like the sound of.

    maybe take a gap year … Another ‘gap year’ fan here!

    I'm not a big fan of the gap year. There's only ~30 teaching weeks in a university calendar (unless you go to one of these funky trimester universities). That's plenty of time for travelling or whatever.

    Australia just isn't set up for a gap year. Most kids go straight to uni from year 12 and it's an easier experience being with your cohort.

  • Is there anyone that you look up to in your life? What do they do for work?

    Is there some job you think you may be remotely interested in? See if you can get work experience in that field to see what the job is like day to day.

    Also don't feel like you need to commit to something forever when you choose a degree - a lot of people start a degree in uni and then change to another degree/something else mid way through.

  • Tips from friends and families have good intentions but it’s often something you need experience and make your own mistakes. When you make mistakes you learn to find better solutions.

    My best experience from uni was not the course or education, it was the networks and friends you meet and bond. They are priceless and worth your time there. So if you choose uni, you need to make your time worth your while. It’s different to high school, but uni is the next step to the real world.

    Also you can always change your uni course early or mid way. No obligation to need to finish it.

  • If you have absolutely no other options, and theres plenty out there, then yes the puzzle factory is an ok choice

  • +3
    1. Study your butt off NOW. It doesn't matter if you don't know what you want to do with life - most 18 year olds don't. But a strong ATAR is better than a lousy one, and at least will open doors that you can decide on later.

    2. Take a gap year. If you're anything like 18 year old me - aka played games instead of having a casual job, directionless, in a social rut, take time off. Even a menial job like hospo or retail will teach life skills like discipline, time management, the value of money, dealing with difficult clients, etc., while earning money you can spend travelling - who knows? You might find your answers abroad.

    3. Consider a trade. Ignore this notion that university is right for everyone. If I picked a trade 12 years ago, I'd own five houses by now. There is always demand for trades, and unlike your accountant brothers, the industry isn't under immediate imminent threat of automation

  • +2

    I was in a similar position to you 2 years ago when I graduated, didn't know what to do, was flat out tired of studying as well. I agree with the other comments, take a break, if you think a full gap year is too long, you can also take just a gap semester off. Spend the time going out (hard I know coz covid), learn to drive if you haven't already, and as cringey as it sounds, just appreciate that there's more to life than just study/careers outside.

    Regarding your study right now, I think you should be fine, no need to really grind too hard if your scores are as you say. I personally got low raw 20s for half my subjects (guessed multiple choice and left the written empty on the final exams), and my other half were around the raw 30 mark and I still managed an 89 ATAR. I suppose if you're really worried, then maybe don't kick back as hard as I did, but don't feel pressured to study hours upon hours as if you're really behind.

    Good luck, and just remember that you're only 17/18 years old and you've got plenty of time to decide, I personally still haven't even after 2 years.

  • +1

    I went into uni straight after school doing a Bachelor of Science simply because I was good at science, but I went travelling during the June-July holidays and am completing to a completely different degree I love! I'd suggest at least 6 months break. My friend was in your position and he knows exactly what he wants to do.

    You're only 17, it's natural to not have any idea what the hell you wanna do after going to school for 12 years straight. Just make sure what you do in that 6-12 months is productive and learn some hobbies, or get into interest groups at any uni's facebook group/chat to get your feet wet.

    • I did the same thing! I am very good at maths and got good grades in science subjects so it was just expected of me to do a bachelor of science - I got up to 2nd year and just suddenly decided I hated it. Ended up doing computer science and now have a job I love

  • +4

    I would prefer doing something that benefits and makes a difference to the whole community, which is why I'm (kind of) considering police jobs or studying teaching (doctors fit this category too but it's way too competitive, maybe civil engineering?).

    I'm not too certain about the facts in VIC but in NSW, Maths and Physics teachers are in high demand. From this report, there's 1445 vacancies in mathematics and 1176 vacancies in science (page 34) and secondary teacher demand exceeds supply (page 68). Might be worth exploring maths and science teaching if you prefer STEM subjects.

    Some of the best teachers in my cohort have landed permanent positions within a year of teaching or have continued to renew their temporary contracts at some of the best schools in NSW. Teaching isn't particularly hard however it's very time consuming.

    I usually direct year 11 and 12 students to the career quiz if they're having trouble deciding what to do. Most year 9 to year 12's have no idea what they want to do when they graduate.

  • +1

    Mate, I'm 30 and still have no idea what I want to do…it's not unheard of for people 10 years my senior to be in the same boat.

    • 32 here, nfi as well

  • +1

    I recommend choosing something you can lose time in doing. Eg, there's something that you can spend hours doing without caring about time. A careers counselor or your school counselor is also good. They are trained to provide this advice. You can go to whatever workplace and or get online info on what daily tasks are. This can help avoid unrealistic expectations of work requirements. You can then do the same with uni courses and roughly see if they match the job's requirements. Some will have cheap coursebooks you can buy or free course outlines on the internet. After you get a rough idea, you can visit the uni and ask a lot of questions. If you do this, I think you will be ahead of most people.

  • OP I was like you….just barely graduated out of HS and didn't have a plan (had grand ideas but just that).

    Wasted a couple of years starting something and not following through.

    I was not interested in anything in particular, wasn't good in anything either.

    One day I decided on just doing something I can do, Bachelor of Commerce as it was broad, I could branch into many things.

    In the end I used about 10% of what I learned in uni after finding a niche in IT.

    While I don't love IT, it fulfils a lot of lifestyle requirements.

    I am one of the many who works to live. The 'if you love your job, you don't work a day in your life' thing was a myth to me, hope you find it.

  • +2

    A slightly different take - One of the reasons why you might not be sure what you want to do with your life is because you don't understand yourself yet, it takes years of life experiences to get the wisdom to know yourself proper and knowing yourself means knowing what you want from life.

    Some of the suggestions is to take a gap year - this is essentially giving yourself time to mature, experience life and understand yourself.

    A good shortcut to trying to understand yourself is to do a personality test, something like

    Once you have a better understanding of yourself, it might help you choose a suitable career path. Fossilfuel's comment above is similar, its essentially a personality quiz based on your choices then showing you what you would be good at doing. IMO the personality test is a bit better it's showing you the working out rather than just the answer.

  • +2

    Take the quiz fossilfuel posted, but also a good idea could be to start a bachelor of science, and do lots of different first year subjects so you can see what you'll be drawn to (ones you don't use for your majors can be electives).

    Though don't make the same mistake I did and assume because you breezed through school not studying at all and getting top grades that uni will be the same - you'll have to learn how to study and be humble not being the best in the class anymore if you want to pass or do well. Unless you are actually a bona fide genius you will need to work hard.

    Edit: I took the quiz and got something totally different to what I actually do lol. I am supposed to be a registered nurse but instead I'm a programmer

  • +1

    Do you prefer working on the same thing long term? Or smaller things? I did a psych degree (the new arts degree imo it’s such a white girl stereotype now) and honours. All that got me was a load of debt and a job as a personal assistant. Beyond that I did a Dip of HR management and then a cert iv in project management. When I was little, I would always come up with projects to do. Is there anything you have like that? A streak through your life of a certain type of work or an interest you’re passionate about?

    Eg I used to be a bit of a keyboard social justice warrior and now I’m finishing a master of social work. Do you like to build with legos? Cook? Solve puzzles? Have you considered the military, like an ADF gap year if they still do those? My dude in reality don’t jump into uni just because everyone else is or because it’s “the thing to do”. Sure it’ll make connecting with friends in uni harder but getting life experience before you start piling up debt is better, especially if you’re going to change degrees part way through. In the end you may choose to do commerce like your siblings because you may be naturally good at it. It just depends - do you love something enough for it to be a worthwhile job, or are you happy with a job that pays the bills and pays for you to do hobbies outside of work?

  • +1

    You don't have to go to Uni. Remember that!

  • +1

    Our son is in nearly your exact same position - but is probably not as good academically as you.

    He is joining the armed forces on a 1 year gap program. You sign up for the year (there are a range of jobs you can apply for), you get paid approx $50K for the year and get to learn a range of skills and experience a totally different environment. This will give you the chance to cut the cord with home and stand on your own feet a little, as well as having people yell at you on a fairly regular basis (see if you like that kind of thing !) and get a taste for different roles within the service.

    At the end of the 12 months you can choose if you wish to apply for full time service or just walk away with the experience that you have gained.

    As an employer myself - i would look far more favourably on this on a resume - than someone who went to "find themsleves" whilst travelling around overseas etc.

    Also keep in mind with Covid etc - jobs for young people are going to be EXTREMELY hard to get over the next 12 months or so. There will be a heap of 1st year apprentices who will be out of work, as well as a heap of kids leaving school at the end of this year who will be desperate for jobs (maybe). Add to that the people who will be out of work from failed businesses and you are going to see some horrifying unemployment numbers in the 17-20 year old age group.


  • Are you or your parents financially sound. That is, will money ever play a role in how your life will pan out? If, money is not an issue, I won’t give any advice. But if it is, and if have no passion at this point in your life with anything, my suggestion is that you gotta make money and always, always put as much as you can away in savings. People say go overseas to get some life skills, experience, maybe not a bad thing. For me, it was making money. Trust me, when you’re 30 own your house debt free and ready to acquire another, or at least financially sound compared to others in your age group, you my son, will have freedom and choice that will be the envy of others. Being financially sound means your not burdened by anything, being financially sound means you can move from job to job, not even necessary upwards jobs, but sideways in your career, or even better, another job that pays less ,but because your interested in that type of work…. and why? Because you’ve made some sacrifices in your early life, to prepare yourself for the harder slog from 35 upwards.

    Money talks, bullshit walks. Money may not necessarily bring you happiness, but geez, if gives you choices without having to make too many compromises.

    I prefer a trade over a degree, but you don’t need either, if your willing to work hard.

  • I sent you a PM, about my story, it might help you as I was faced with a similar crossroads at a similar age…

    for the benefit of others, I would say you don't need to decide now, and don't rush in and enrol in something you aren't passionate about. Equally, I did my degree when I was 27, had a newborn baby, worked fulltime and had so many financial responsibilities (Mortgage) etc, so there are pros and cons to do it earlier (if you even want to get a degree,! that is..). I have spoken to many people who have started studying something their parents pushed them into, or they thought they should do, but weren't passionate about, and they mostly end up miserable or dropping out and having a big debt. Check out this free Yale Course on the science of wellbeing, :) It can open your eyes to what may really be important in your life with your values (money? other?)

  • ADF gap year might be something to look at:

  • Doesnt matter if it is Uni or a trade, make it an full effort endeavor.

    p.s. WTF engineering is a 100K degree now?

  • +1

    A lot of people are suggesting having a gap year which is a good idea for everyone imo (to avoid burnout) but don't feel like you have to pick a uni course once the year's up. Take another year, and another if you still aren't sure; take as many as you need.

    People seem to place lot of pressure on young adults to choose a career path straight out of high school, but how can people who were legally minors less than a year before they graduate be expected to make a decision on what they'd like to do for the rest of their lives? Some know and go on to have happy, fulfilling careers, but a lot of people I've known aren't sure what they want to do even into their late 20s-early 30s, and that's okay.

    I didn't know what I wanted to do after I graduated HS either, and because of the pressure I perceived to make a decision I ended up going to uni and getting a degree in something I don't want to pursue any more; I've instead decided to go back to uni and study something else at 27.

    Something that was never suggested to me when I was younger was to research prospective careers before you commit. Try and find info from people working in the businesses you're interested in (in person or online—doesn't matter) to get a more realistic view of the job, the people, workplace culture etc. I didn't, and wasn't aware of all the negatives/the general incompatibility with me as a person until after I'd already completed my degree.

    One last thing: don't make your hobby/passion your career—it's a good way to make you hate what you used to do to relax and have fun.

  • Do Computer Science and you are set for life. UNSW is the way to go.

  • I think it’s crazy we have to decide at 17/18 what degree to commit to that could decide your career direction. If you’re unsure, do a broad degree where you can try a few courses to see what you enjoy. Also as someone said, uni doesn’t have to be the only avenue.
    Personally I think gap years are better when you’re a bit older like after you finish your degree. You’re a bit older and mature and you have some time to earn the funds to travel.

  • Take 15 mins of your time to run through an MBTI personality test. There are a few free ones around like this one. It will paint you a good picture of who you are and give you some direction towards possible career/study pathways.

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