For young Australians, the stress of looming year 12 exams and the pressure of deciding their futures after high school can be pretty overwhelming.
So in a thread posted in the r/melbourne subreddit, high schooler u/Adventurous_Spot_510 sought to demystify the post-grad experience, asking: “How is life after high school? I’m a current year 12 student, just wanting to hear everyone’s perspectives. Are there things that mattered a lot to you in high school that don’t matter at all now?”
In the comments, Aussies shared their perspectives on how life changes after graduating and their advice for school leavers in 2022.
“The older you get and the more control you have over your leisure time (as well as who you spend that time with), the less that anything that happened in high school will matter to you.”
“The things about it that made you happy might make you smile in nostalgia, the things that made you angry might make you frown. But all the stuff in-between? The irritation, the stress, the petty stupidity? You’ll forget it. You’ll summarise your high school life as good or bad and it’ll have nothing to do with your present.
That all being said, there are some things that mattered to me WHEN I was in high school that I still care about now. But that has less to do with going through high school and more to do with what I’d consider values or ethics, that I encountered and built back then.”
“Some friendships from school (and uni if you go) do matter. It’s harder to make friends once you’re out of education. I’m 30 years out of high school and still count some high school mates as some of my closest friends. The opportunities that school enables also matter. If you do well in year 12, it sometimes gives you more options on uni courses or options for work.”
“It’s also a good time to establish productive work habits. Although hard work isn’t sufficient for future success, it’s necessary. You can hone those habits in school. Beyond that, not a lot from high school matters. Most people you see every day at school are not going to be part of your future.”
“Everyone has a different experience, but yes, there’s a whole lot of stuff that doesn’t matter — and a whole lot of assholes that have peaked already.”
“It’s overwhelming, but exciting to start your adult life and choose your own path. Try to surround yourself with supportive people and don’t be afraid to try things.”
“There’s a lot more choice for social groups and finding people at uni or in workplaces who have similar interests or values, which can be beneficial for a lot of people.”
“I have been out of high school for just over 10 years now and, like everyone is saying, nothing you do there really matters at all. However, it really is some of the best times of your life — if you have a good group of friends.”
“You’re forced to see each other every day for years and then, all of a sudden, people have work, people move, people make new friends, people start a family and then you see each other once a year, if that. So if you have a good group of friends, cherish it because they’re hard to come by as you get older.
If you hate everyone at high school though, the same applies. You’ll make new friends and never have to see people from school again.”
“I’m not in touch with anybody I knew in school and don’t live in the same country any more — and it’s like looking back on a different person. I don’t really identify as being the same person now as I was in school. High school is completely irrelevant to my life now.”
“Get yourself a job. Don’t stress or rush into any study unless you are certain about your interests. I’m 12 years out of school now and the grand total of people that I still associate from that time is one. A mate from high school — and I might only see him once a year for a catch up. Only the hobbies or interests that I developed in that time and have maintained really matter.”
“I’ve worked several different jobs, travelled the world, met a fine lady, settled down and bought a home, studied several different things and now have wound up back in school as a teacher. So I guess in my instance, yes my high school experience mattered a little, but only to the extent that I reflect on it to empathise with my students. For anyone who is not a teacher, life moves really quick once you leave school and they probably never think about it.”
“Do whatever makes you the happiest. Life is short. In all honesty, I look back on high school and think thank fuck it’s over! Your best days are ahead of you!”
“Pro tip: Don’t fucking waste time. Whatever you’re thinking of doing, just do it! I’ve got 30-year-old buddies who are no better off then they were in year 12 because they didn’t do shit.”
“High school was the worst time of my life. The high school friends dropped off by about 22, when I stopped drinking and going to clubs with them. I wish I did it sooner. I think it’s good to find a nice job or part-time job where there’s a bit of a community and even go to tertiary education or try out new sporting classes. In high school, you meet so many people who don’t have the same values as you. Like where I grew up teen pregnancy was pretty common and almost encouraged.”
“I really grew a lot when some strange circumstances forced me to move to the other side of the city and to meet new people and be exposed to communities with different values. I simply can’t move back to my miserable hometown on principle now.”
“As someone who started school in the US, but graduated in Australia, the experience and social culture of approaching your post-high school future is so intensely different.”
“In the US, it was drilled into us from middle school that your life entirely depended on your SAT results, what extracurricular activities you participated in and the connections you could weasel your way into ahead of graduation — pretty terrifying pressures to put on a teen.
But in Australia, I found it was far more relaxed — and while people certainly cared about their year 12 results and wanted to get into good universities, there was an understanding (and yearning) for a life beyond just your academic future. Aussies are far more into taking gap years, fucking off and travelling, working in bars and hospo for the experience, while living it up. You’ve just got to decide what you want for yourself.”
“If I could go back and do it again, I’d just have the best time of my life in year 12 — stop stressing about the future, your 20s are your ‘fuck it’ decade anyway. Find true friends, fuck who you want, ignore the opinions of anyone who doesn’t truly matter (and sometimes even those that do). You’re not meant to have anything figured out when you graduate. Where would the fun be in that?”
“I think the biggest change is that I have to make effort to see my friends, I can’t just rely on them showing up in the same place every day. Of course, for some people, this is a good thing. They haven’t seen their high school friends in years.”
“I hated every minute of high school. In the last 20 years, I’ve graduated university, worked a variety of good and bad jobs, travelled, lived overseas, lost friends, gained friends, been married, got divorced etc. In my experience, some people do not evolve beyond their high school identity. It’s very odd. Don’t be one of them. Have fun and live life to the fullest.”
“I finished in 2012, so 10 years ago now. Honestly, focus on your studies because there will always be time for friends and parties; once you’ve finished. You will never regret doing well, but you will always regret not putting in enough effort.”
“Make your own choices, even if they turn out wrong — don’t just go with default choices, getting dragged along without choosing. Try whatever it is that you have a feeling to try (within reason, laws, ethics and such).”
“I want to break this down into two parts because I think that’s the best way for me to frame my personal opinion: Academic and social.”
“Academically, while it isn’t the end of the world if you get low marks in your end-of-year exams, great marks do open doors — so if you are academically gifted, please do try your best, because it’s nice having options. That being said, there is always an alternative. Unis reward consistency and tenacity in work, so if you don’t get into the course you like there is always another way.
Socially-speaking, my late high school years were rough. My dad had cancer and I just became a wreck. So life after high school was actually better because eventually I was able to grieve less and resume living. I was also very shy in high school and terrified of girls. I started bartending when I was 19 and it really put me on the spot and helped me open up and have more confidence in myself. So everything about my uni days kind of eclipses high school.
Life I think always gets better and I believe that pathway lies ahead for you as well, but at the same time, the journey is fucking bomb and try and enjoy your last months of high school, because fuck it is a special time in your life.”
“All my friends have massive debts from uni and I make more than them anyway as a high school graduate, who left to travel instead. Most of them deferred or changed courses and racked it up. Already on the back foot over $100K and years of study. Don’t waste your time unless there is something you 100% want to do/learn about.”
“I fucked more different people in year 12 than I did since I left, so if you can, root now before you shack up. If there is a reason to walk away, just do it, because everyone is still practicing being an adult. The real stuff doesn’t happen until your thirties.”
And finally: “Life gets better. Much better.”
Do you have any advice for Aussie high schoolers looking to graduate soon? Or for my non-Australians reading along, how did your school experience shape your life after graduation? Let us know in the comments below!
Reddit responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.