• So we've graduated...where to now?
Tags: Youth

What's next after high school?

Chilled out teens can be seen all over the Shore this month, enjoying the summer sunshine. Many of them enter 2018 having graduated from high school or college last year, about to embark on the next stage. Channel's youth columnist Jessy Thurston is one of them...

Some of us will not be returning to school in 2018. We have already said goodbye to the 13 years, countless NCEA assessments, and dedicated teachers that helped us (with essays we left until the last minute). Graduating high school is incredibly gratifying, but school has become an environment that so many of us are familiar with, and it feels odd to leave it all behind. 

Of course, with the end of high school comes the looming decision of what on earth you should begin to do with your life? Suddenly you are coughed up and shot out into the ‘real world’ and, over Christmas, you are faced with this reality when your relatives ask the daunting question of: “So what will you do now that you’ve finished high school?”

Some of my friends felt immense pressure leading up to our graduation date, as they were reluctant to try to figure out what they wanted to do after we left the surroundings we were all so comfortable with. Jess Rowley, leaving Northcote College, commented: “It’s not easy to know straight away what you are going to do. It’s your whole life ahead of you that you have to think about. Suddenly you’re thrown into a place they call ‘adulthood’ and you have to discover your whole life. It’s really scary and the pressure never really seems to go away.”

There are so many options. Sometimes it can be difficult to narrow your choices down to a singular course at university, or to jump straight into a job you know nothing about. Some students struggle to pinpoint exactly what it is that they want to be doing everyday after they leave, which can cause a lot of pressure leading up to graduating. There’s also a huge concern when thinking about the cost of university. Choosing something that you don’t feel one hundred percent certain about can mean a lot of debt, and a waste of time - especially if you jump into a subject with a lack of ambition or enthusiasm to carry out the degree. 

Fortunately the new first-year-free policy is in full swing thanks to Labour, so the strain on student loans has lessened – but the other years of a degree are still fairly pricy. Paying $84,000 for a three-year course in Biomedical Sciences could set back an 18 year-old for years. There are hopes that in 2021, three years of university courses will be paid for, but until this is confirmed there are still plenty of us who are going to be weighed down by a heavy debt after the completion of our degrees.

However, to stop this endless worrying, there are a few opportunities that arise during high school to help students to figure out if they like a certain career or not, before they leave feeling clueless. With programmes like Gateway for year 12 and 13 students, there is a chance to gain valuable experience and learn skills such as how to prepare for a job interview, and how to build a rapport with customers. On top of these skills, there are also ways for students to get themselves into the working field and learn things about careers they might be interested in pursuing. Teenagers can be immersed in a working environment and get a feel for the jobs they might be fascinated in, before committing to an expensive course that they aren’t too sure about. 

“Gateway is a school-based Government-funded programme. Students are able to participate in “work ready” courses (such as interview skills) and gain experience in the workplace. This may include film work, travel industry, teaching, nursing, IT, trades, retail, journalism - work experience opportunities are endless," says Fiona Mackenzie, Gateway Coordinator for Northcote College. She emphasizes how useful the courses can be for students who aren’t completely sure about what is next for them after high school, adding: “The type of career opportunities open to students are numerous and sometimes making a decision about what to do when you leave school can be bewildering. Through the course, students spend time in the workplace being mentored by the employer.”

Gateway also offers credits to students for some of the courses, contributing to their completion in NCEA. The programme aims to enhance confidence in individuals, helping them finding clarity on their steps after high school; whether that be to apply for a job, choose a course at university, or to take further steps in bettering the skills they have already learnt through the programme. Don’t hesitate to enquire about Gateway, as the benefits are endless and can make a big difference if anyone feels they are stuck between decisions as the end of high school approaches. I know from experience; it's how I got here, writing youth features for Channel! 



Issue 84 February 2018