What I wish they’d told me in High School

Upon completing High School, everyone around me encouraged me to pursue a degree at Uni. It seemed like the logical plan – you finish school and then you go to Uni. If you don’t, then you are either going to do a Trade or go and work in the Supermarket, or worse, Waitressing – or so I was told.

They convinced me, don’t take a gap year – you’ll never go back and study after working and earning a full time wage. They knew more than me, after all, they had already experienced it.

In my first year after High School, there were so many people in my Uni course. I couldn’t possibly have met them all if I’d tried. I made a few friends who I’d talk to and work with to complete assignments and study. Six months in and around twenty percent of these friends had dropped out. By the end of the year it was about thirty-five percent. By the time I finished my course, it was well over half!

In my head, I thought these people were just going to be working at the Supermarket for the rest of their lives and that they would not have a successful career.

This mentality all changed after I completed Uni. I was introduced to the world of Traineeships through the organisation I currently work for. There were people who had dropped out of Uni who had gone on to become Secretaries and PA’s for Partners and Directors of some of the most well-known, highly regarded Law Firms in Australia. It wasn’t just this field though. People who hadn’t gone to Uni and who hadn’t done a Trade were excelling everywhere. Some were Senior Managers on over $100,000 a year, or they were running their own businesses.

I suddenly realised that everything I had been told about the only logical path to success (through Uni) was untrue. What I wish they’d told me in High School is that there’s no reason why you can’t succeed without a degree!

Interesting statistics

  • 7 million people in Australia have at least one qualification they did not complete with 37% of these being Bachelor Degrees (Qualifications and Work, ABS, 2015).
  • A Boston College followed over 80 of the highest achievers in high school and found that none of them, that is ZERO, made a huge impact on the world (Karen Arnold, Boston College, 2017).
  • A recent study of American Millionaires found that their average GPA in College was just 2.9! (Karen Arnold, Boston College, 2017).


An Expensive Lesson

Those who did not complete their qualification and who’d dropped out of Uni had learnt an expensive lesson. With each class costing an average of over $1,000 and with 8 classes a year, they had accrued a debt of around $9,000. All for a year of a degree they never really wanted to do anyway.

When speaking to a few of my friends who have gone on to have successful careers after dropping out of Uni, they tell me how they wish they had known about the opportunities available for the VCE students who do not want to spend another 3 – 5 years studying. Today, they are still paying off those Uni debts. It’s frustrating watching a significant portion of your weekly income going towards something that you didn’t even complete.

Uni isn’t for everybody. It requires a huge commitment, late nights studying and many a missed social event. Uni is nothing like the American College movies, where they party hard every night and somehow still manage to get high grades.

When you hand in your applications for Uni in the upcoming months, I urge you to ignore the voices saying, “You have to go to University”, and at least consider your other options. Yes, degrees are the best choice for many people, but not for everyone.  If you’re unsure, consider taking a Gap Year and working at a company in an industry you like. Get out there and find something you enjoy, and if you need a degree to get there, then go and complete it. Don’t waste your time, effort and money for nothing – I just wish they’d told me this in High School!

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