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5 alternative pathways after high school

The idea of finishing school brings on a weird rush of emotions. Maybe you’re anxious about those final exams, feeling uncertain about whether your grades are high enough, excited to be done with school, sad that you’ll no longer spend every lunch hour with friends or you could simply be bamboozled about what to do next. 

Chances are, you are feeling a mix of all the above and that’s completely okay and totally normal 🙃


For some, enrolling in an undergraduate degree at university is the obvious next step. Maybe you’ve dreamed of pursuing a career as a lawyer, making university the right track for you 🤓

But university isn’t for everyone, and you don’t have to feel the pressure to sign up for a course just because your friends are, your parents want you too or you feel like it’s what you should do. 

There are stacks of alternative pathways after school. Here are a few ideas for what to do after Year 12 💡

Explore your options with VET programs

If you’re not already familiar with the acronyms VET, TAFE and RTO you’re about to become well acquainted 📚

VET (Vocational Education and Training) courses are specialist certificates, diplomas and advanced diplomas that have been created in consultation with industry.

Usually these courses will lead you down recognised pathways to various careers. VET courses are offered through RTOs, TAFE and some universities, so we’ll dive into what that means below.  

Enrol in a TAFE course

If you are interested in a more hands-on career or enjoy practical learning, TAFE (Technical and Further Education) institutes are a great next step 💻

The courses offered at TAFE are designed to prepare you for employment with practical learning using industry-standard equipment. It means when you graduate you’re ready to get out there and start a vocational career in fields like hospitality, child care, aged care, design, marketing and so much more.

What’s great about TAFE courses is that they have lower entry requirements, are cheaper and shorter than studying at university. 

Look for an RTO

There are more than 4000 Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) in Australia that offer nationally recognised training and qualifications. Similar to TAFE, the courses offered by RTOs are practical and relevant to your future employment prospects.

It could be that you choose to complete a VET course through an RTO or TAFE straight out of school, or some people choose to add these practical courses to give them hands-on experience alongside university degrees 🎓

Sign up for an apprenticeship

Another alternative to university is a trade. What’s great about a trade? You get to learn your craft and get paid at the same time. 🤑 That's a win-win! 🤑

You don’t have to wait until school finishes to start an apprenticeship. You can get a head start with school-based training and then go full-time or part-time afterwards.


Take a Gap Year

There are dozens of reasons to take a Gap Year after school. Before you go from full-time school to full-time studying, learning a trade or working, it might be worth considering taking a breather 😅

If you apply for and are accepted into a course, most will allow you to defer for a year. This gives you the chance to gain valuable real world experience by travelling, working or volunteering before you continue your career journey 🌎

A Gap Year is a great chance to learn more about yourself outside the confines of high school. Nearly 50 percent of university students end up changing degrees after the first year, so rather than rack up student debt, use a Gap Year to learn more about yourself before diving into tertiary study.

We’re definitely biased, but a Gap Year would give you plenty of time to enrol in a few of our totally free virtual work experience and upskilling microprograms. The better informed you are about what you do and don’t like, the easier it will be to make career decisions.  

Alternative pathways to university

Maybe your ATAR score was too low to gain entry to the university course you wanted. Firstly, know this: your ATAR score does not define you as a person. Secondly, you can find a way to get there 💫

If it’s not too late, you can actually apply for early entry to university. So even before your HSC exams happen, you could get accepted to uni with a combo of your grades, recommendations from teachers and evidence of extra-curricular activities like sport or volunteering.

If it’s too late to try for early entry, ask about a preparatory program. Essentially, if your results didn’t quite meet the criteria, the university might allow you to take a few units and then transfer to your preferred degree when possible.



Our mission here at Grandshake is to help you discover what you want out of your career. We offer free virtual work experience with real industry mentors so you can get a taste of different careers. We believe young people should have the opportunity to trial various fields before committing to a career. So, what are you waiting for? Check 'em out!


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