The Lowdown
30 June 2022 • 5 min read

Leaving School

Leaving school means leaving your comfort zone. It’s a big time in your life and you’re probably deal with a lot of mixed feelings and emotions.

A person's body from the neck down is sitting in a skateboarding rink with their backpack in front of the Sky Tower. In the skateboarding rink, there is graffiti with the words "stressed," "lost," "pressure," and "freedom."

You may be going on to secondary study. You may not have wanted to leave school but have had to get a job to support your whānau. You may have decided further study isn’t for you or isn’t accessible and are heading into the workforce. For whatever reason you’re leaving, just remember that this does not define who you are or determine your long-term future.

It can be a scary and daunting, leaving familiar environments. For the first time, you may find yourself suddenly in full time work or you may be off to uni in a whole new city or environment with new responsibilities.

You might feel pressure brought on by expectations from your parents or caregivers, your relatives or your teachers to go and study or to get a job.

You might also be worried or down because you’ll be leaving friends and things that you know behind. This sense of loss is normal. Just remember, there was a time when school was new and scary too. You’ll get used to whatever’s next, just give it some time.

There are a lot of other things you may have to navigate too, such as:

  • Living independently for the first time with less whānau support
  • Developing new relationships with flatmates, work colleagues, lecturers etc.
  • Heading into a workplace with strict rules or guidelines and expectations on your performance
  • Moving from a more casual school environment to a professional workplace
  • Financial worries – you might suddenly need to have enough income to cover your food and living costs, transport and rent, and you may need to get yourself set up with a student loan.
  • Anxiety over future career options – many people don’t know what they want to do yet when they leave school, and that’s stressful!

Remember that it’s normal to feel anxious about what comes next, but that you’ll adapt quickly. To help you get ahead, do some research online and create a plan, think about where you would like to be in the next 2-5 years’ time and how you’re going to get there. Ask for advice on your next steps from someone you trust, or see your school’s careers advisor or guidance counsellor. It’s also ok just to take it one day at a time – you don’t have to have it all together.

If you haven’t decided what you want to do, there are a lot of options to consider:

  • You could sign up for an apprenticeship or traineeship – this is a great option if you want a valuable, hands-on skill that earns money while you learn. Head here to find out more info and how to sign up to an apprenticeship.
  • You could skip study for now and get a job – this may be what you want, but in many low income families this may also be the expected option for you. If this is you but you’re dreaming of doing more, don’t give up – you may still be able to create a plan that will get you to where you want to be. Head here to work through some of the steps around heading into the workforce.
  • You might want to take a gap year, work and experience life as an adult then jump into study when you have a clearer idea of what you want to do. If you’re taking this option, remember to plan out your gap year and have an accountability buddy/partner to support you in sticking to your plans. You don’t want to take a gap life!
  • Overseas experience – you may want to go on a trip and experience the world, or maybe you’re keen to study overseas.
  • Study – you could go to University or your local Polytech. You may feel that this isn’t an option for you, especially if your family is pressuring you to get a job or you don’t have much money. There is support that may help you to study regardless of these pressures, so check out the Fees Free website and Studylink to learn more about what might be possible, or talk to your school guidance counsellor or careers advisor.

A lot of people think choosing a career path after leaving school is set in stone, but it’s really not. If you change your mind, you can change what you want to do at any point. You can always go back to study, change your degree or job or do another apprenticeship or traineeship at any point in your life.

Remember, every journey is different, don't worry about what anyone else thinks or is doing, focus on what feels right for you.

If you’re struggling with the pressures of leaving school and it’s making you feel overwhelmed and down, talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling and ask them for help.

Where to get help:

If you’re thinking about harming yourself or are having suicidal thoughts, call Lifeline on 0508 82 88 65 now to talk to someone who cares and can support you.

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