As Year 12 students across Australia conclude their final exams and await their ATAR scores, many will be feeling a blend of anticipation and anxiety. This pivotal moment not only marks a significant milestone but a time when big choices must be made. That is, what their post-school life will look like.
With more than 25 years of experience, Kath Knowles, Assistant Director of Curriculum at Waverley College has helped hundreds of young people through this critical period in their lives, notably when it comes to navigating the ‘information overload’ many may be experiencing.
“Navigating the transition from school to the next phase of life can indeed be challenging for young people and they can become overwhelmed by the information they receive,” Knowles told The Educator.
“No matter which path they choose, having a plan and being prepared can help them stay one step ahead. It is important to remember that they are more than their exam results, they can change their mind and it’s ok to be unsure about what comes next.”
Knowles said educators should recognise that the transition period is not just about academic challenges but involves emotional and social adjustments as well.
“It is essential to create an environment where young people feel comfortable expressing their concerns and seeking guidance. Careers counsellors can assist by offering career guidance to help students explore their interests, strengths, and potential career paths,” she said.
“It can be beneficial to develop a transition program that gradually exposes students to the expectations and responsibilities of the next phase, whether it be higher education, vocational training, or employment.”
Knowles said students should be encouraged to reflect on their values, interests and aspirations as self-awareness can guide their decisions and choices during this transitional period.
“Career counsellors can play an important role in guiding young people in setting realistic short term and long-term goals and by helping them create action plans to achieve these goals, breaking down larger objectives into manageable steps,” she said.
Key conversations beyond just careers education
Knowles said while careers education plays a key role in helping young people navigate this transition, there are other ways to support young people to ensure that they don’t succumb to unnecessary pressures or negative emotions.
“It is important to create or find safe spaces and opportunities for them to talk and share as they process the things they are experiencing or thinking about. These conversations can help young people make sense of a confusing world and deal with feelings of uncertainty about their future,” she said.
“Parents and educators can support young people by giving them the time and space to make their own decisions without feeling pressured. They need reassurance that’s it’s OK not to have all the answers.”
Knowles said conversations about what success looks like to them and the many ways they could be successful can also be useful.
“By sharing our own experiences, we can act as guides as to how we have navigated our own career journeys. It is essential to help young people find the positives in any situation,” she said.
“If they experience disappointment, we can remind them that everyone experiences disappointment in their lives and that it is how we grow and build resilience that is important.”
Noting that success is rarely a straight path, Knowles said resilience in the face of challenges is an important life skill.
“Young people need to be reminded that true success is not a mark but lies in their resilience, adaptability, and determination to achieve their goals – even if they change in the future.”