As the current cohort of year 12 students complete their final exams, the next question quickly becomes harder to answer than all of the HSC papers combined: what now?
According to research by Year13.com.au, students ranging from late high school to early on in their 'adult life' are struggling to cope with the pressure, with a staggering 51 per cent of the 1000 high school students surveyed claiming that they currently seek assistance from a mental health professional (27 per cent), or believe that they should be (24 per cent).
When asked to describe their feelings surrounding this transitionary stage of their lives, the results were overwhelming with:
- 71 per cent stressed;
- 66 per cent anxious;
- 45 per cent frustrated;
- 36 per cent fearful; and
- 32 per cent depressed.
Founder of Year13.com.au Saxon Phipps told Triple M that there are a large range of factors that combine to leave students feeling dissatisfied with their employment prospects and opportunities.
"What's becoming evident is that young people are being forced to make a decision as young as 14 or 15 about what they're meant to do for the rest of their lives," Mr Phipps said.
"There's this misconception or prerequisite that we're meant to know what we're going to do.
"Which is then leading young people into this exam period - which has been put on a pedestal as being 'the biggest year of your life' and 'the most important exams of your life' - and a lot of young people are just burnt out and unmotivated by the time they get there."
Some humbling stats have also emerged about the period after tertiary education, with it taking university graduates 4.7 years on average to find full-time work in their industry of study.
One in three students also fail to complete their degree within six years, while one in five students drop out of university in their first year.
Furthermore, while data shows that the trade industry is booming in terms of career opportunities, it appears as though there is a reluctance to enter this field, with 74 per cent of survey respondents not considering a traineeship or apprenticeship upon the completion of school.
For those about to enter the brave new world beyond high school education, Mr Phipps advised that the best way to equip yourself for the workforce it to focus on practical skills that go beyond what you're taught by formal schooling.
"The advice that we'd give to any young person entering this transitional period and leaving year 12 is to look for experiences that they can take into their careers," he said.
"In the modern-day workforce, your job title is to be flexible and to work with teams and really solve problems, and I think the more that young people can understand what that brings to an employer, outside of just having that piece of paper, the more value they will get from their employment opportunities."