What Next After High School?

by Alexis Wong

UCSI University

English Language and Communications programme, currently doing internship at UCSI University Sarawak.


So, you’ve made it through high school. You’ve shouted ‘Merdeka!’ and said goodbye to public exams: You are young, you are free and your whole life is ahead of you. The possibilities are endless. You could do anything, or you could do nothing at all. Enjoy life to the fullest, you tell yourself. After years and years of public examinations, finally you are free, free to do anything you want.


You spend the first week of lazing around, meeting up with friends, having long sessions of yum-cha, doing all the things you have wanted to do that do not involve any studying. You could do anything, right? You are so free enjoying life to the fullest.


And then the second week comes around. Those lepak sessions with your friends soon get boring. Window-shopping suddenly seems meaningless. Soon you cannot tell the difference between one mall from another. Endless food courts and cinemas become a blur. How many times can you go to the cinema and watch movies before your wallet starts crying from all the dieting you put it through?


Week three: real boredom finally sets in. You pause for a minute, stop whatever you are doing and start to wonder, ‘What am I going to do with my life after this?’ Do I continue studying? College? University? You wonder whether higher education is really the only path to success.


You have been earning money through part-time work, all those odd jobs to get extra pocket money. Those yum-cha sessions and cinema-going aren’t going to pay for themselves. So you think you should not waste your time with college. Quitting traditional school may give you the opportunity to be the next big thing; for you to earn your first million ringgit before you hit your twenties.


But while that benefitted the likes of Jobs, Zuckerberg and Gates, dropping out almost never works as well financially for others.


People such as Kevin Systrom would beg to differ. Systrom opted to continue studying at Stanford instead of dropping out to join Facebook. His love of vintage photography while studying abroad inspired his passion for photo filters. He is the co-founder of Instagram.


Your parents would have a heart attack then continue nagging you to do something with your life and by that means, go to college, go to university, get a degree and your future will be as bright as the sun. To do otherwise would ensure dishonour for your family. ‘It is for your own good’, is a phrase that keeps repeating in your mind.


Your friends feel the same way too. Most do not know what to do after high school: “I don’t know lah. What do you think you want to do?”


You have no proper reply. You shrug and discuss where you should go hang-out tonight. Part-time work is only temporary, you do not want to be working at fast food outlets or be a sales-girl for the rest of your life. You want to do something big, really big. You start to sweat. No, this is not the life you wanted.


So you look around. Your friends are having the same problem as you. Some have their whole life mapped out. The common life-goals go something like this: you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, anything that sounds nice, ‘high-class’, you study for your degree and you become a successful insert-whatever-profession-that-will-make-your-parent-proud and you will live happily ever after.


Then you remember, you do not know what you will be in 10 years’ time, you cannot even decide tomorrow’s dinner without breaking out into a sweat, how could you expect to decide what your career will be?


Your parents are working, you are not rich but you are living comfortably enough to go to the movies every week, eat at nice restaurants and do not need to cry thinking about your pre-paid or post paid plan. You are not rich, but you are not exactly dirt-poor either. So you cannot afford to go to Australia or the UK, the US or overseas, not without robbing a bank or winning the lottery.


But wait, a hopeful voice in your head says, ‘What about scholarships?’ Surely they can pay for my tuition fees and accommodation. You stop feeling hopeful when you remember that excellent school results are the basic requirement for such scholarships. You might be an over-achiever or a barely-average student back in high school; all the same, you are not the only high-school leavers facing this same situation. There will always be stiff competition to actually qualify and obtain a scholarship worth tens of thousands of ringgit.


And even if you did get a scholarship, have you decided what you really want to study? Are you preparing to commit and work hard for this next chapter in your life?


You are in the science stream but blood freaks you out and cutting up rats and frogs is not your thing. How can you be a doctor?


You are in the arts stream but your stick-man drawings are often confused as stick-animals. You like maths but you do not want to do accounting for the rest of your life.


Being on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp 24/7 does not mean you should study mass communication.


What am I going to do with my life, you keep asking yourself, your parents, your cat, your dog, the wall. All the answers in the world will mean nothing if you cannot give yourself an honest, truthful answer.


Take a deep breath. You control what your life is like from high school and beyond. You are the one to prove yourself after the fact. If you are strong enough to get through the incredible hormonal mess that is high school, you can do anything.


So you cannot go overseas, the cost is too much. You are still considering whether or not you should just take Form Six? Then, what next – private college? You should not cross private institutions off the list because you are afraid that the tuition fees will be too expensive. So you get financial help. Do your research. Google ‘IPTS Malaysia’ and do not let the 453,000 results scare you.


Talk to your school counsellor, your parents, and your seniors who have or are currently studying in college.


There are tons of education fairs, especially for you to go over and see for yourself all the available choices that you have. Just smile and accept the brochures (and free gifts) that all those education booths hand out. Talk to the school counsellors there, they are a good source of information. Let them guide you on how to pursue the career path that you want. Then go home and go through all those shiny glossy pamphlets and booklets.


It is totally okay if you keep changing your mind. Honestly discuss your future with your parents. Nothing is certain in life, except death and taxes. Keep telling yourself, nothing is ever cast in stone. The world is yours for the taking; whatever you make of it. You must not be afraid to dream a little bigger.


Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. – T. S. Eliot


About UCSI
UCSI University Sarawak Campus houses the Faculty of Hospitality Management (FHTM) and Centre for Pre U Studies (CPU) Faculty of Hospitality Management (FHTM) offers three degree programmes, which include BA (Hons) in Commerce, BA (Hons) in Event and Tourism Management and BA (Hons) in Hospitality Management.

Not only offering degree programmes, FHTM offers three diploma programme as well, namely Diploma in Hotel Management, Diploma in Culinary Arts and Diploma in Leisure and Recreation.

As for students who are interested to further their studies in Medicine and Health Sciences, Pharmacy, Architecture, Engineering, Social Sciences and Applied Science programmes, the Centre for Pre U Studies (CPU) of Sarawak Campus gives options for them to study their Foundation Studies both in Arts and Science.

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1 Response

  1. Many are unprepared as to their choice after high school? Would be ideal if schools organize career counselling and exhibition at the school to enable students to learn about matching their interest and possible academic options.

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