December 20, 2021

An Open Letter to High School Graduates

Jeanette Cheah 🇦🇺🇲🇾🇺🇸
An Open Letter to High School Graduates

Across Victoria today, Year 12 students are logging on to find out how they scored on their ATAR (that’s the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, for non-local friends). It’s an emotional day, filled with anticipation, tears of joy, relief for some. And a sense of ‘what’s next’ for others.

So to each and every student finishing high school in 2021, in case no one else says this to you today… I am SO proud of you.

You did it! You have survived, studied and completed a huge chapter of your life in one of the most challenging times we have known.

There will be some of you who check your scores today and be thrilled!

Congratulations! You know how hard you worked for this. I know you battled dodgy internet connections, your own self-doubts, and isolation from your mates. You did the work, you pushed yourselves. You deserve to savour the moment!

My advice? When all the doors open for you, it’s tempting to walk through the one with the highest barrier to entry. So even if you exceeded your own expectations, don’t feel the pressure to change your choices to what others expect of you.

Take this time to reflect on what lights you up, what you gravitate to naturally. Just know that the decisions you make today are just the start of your journey. Nothing is irreversible, and nothing is off the table.

There will be some of you who check your scores today and be disappointed.

And to you, I say – it’s going to be ok. You are going to be ok. Take a moment to remember those times you could have given up, but you didn’t. Those ‘aha’ moments, when something really stuck in your brain. The fact that you completed your studies under incredible pressure.

This score is a singular measure that applies to a specific outcome. It’s not a measure of your creativity, your work ethic, or your intelligence.  And it is certainly not a measure of just how far you could go in life.

We live in a time where pathways for learning and work are no longer linear.

There are so many different types of education emerging – and new ways to explore the impact you want to make in the world. When it comes to getting to your destination, sometimes the scenic route can be more enjoyable than the highway! Please be kind to yourself, and know that we are immensely proud of you and excited for your potential.

Then there are some of you who… honestly? just don’t care about your score.

Maybe you preferred to work instead of sitting in class. Maybe you have creative aspirations. Maybe you started your own business. Maybe you just need a damn break.

My hope is that you’ll move forward knowing that you are in charge of what happens next. You’re the CEO of your own future. I truly believe that taking some time to reflect on who you are and to explore the world outside your postcode can lead to some of the most exciting things.

And even if you choose to defer or bypass higher education altogether, the good news is that a degree alone is no longer the gateway to an awesome, fulfilling career. Top employers are looking for skills, side hustles, your ability to learn, community service, and diverse lived experiences. I’m excited to see what you’ll do next.

Finally, to every single young person finishing high school (or even those once-young people who are reevaluating their careers), let me say this:

You are the humans who will lead us into the future. You are going to start businesses that kickstart the economy – but with your core values in mind. You are going to influence your bosses and colleagues to make innovative and ethical decisions. You are going to find a pathway that's perfect for you.

This is your moment. I believe in you.

The world needs you to be exactly who you are.

Congratulations, graduates. I look forward to your leadership.

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