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Aussie teen drops out of uni after just one semester to capitalise on emerging workplace trend

Xiaoxiao Wang realised uni wasn't for her and wants to get experience under her belt rather than hit the books for three years.

An Aussie teenager dropped out of university before the first semester had even finished and has a message for people who don't know what they want to do with their lives. Xiaoxiao Wang was staring down the barrel of uni exams and assessments and realised it wasn't for her.

She told Yahoo Finance she felt pressured to go to uni after high school because she had been told that was the pathway to success. However, the 19-year-old said she would rather be working and building up experience instead of spending several years hitting the books.

"I just really took a step back and I was like, 'Am I just doing this for the sake of doing it at this point?'" she explained.

Xiaoxiao Wang next to another photo of her
Xiaoxiao Wang doesn't want to waste three years of her life studying business when she can get real-world experience now. (Source: TikTok/Supplied)

Do you have a story? Email stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

Wang was doing a bachelor of business management degree in Queensland after having a year off following high school, where she worked in retail.

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She mainly wanted to go to university to meet people and have a fun experience. However, the classes left her uninterested and uninspired, which resulted in her going to campus less and less.

"I just realised everyone around me was either playing Candy Crush or some game on their computers," Wang explained. "And my two-hour lectures or tutorials, it just wasn't engaging at all.

The 19-year-old said this defeated her main purpose of pursuing a degree and she eventually decided to drop out.

She told Yahoo Finance she didn't go into tertiary education with a set plan of what she would do afterwards, but she didn't want to waste her time learning business theory when she could go out and experience it herself.

"I think it's just pointless if I'm gonna waste three years of my life and do something as a safety net and then go and pursue what I really want to do, like why do I need uni, I can literally just pursue what I want to do now," she said.

Every year, there are tens of thousands of university students graduating across the country who are eager to get stuck into a career linked to their degree.

Some are lucky to have graduate programs or clear pathways to go from being a student to being a full-time, employed person. Others aren't as lucky.

In some job markets, there are hundreds of people applying for a single role and many are finding it difficult to get a foot on the professional ladder. Shakira Coldwell sent out more than 100 applications and got rejected from every single one of them.

“I went to uni for three years and got a degree in the health profession but, as a new grad, it is so hard to get a job with no experience,” the Gold Coast jobseeker said in a video posted online. “But how am I supposed to get experience if no one will employ me?”

Her story is shared by many at the moment and this was a big factor in Wang's decision to drop out.

"If I start [working] now ... I would have so much experience stacked up that makes me more employable," she said to Yahoo Finance. "Rather than three or four years later and I might not even want to do what I studied."

Superior People Recruitment founder and director Graham Wynn believes that the little slip of paper you get after finishing university doesn't hold the same weight it used to.

“Realistically, it’s much easier to get into uni and get a qualification than it was 20 or 30 years ago,” Wynn told Yahoo Finance.

“The entry levels are much lower, the pass marks are lower and there are far more uni places than there used to be. Consequently, qualifications aren’t valued as highly as they used to be because every Tom, Dick and Harry gets one these days.”

Job site Indeed found the majority of both employers (68 per cent) and graduates (61 per cent) thought undergraduate degrees were no longer enough to secure a good job and most bosses (59 per cent) said they were more likely to hire a graduate with internship or work experience, over one without it.

Indeed career coach Sally McKibbin explained to Yahoo Finance practical experience can help a graduate stand out these days, sometimes more so than university marks.

“While a degree is still very important, employers are looking for more than just academic achievements,” McKibbin said.

“When it comes to finding the right graduate for the role, they are looking for real-life experience as well. So, soft skills, different capabilities and transferable skills like communication and problem solving.”

Tash Markham is proof you can get ahead in life without getting a degree. She started three different degrees and dropped out of them all, but has now ended up at a job that pays fantastically and gives her a great work-life balance.

She wishes someone told her in her early 20s that you don't have to have everything figured out.

"I used to think I was a failure, and I was less than because I didn't have a degree on my resume," Markham said. "I think it's just really important to remember that a uni degree is not the be-all and end-all.

"If I had seen myself now three years ago, knowing that I'm in a job that I absolutely love, I am excited to go to work every day, I have some incredible opportunities, I get to travel around the country for work, and I'm earning more than I ever thought I would in my lifetime; honestly, there's no way I would have believed you."

Wang's outlook on university was only compounded by the fact that she was paying for a degree that she wasn't really interested in. When she realised how many Aussies were being laden with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, it only pushed her further towards dropping out.

The average Aussie has a HECS-HELP debt of $26,494 at the moment, and that is set to go up by $1,245 in June when annual indexation is applied.

The teenager had been working two jobs while she was studying and now wants to focus on those to not only help her earn money but also to figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She's working a few days as a social media coordinator for a clothing brand and a few days in retail.

She explained that so many people her age feel like they're "behind" because they don't know what they want to do for a career.

But Wang said it's wild you're meant to decide on a career path when you're only 16, 17 or 18 and that decision usually sticks with you for up to four decades. She hopes by telling her story, others might re-evaluate what they're doing and give themselves time to work out their goals.

But she said there was one big downside to dropping out when she did as she was hit with an $8,000 academic penalty fee for pulling out before exams had finished.

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