While many of their peers gear up for three years of partying, drinking and questionable life choices - as well as perhaps some learning - at university, a handful of local high school graduates have signed up for years of discipline, regiment and danger.
The Australian military welcomed 11 Illawarra and South Coast recruits to their ranks yesterday, with an appointment ceremony in Wollongong for students entering the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in Canberra.
Seven young men and four young women will become officer cadets in the Army and Air Force, as they study towards careers in the armed forces.
Aimee Parsons, 18, from Nowra Christian School, said she did not take her decision lightly.
"When I was applying, I was not 100 per cent, but now I know it's really what I want to do."
Jerome Abdelmessih, 18, from Holy Spirit College, is hoping for a career as an intelligence officer.
"It was a big decision, but I know it is right for me. I love the adventure," he said.
More than 330 high school graduates around the country joined ADFA this year, with the local intake higher than previous years.