Almost half of Irish young people regret the pathways they take after leaving school and over half don't think secondary school prepares them for third level education.
The findings are contained in a report from the Economic and Social Research Institute.
It found that experiences such as the social mix of the school and relationships with teachers, have a significant impact on the futures of students.
Those who had positive interactions with their teachers and who attended socially mixed or middle class schools were more likely to go on to some sort of post-secondary education.
Associate research professor with the ESRI Selina McCoy said career guidance in schools is vital in helping decide a future path.
"What was crucial in the findings was that school-based career guidance played a crucial role in helping to reduce the level of regret in young people in terms of the pathways they took," she said.