Abstract: The recent release of the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education has provided a renewed platform for addressing continued disparities in educational outcomes for young Australians in non-metropolitan areas. One of the key priorities outlined in the Review is post-school transitions, echoing policy discourse centring on the underrepresentation of students from regional and remote locations in higher education and the ongoing designation of these students as an ‘equity target group’ for close to thirty years. Much of the research on this topic has focused on ‘barriers’ to access and the ‘unique challenges’ these students need to overcome to get to university, however, the numbers of students from regional and remote areas in higher education have not kept pace with their metropolitan peers. These findings signal that current strategies to improve higher education access for regional and remote students need rethinking and that different strategies are urgently required and long overdue. In this paper, we go beyond simple notions of getting students to university by providing a nuanced analysis of how students imagine their educational and occupational futures. Drawing on survey and interview data from 32 government schools in regional, remote and very remote areas in New South Wales, Australia, and employing Reid et al.’s (2010) concept of rural social space, we investigate students’ aspirations in relation to perceptions of their community. Our analysis of student survey data (n = 1525) examines the kinds of occupations to which students aspire and their assessment of the availability of this work in the community. Next, we analyse interview data from students (n = 133), parents (n = 30) and teachers (n = 40), in order to understand how these ideas are talked about and translate into hopes for the future. Overall, we identify three prevalent narratives: students who plan to ‘stay’, ‘leave’, or ‘leave and return’. Within these broader narratives, economic, geographic and demographic aspects of the rural social space operated in complex ways, influencing students’ aspirations and making occupational, and hence educational pathways appear possible, impossible, desirable or undesirable. We argue that widening participation initiatives need to be grounded in the rural social space by not only focusing on pathways to university, but also the kinds of occupational futures students imagine for themselves.