Advice for high school juniors
Choosing a college and field of study (career) needn’t be so high pressured and stressful, I thought as my daughter expressed her frustrations. Her tears triggered by stress reminded me of my own career choices so I shared with her my advice on the whole process.
Times and how the process is handled in the schools may have changed, but the principle of deciding your future hasn’t changed. As a junior in high school, she faces the ACT test this year and college visits in preparation for deciding where she would like to further her education, if a university is what she desires. One of those career exploration programs provided an expanse of choices from writer and proofreader to nanny or housekeeper. Such a wide spectrum for a girl at the top of her class discouraged and frustrated her. She seeks to narrow a career down by interests and gifts and personality. It was meant to provide assistance. It didn’t.
Don’t take on pressures before their time
The more questions I asked, the further her burden extended. Underlying it all was a worry about expenses.
Whoa! Let’s not get the cart before the horse, we advised. Her brothers graduated from college debt free by working hard and also by receiving scholarships. It will work out. Yes, it is hard to work and go to college, but it can be done without hurting your future financially. Our kids all have worked part-time in high school to save for their future education. Every little bit helps.
The first step then is to choose your field of study based on your interests, then you can choose your college and determine your finances.
As for her major, I said to think about the activities that give her pleasure and the values that she is passionate about. Pray! That is where you start. And then just rest and take it a decision at a time!
Determine what really matters
Since I knew what I wanted to study and never wavered, I only applied to one university because of its writing program. I didn’t sweat the ACT because back then, we just went and took it. It wasn’t the huge study-for-years-in-advance test it is now. Maybe it was and I didn’t realize it. Whatever. It didn’t cause me the stress that academia causes with it today. (How well you do on one test doesn’t actually mean anything in the whole scheme of things anyway! Just do your best. Yes, I know what it means for college acceptance. But just give me a break. There are other factors. One test doesn’t determine your success in life.)
It was after college graduation when all my stress over career decisions began. I soon learned my dad valued the salary, and a salary as a newspaper journalist didn’t compare with that in marketing/public relations. So, my first mistake was to take a job that was expected of me, not the one my heart yearned for. Then I got caught up in the conversations of my peers who sought MBAs; but secretly, I continued to dream of the original plan that’s seed was planted years ago when I was a little girl. If I were to go on for my master’s degree, it would be an MFA, certainly not an MBA.
Choose college, career that’s right for you
I tried hard to fit into the corporate world. There were times my job pleased me—the times I worked on newsletters and brochures, creating. Writing reports and coordinating events kept me busy, but they lacked that deep down satisfaction I sought. Job searches left me in a quandary. Did it pay as much as I already made? I shouldn’t take a step down the ladder. I remember calling my mom and sobbing over where to go, what to do. This wasn’t the career I wanted. My stress and troubles all boiled down to one thing: living to someone else’s expectations and not sticking to my own plan.
Don’t base choosing your college and career on the wants and desires of someone else!
When I laid out a newspaper and sent a finished story to the editor, I knew I was where I was meant to be because of the satisfaction I felt. Seek that satisfaction.
Each of us has a unique dream, a unique gift, a unique life. We aren’t supposed to be like everybody else. Following someone else’s plan leads only to depression and anxiety. Seek your special path and don’t worry about anyone else’s. That’s their path, not yours.
Recommendations for choosing college, career
So, I recommend that my daughter pray about her field of study and then look at colleges that have that major. Then, she can examine the colleges and narrow them down and pray some more. What causes excitement? That is where the answer lies. Find your passion so that your work is a joy. This way, you look forward to your work, and your work brings you satisfaction.
It will all work out. It will. Just rest, child of mine. I want you to find what makes you happy too. How do you find it? By trying new classes or extra curriculars. By being your very own self and pursuing your interests.
What advice can you add about choosing a college and career?
For other advice for young people, you may enjoy this blog: https://www.michellekaderlywelsh.com/letter-to-teen-girls-dating-can-wait-know-who-you-are-first/.