It seems like parents, relatives and other adults are always asking young people, “What are you going to do when you graduate?” This of course means, “Are you going to college?” and if so, “Where are you going? What will you major in? What will be your profession?” These and other probing questions put kids on the spot. But is it fair to put young people under pressure to make life choices at such an early age?
Being a teenager is challenging enough without the added pressure of, “Quick, kid, make up your mind!” The irony is that they don’t really have the experience and may not be prepared emotionally to make those decisions yet. How would you like to be held to the decisions you made right out of high school – for the rest of your life?
Some societies encourage or enforce some “breathing time” in the form of public service for a few years after high school. Many junior colleges and four-year colleges offer general education programs for students with a non-declared major. These practices give young people a chance to get a few years under their belt before they “have to” declare a major and “make up their minds.” We have met hundreds of professionals, entrepreneurs, and trades people whose livelihood today is far removed from their schooling, so maybe it is a good idea to hold off on major decisions.
There are many factors to consider for high school grads. In a lot of cases, the decision to go to college means moving away from home for the first time, maybe even to a new city or a new state. Then there is the cost. What to do? Borrow at high interest rates and face an ongoing liability that lasts for decades? Or take on a full or part-time job and still spend 20-30 hours per week in studies? And don’t forget the time and attention required by the car and the sweetheart!
Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, California has asked us to speak to their graduating class on Career Day. This is Michael’s alma mater, and we want to give them some encouragement and direction based on our experience. We will tell them the process of going to college, all by itself, is a major skill builder. Here students will learn how to manage funds, classes, time, work, and social activities, the fundamental requirements for any career. Learning skills, including research, communication, and comprehension, can give them a distinct advantage, no matter what path they choose.
It’s OK to not declare a major right off. It’s OK to change your major. Liberal studies are the key to relationship building in any career involving sales, and benefit most management positions. And it’s a good idea to get working experience in the field you are interested in prior to deciding on your major.
What advice would you give a graduating high school student?