“What do you want to do after high school?”
You might feel like you are the only person that doesn’t know what you want to do, but more people than you think don’t know what they want to do after highschool. Even teachers and adults you look up to didn’t know what they wanted to be.
According to a study done by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), an estimated 20 to 50 percent enter college as undecided.
Finding their way
Math teacher Terri Whyte thought she knew what she wanted to be, but it turned out that she didn’t.
“I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist, but in order to get there you had to declare a major so you could get into the special physical therapy school,” said Whyte. “ So instead of physical therapy I decided to go to school for Microbiology.”
Whyte said that once she started school for Microbiology she began to hate every lab class that she ever took.
“I didn’t mind the theoretical stuff, but I hated the labs and when you’re a science major there are a lot of labs,” said Whyte. “One day we had just finished up balancing equations, and we had gone back to the science stuff, and I was like aww I miss doing the math part of it and that is when it hit me and it was like a light bulb turned on and I knew what I really wanted to do.”
Whyte said that before she went to college she would feel pressure when people would ask her what she wanted to do after high school.
“I felt like when people would ask me what I wanted to do I would feel pressure to come up with something to say that I thought was a good enough thing to tell people,” said Whyte.
Most people end up going to college thinking that they are going to school for the thing they want, but about 80% of students end up changing their major at least once (NCES). On average college students change their major at least three times over their college career, sometimes more.
Science and Chemistry teacher Sean Powell didn’t know what he wanted to be going into college.
“I started off wanting to be an Astrophysicist, so my first college major was Astrophysics,” said Powell. “During my class I made a huge mistake and the professor told me if I ever became an astrophysicist that there would be consequences, so I decided to change jobs and become a teacher.”
Powell said he felt a lot of pressure to know what he wanted to do after high school, but he feels like there is more pressure put on teenagers today then there used to be.
“I felt a lot of pressure, but I feel like it is worse today then it used to be,” said Powell. “Now they start talking about college with kids when they are in middle school, and if you don’t know what you want to be by the time you are in high school you really start to feel that pressure.”
Pressure comes from everywhere
Everyone feels some type of pressure at some point in life, but for everyone the pressure comes from different people and places. Some people feel pressure from their community and school, but for others they feel pressure from their family, friends, and peers.
Senior Jared Valentine said that he has felt the most pressure from his peers to know what he wants to do.
“I have always wanted to become an engineer and start my own firm after high school,” said Valentine. “Even though I have always appreciated engineers, the idea only came about because of the pressure from my peers to find something I’m good at, and think of something to do with it.”
Pressure to choose a path
Robert McClory is a guidance counselor at Kayhi and he helps many students decide what they want to do after high school.
“I think there is pressure put on kids for everything these days,” said McClory. “A lot of kids feel an early demand to know what they want to do after high school, and it’s hard
to help kids with that because I think that knowing what you want to do after high school you have to know something about yourself first.”
McClory said that finding a good career path is a matter of matching your skills and interests with the career that you think would fit you best.
“I think that people spend their whole lives looking for the perfect direction to go,” said McClory. “People are constantly looking to find out who they are, what their about, and what is most important to them.”
McClory said that when you are young it is harder to know what you want to be, because you aren’t as exposed to all the different options there are for career paths.
“There are over 20,000 jobs in America, so you’re not just gonna know what you want to be when you don’t even know all of the options there are,” said McClory. “I think that knowing comes with age and experience, trial and error; I think of it as trying on a job to see how it fits, just like trying on a suit to see how it fits, you don’t know until you try it.”
It’s okay to be undecided
Whyte said that when kids confide in her for advice on what to do, she tells them that it’s okay not to know.
“What I tell kids now is it’s okay to change and not know what you want to do, it’s okay to switch schools and change your mind about not going to school, but I think some form of professional training in something you love to do is important,” said Whyte.
McClory said that many students come to him when they aren’t sure what they want to do.
“When students come to me not knowing what they want to do, I tell them that no one really ever does,” said McClory. “ I tell students this because no one really ever knows what they want to do and it’s okay to not know, people spend their whole lives trying to find the thing that they really want to do, so if a student doesn’t know what they want to do it shouldn’t be a problem.”