High school graduation is just around the corner, and your future is waiting.
That probably sounds intimidating and scary, but it doesn’t have to be. You’ve probably been hearing a lot of talk about making decisions now that will affect the rest of your life, like going to college and choosing a major that will dictate your career path. But here’s the scoop — you have the rest of your life to make decisions, and you don’t have to make them all now. This includes going to college.
A lot of people say that if you don’t go to college right after high school, you’ll never go. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If fact, non-traditional students are becoming increasingly common, and adults going back to college after taking significant amount of time after high school is quite normal. As many as 8.2 million students were over the age of 25, while 17 percent of students were over 35, back in 2014.
It’s okay to not know what you want to do for the rest of your life right now. You ask almost any adult if they have the same wants and ambitions that they had when they were 18, and most are going to respond with a resounding “no”. Many will even admit that they regret the major they chose, because they felt they just had to choose one after spending multiple years undeclared. In fact, those who go into college right after high school without declaring a major are more likely to waste time and money taking non-essential classes while trying to figure out what they want to study. With college tuition constantly rising, do you want to get yourself into a bunch of extra debt taking classes you might not even need for your eventual major?
For some graduating high school students, it’s not just about not knowing what they want to study — it’s about not wanting to study anymore at all. You’ve just spent 13 years in school, and the idea of paying to go to school right now seems like torture. Now is the time to get out there, and experience some life. Apply for jobs and get some real work experience. Maybe after a few years of working and experiencing life outside of school, you might find something you like doing, or figure out what you hate doing; discovering who you are outside of school is a great way to get direction in life. You might find that your desired direction in life requires a certain college degree, and that you are ready for formal education again in a way you are more likely to appreciate it.
If you are weary about college because you think you might not be able to handle it, this is another good reason to take some time off. This isn’t to say you should give up on going because of your anxieties, but there are options for trying out college classes without having to make a full-time/monetary commitment right off. There are programs that allow you to try out freshman classes for free without having to enroll in school. You can get a feel of what a college class workload is like, and if you like it, you can enroll and pay for the credit; if you don’t like it, nothing was lost. You can also try your hand at some ivy league classes; schools like Harvard and Yale have made access to some of their class lectures possible, so you can see and hear actual lectures from their offered courses.
Graduating high school is both scary and exciting, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. If you can take solace in the fact that you don’t have to have it all figured out right now, you can take time to try different things and make the right decisions for you. You’ve got your whole future ahead of you, and lots of time to figure out what your path is. If you know now that your next step is college, that’s great! Study hard and get everything you can out of your education. But if not, hopefully you can take some of this advice and explore your options.
By Mila Sanchez – Mila is a guest writer for NextStepU. She holds a BA in English Linguistics and was born and raised in Idaho. Her ambitions in life include traveling, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax.