Throughout our childhood and into our high school and college years, many of us are asked the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
In first grade, I probably answered this question with, “I want to be an artist!” because I loved spending hours after school each day creating “masterpieces” using my markers and colored pencils. However, as I started middle school, I soon realized that I was very interested in science. I loved how applicable it was to real life, and the fact that there was so much still to be discovered intrigued me. By the end of middle school, I was pretty confident that I wanted to be a doctor one day. I was fascinated with medicine and loved listening to others and offering advice.
This didn’t change in high school, and it made choosing a major when applying to college fairly easy for me. I took several STEM courses over my high school years, and I pursued my medical interests through my extracurricular activities (in addition to exploring other areas of interest as well). Although this process was fairly straightforward for me, I can’t say it was the same for some of my peers.
For many, high school offers a small introduction to the vast array of opportunities out there in the world.
Most elementary and middle schools only offer the four basic subjects: math, science, social studies, and English. This is good, but very broad. In high school, students have the opportunity to take more specialized courses within each of these subject areas. There are courses like psychology, computer science, economics, and foreign languages. These can give individuals interested in pursuing a college education a better idea of what they might want to study in the future. In addition, through a multitude of clubs and extracurricular opportunities available, high school students can get involved in activities that allow them to further explore and develop their passions. Although high school gives students an opportunity to explore a variety of subject areas and experiences, I feel that it is still tough for some students to be certain of what they want to study in college since high school is mostly a time of exploration.
Nowadays, most colleges don’t require an individual to commit to the major they list on their application (which I think is great).
In fact, many colleges don’t require a student to declare a major until the end of their sophomore year. This gives a student time during college to explore their passions and interests and decide accordingly. Some colleges might ask students to simply list broad subject areas they may be interested in studying, which lets students know that they are not committing themselves to something they are interested in at the moment for the entirety of college.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 80% of college students change their major at least once. With such a high statistic, it is important to realize that many students are unsure of what they would like to study or do with their lives. Most haven’t had the opportunity to truly interact with and understand everything available to them until they’re in college. Today, many people stress the importance of setting goals and developing a detailed life plan from early on. Although this methodology is useful and may be beneficial for some individuals, it is not the best for everyone. Life is about having new experiences and doing things that make one happy. If this is a process that takes time for an individual, it shouldn’t automatically be considered unproductive or bad.
Students are encouraged to make quick decisions. For many, I feel that it would be more helpful if they slowed down and took time to truly interact with the opportunities available to them. That way, they can make a more educated decision on what they want to study.
Ultimately, I think it is most important for students to not feel stressed out or feel “behind”
Just because you haven’t decided what you want to do with your life doesn’t mean you aren’t where you need to be. Each individual is unique, and we all have our own pace in which we go about doing things.
My recommendation for high school students is as follows: this the time to explore opportunities available to you and chase your passions. When applying to college, reflect on what you enjoyed learning and doing in high school. This could be an indication of what you may be interested in studying. Use your first year of college (as I will also do this upcoming school year!) to decide whether you are enjoying the program you indicated interest in or would like to study something else. Overall, make sure you are finding value and enjoyment in what you are putting your time and effort towards.
When you’re in high school, it’s always a good idea to keep college in the back of your mind. Here is some college advice geared to upcoming high school freshmen.