High school: the bridge to the rest of your life

But, how do students determine what the rest of their lives will look like?

Emilie DeWeese, Reporter

Years ago, when I was just in elementary and middle school, I believed that high school would be the road to discovery for me. I thought that I would be given every tool that I needed, and in some miraculous way, I would just know exactly what it was that I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Now, as a 16-year-old sophomore in high school, I have indeed made a jarring discovery. That discovery, however, is not what I had anticipated it would be. I now know that deciding your life’s career path is not as easy or effortless as a young child could imagine it to be, and that, in fact, a 16-year-old in high school is still a young child.

This is not a new concept for teenagers, or even those in college and beyond. Deciding what career you would like to practice for the rest of your life is a challenging task for anybody, let alone a young teenager. And yet, it seems to be an expectation that is placed on the youth of our society.

As an academically focused student, I am the type of person who has the need to have structure and organization. In this sense, the uncertainty I have surrounding my career path is anxiety-inducing for me. I also have several friends, both high schoolers and adults, who experience or have experienced the same confusion. This pressure, on top of the school work, can cause a lot of stress at times. It almost feels like the pressure of figuring it all out distracts people from actually focusing on what they would like to do. I often find myself wondering why it is that I am so confused. This is what led me to realizing that I knew very little about all of the possibilities that exist as career options for me.

There are many contradictory statements that I have observed over just a year and a half of being in high school. Many people will tell you that you should just enjoy your youth, while also questioning you about what you would like to do with your life as an adult. Everybody knows the typical nature of a teenager: carefree, naive and almost reckless. Even the teenagers that are considered more mature have this youthful quality to them. It is just part of being young, and the biological process that our brains are going through at this point in life.

This is why the expectations puzzle me. How can you expect a person in this state of mind to figure out exactly what their passion is? This is especially confusing to me when you add it to the fact that high schools provide very little education about the thousands of career options available to people. This lack of guidance and education makes it extremely difficult to determine if you have chosen the right path to take. How are you supposed to choose a path to take when you do not even know all of the possible destinations?

What I would like to see from high schools is an effort to create career education classes that not only educate students on how to get a career but also include explorations of a variety of options in a variety of career fields. This education would benefit students way more if it went further past the basic careers that most people already know about. There are typically hundreds of positions in just one career field alone, and there are hundreds of different career fields.

Another option would be to provide a class directly focused on helping students decide what career path they want to pursue. These types of classes are typically actually college courses that some colleges or universities offer. However, I think it would be beneficial for these courses to be included in high school. An example of one of these courses would be Career Choice (IDS 106) at Illinois State University.

When I think about what I want to know about a career, I think about what the career would look like on a daily basis. Because, in reality, that is what you are deciding: what you are going to be doing on a daily basis for the rest of your life. If you do not know what that looks like, how do you know if you will be content with the career you are choosing? If these were things that high school students were educated on, it would probably make it a lot easier to determine what career path is going to be the most fulfilling for them. This would decrease the anxiety that a lot of teenagers have.

While, yes, high schools do educate students on some careers, I think that there could be so much more done to guide young students in finding what career in which they will be both successful and fulfilled. While things like internship programs and standard career skills classes are helpful, they do not exactly provide the exploration of careers that is necessary for young people who would like to browse their options. Educators need to ensure that the education they are providing their students with gives them the tools and skills to become promising citizens and to live great lives, because that is supposed to be the goal of high school: to discover your passions, educate yourself and build a foundation for the rest of your life.