OPINION: College expectations limit students’ opportunities

September 30, 2022

 

The expectations of life seem to have shortened into the same generic path. Pass high school, apply to college, get a degree, and go into life. Not only does this pressure students to go to college, but it also eliminates the process of students finding their passion in life and the path that they want to take.

Four years of high school leaves very little room for students to find their passion and the future they want to work with. They have limited time to work a real job, especially after the recent schedule changes, they’re expected to take classes that will benefit their college career, and told to ”cherish and make the most of your high school years.” I agree that the high school years are meant to find out who you are and find your interests, but the way students are being told to go about high school leaves no time for that search.

College may not even be the best option for some students. There are many different paths and ways to achieve a good career and life. Pushing students to go to college from day one can be intimidating and discouraging. Allowing students to take some time to look through the classes and research careers would be a much better approach.

The constant push for advanced classes like AP and Dual Enrollment can help students if chosen properly, but if not, can also lead to universities seeing a wave of the same generic student that ”took all the right classes,” but doesn’t show any significant interest in any field. If a student is looking to get a degree to be in the medical industry, colleges will have no interest in the student passing an advanced class that has nothing to do with the degree they require.

 

Alternatives

 

The go-to choice for beginning a career is getting a degree. While this can help if the degree is chosen properly, it’s not the only option, and may not even be the best one. There are many careers where employers look at references and experience rather than educational success.  

We need to enjoy our time in high school while we have it. We shouldn’t be solely preparing for our future, but figuring out what we actually want to do with it.”

Freelance work and internships are great ways to get into a certain field. Careers where this path really shines are jobs like journalism, tech, and stage production. Sure degrees can help with resumes, but experience and past work is much more important and can actually show the skills the employers may be looking for.

The military is another great choice to find and prepare for a career. While the idea of enlisting may scare some people, the opportunities the military provides are far more than just combat. There are opportunities for experience in the tech industry, medical industry, and many media opportunities. If college is required for a career, the military will help pay for education.

If those who enlist end up finding a job in the military they enjoy, they can stay and retire after 20 years. This not only allows people to retire at a young age, but also provides benefits like financial support and health insurance.

Certain jobs may not even require an education or prior experience. Sometimes the way to start a job is to jump in and learn as you go. If students aren’t sure of what they want to do in the future, there are many great ways to search. The College and Career center is a great place to start and can shed some light on the process of getting into a career.

Attending things like job fairs or military events can also provide information on options students may not have considered or even heard about.

A quick and easy way to look is even just doing basic research. Students can list things they may find enjoyable and start searching for jobs they might be interested in.

I personally think that taking electives is very helpful in finding a passion. I found mine in journalism and writing, but there are also plenty of other options like music, drama, dance, engineering, robotics, and many more. 

 

Approaching College

 

If college is the best option for a student’s success, they still shouldn’t just jump right in and start applying everywhere. The choice of a university is a very serious one. While major universities may be appealing to a lot of students, they may not offer the best education in the field they’re interested in. Some lesser-known colleges may offer a greater education in more obscure or less common fields that the major universities don’t provide. 

Students should not only prepare for life, but also just enjoy life. Part of our lives is happening right now, and it’s a part of life that we’ll want to look back on.”

 

Choosing what degree to pursue is crucial in beginning college. Many students aren’t in a position where going to college will be fully paid for, so this leaves them needing to apply for a loan. If the degree they get helps aid their career, paying off the loan can be done, but this isn’t always the case. With the lack of time for preparation, many students go to college and get a degree that they never end up needing or using. Nothing says worthy investment like spending your parents’ savings for four years getting something useless to your future.

Taking a gap year is a great option to take some time to research the right school, properly plan out the path, prepare for admission and get references, and even just cool off after 13 years of school. 

This time can also be used to get experience in the world before committing to a lifelong goal. Getting a part-time job and making some extra money can be very beneficial. That extra money can either be used to help pay for college or just be used for personal use. Not only should college prep be taken slowly and carefully, but students should also consider whether college is even the right path for their success.  

 

What needs to change

 

The end of this cycle needs to start at the beginning of high school. I believe that there still does need to be graduation requirements, but I also think that students should be able to choose their classes based on what would benefit them and the career they are interested in.

This would take more in-depth, one-on-one meetings with counselors to go over what the student might be interested in and how to set them up for success. Not only should students be better equipped for success, but they should also be informed about options that they may not have thought of before. 

High school shouldn’t be for preparing students for college, it should be for preparing students for life as a whole. Pushing students to take classes like culinary, foreign language, or engineering can help with everyday life, and bringing RHS a Home-Ed class should definitely be considered.

The stress of the future is very prominent in high school. Every day at school, I see students with their heads buried in their Chromebooks and notebooks, constantly trying to get just barely closer to their dream school. Not only do I constantly see those who are prepared for the path ahead trying to just be a bit further ahead, but I also see those who aren’t, scrambling to cram the classes they need into their senior year. 

The truth is, we’re going to be okay. Preparing for life is a scary thing, but it’s not like it hasn’t been done before. Sure, I’m also preparing for my future, but I also think that students should not only prepare for life, but also just enjoy life. Part of our lives is happening right now, and it’s a part of life that we’ll want to look back on. It’s a part of life where we can look back and see how we became the people we are. 

Part of the high school experience is finding out who we are as people. It’s finding who our true friends are that will be there for years to come, it’s finding interests that we may not have ever considered trying before, and it’s about growing and learning about ourselves.

I hope I’m not alone in wishing that I won’t be looking back at myself scrambling through school, stressing myself out to the edge of mental breakdown chasing a job that I may not even want. It’s always been said but I think it is true, we need to enjoy our time in high school while we have it. We shouldn’t be solely preparing for our future, but figuring out what we actually want to do with it.

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