For Nervous Nellie High School Kids

I usually think that I’ve ‘seen it all’ when it comes to college planning, but last week, I was proven wrong again.

I was sitting with a 9th grade girl and her mom. The conversation went something like this:

Me: So, tell me about the courses you’re taking.

Girl: A bunch of honors, one AP…you know…

Me: Oh. What do you do when you’re not in class? You know, extra-curricular stuff?

Girl: I do gymnastics, I’m in a couple of clubs. Not much, really.

Me: Great. What are you planning on doing this summer?

Girl: Well, um…I don’t know…(starts to cry.)

Me: Hey, are you crying (note the sensitive, tactful question – that’s why I get the big bucks.)

Mom: She gets upset when she thinks about college.

Me: Why are you upset (still tactful)?

Girl: I don’t know what I should be doing.

Me: You’re in 9th grade! (Note the insight.)

Girl: I know, but I feel like I should know what I should major in (more sniffling, accepting a tissue box that I thoughtfully offered).

I’ll spare you the rest of the dialogue. In summary, I told her the following, which I suggest to every high strung kid – usually not 9th graders – I encounter.

First, it’s normal to not spend every waking moment trying to figure out how you’ll spend the next 40 years – not the next four years of college.

Second, even if you don’t believe me, look at the statistics: 48% of college kids change majors. That includes a fair share who claim that they wanted to be a neurobiologist ever since 4th grade.

Third, something like 28% of adults are employed in a field that is remotely related to what they studied in college.

I know, I know, certain majors are “better” than others, make it easier to get into a great school, yada yada yada.

My airtight, debate-proof retort? “So?”

In other words, chill out. You have enough pressure on you as it is. Don’t create additional, unreasonable stress on yourself.

Here are two overlooked things you (i.e. your high-schooler) should consider doing.

Take the personality and career tests on Naviance (ask your guidance counselor about them). They may be a little goofy, but they take about 25 minutes and can be insightful.

Do an internship or “shadow” a few people in professions that appeal to you, even if only barely. If you think what they do is cool, great – now you have an idea.

If you hate what you see, that’s a “win” also – you’ll avoid going down the wrong path sooner, rather than later (like a mid-career adult who’s haunted by regret).

I have plenty of other suggestions, but these two are simple – and free. So start there!

Your correspondent,

– Andy Lockwood

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