One of the most common questions that a 5-year-old is asked is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In order to answer such a question, a 5-year-old needs time to think and consider their options, so probably about 10 or 30 seconds. The answer is always impulsive – they usually say the first thing that comes to mind. Their favorite person, their favorite cartoon character or their latest obsession could influence their answer. Whatever the answer is, it is quick, decisive and they are absolutely confident in it.
“What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” This is another commonly asked question, this time addressed to high school graduates.
If asked this question at the age of 5 the answer is easy, but when asked at the age of 18 it can be difficult to answer. It is a heavy question that requires self-reflection. It seems like having the answer to this one question will decide your fate.
As the winter semester ends and fall registration begins some people will find themselves asking those same questions again. What do I want to be? What are my life plans? A new group of freshman will be deciding what paths to take while upper classmen may debate changing majors.
According to a report by NBC News, 50 percent of college students change their major at least once. Some students change majors multiple times while others remain undeclared.
Spending time figuring out what to do or being unsure can be costly. According to collegeboard.org the average cost of tuition, fees, room and board at a four year public college in the Midwest is $27,939. In an article published by CNN the class of 2013’s average debt total is $35,200.
Not everyone knows exactly what he or she wants to do or where he or she wants to go after high school. Not everyone is ready to make decisions that may affect the rest of their lives. High school graduates shouldn’t be made to feel an immense pressure that is generated by asking the question, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” That question should be explained maybe even rephrased. Choosing what career path you will take doesn’t define you and it isn’t a destiny-sealing decision.
Maybe people should start asking, “Who do you want to be and how do you want to get there?” Then maybe let them know that not knowing is okay and it doesn’t mean you’re destined to fail. It’s an ongoing process, changing is a part of growing and growth is necessary to help you become your best self, the person that you want to be.
When graduating high school some people have no idea what to do with “the rest of their lives.”
Administrators, counselors and teachers should encourage students to explore their options and understand the financial risks that come with being indecisive. These conversations can help alleviate student debt and help students focus on earning a degree and accomplishing a goal that means something to them.
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