Taking full advantage of the high school experience and preparing for later life plans entails students refusing to limit themselves.
This applies to every part of the high school experience: enrolling in classes, joining clubs, making friends, and planning a career.
While I advise students to prepare for the future, I worry that authorities and peers place too much pressure on having every detail planned out. The consequences of this include students missing out on meaningful and even life-changing experiences.
Stuck with an eighth-grade plan?
When in high school, I often heard my friends justify not trying in a class or opportunity because it was not applicable to their future plans. Hearing this always made me sad because it caused them to miss out on rewarding experiences. I found many arrived at this opinion after planning the rest of their lives in an eighth-grade class where the teacher had forced them to pick a career, which they would later feel obliged to keep.
Going into my freshman year of high school, I hated language arts. I thought it was illogical and a waste of time. Four years later, I declared a college major that includes English. Regardless of my terrible attitude toward the class, one truly phenomenal honors language arts teacher changed my life.
The pretty and youthful teacher had such a passion for grammar and literature that it was infectious. At first I cared about Shakespeare and comma rules just because she was so excited to teach me. I looked forward to attending her class each day, and I enjoyed completing the homework.
By sophomore year, English was my favorite class, and I joined a team where we competed against other schools in English tests. Junior year, I began working at Caterpillar Inc., writing training manuals and news articles. I started writing for a local newspaper senior year and attained the title of “grammar Nazi” from my editor. Now I write for a publication in Washington D.C. -- obviously, a lot has changed since my eighth-grade career plan.
Today, I feel completely different from little high school freshman Macaela, and I find it amazing how drastically the course of my life has changed since then.
Diverse experiences can help land a job
Preparing for your future is not bad, but allowing those plans to dissuade you from trying your hardest, having a positive attitude, or taking advantage of a current opportunity is detrimental.
I know the instability of America’s current economy continues to perpetuate this idea that students need to have their lives planned out so they can stick to the job path that ensures them a paycheck, but I believe it should have the opposite effect.
On a daily basis, I am amazed at the ways in which random things I did in high school help me. Whether it was something I learned in chess club (which I only joined because I wanted the t-shirt) or a class I never thought I’d need, they prove useful.
While the job market is not favorable, it is not impossible. Especially for entry-level jobs, employers love applicants who have diverse, but deep, experience. Pigeon-holing yourself at 16 is often a mistake, because your interests and the qualities employers value are still changing.
For those who have a passion for something and believe they want to do it for the rest of their lives, go for it. But don’t neglect other great experiences on the way. I pursued opportunities outside journalism even after I decided that was my goal, and the lessons I learned have helped me in my writing. As one who will soon be entering the job market, I advise you against lessening your chances of succeeding by limiting your options in high school.