As seniors begin their final semester of high school, I can't help but feel like an empty-nester. I will miss the students! It was an honor to counsel them, to get to know them and to learn about their passions, values, challenges, ambitions – each person grappling with growing up and transitioning to college in their own way.
Every student is unique, yet they all share a common desire to create a kind, safe, healthy, equitable world. In college and beyond, they plan to make a positive impact. It will be interesting to learn how their academic and career interests evolve. For the Class of 2019, popular areas of study included environmental science, engineering, biology, innovation and entrepreneurship, global studies, humanities, psychology, sports management and the performing arts, to name a few.
It takes courage for teenagers and families to ride the roller-coaster of emotions leading to college. Who are you? Where have you been, and where do you want to go? These “big picture” questions require thoughtful consideration. Holding the space for students to dig deep and reflect on them is an essential part of the counseling process.
If you’re a high school junior, now is the time get scrappy – to scribble your thoughts and paint outside the lines. Translation: You’re not expected to have everything in your life figured out, but you do need to begin reflecting on your priorities.
Some students have a clear idea about what they want to pursue, but many are in the process of figuring that out. The Year of Living Courageously is all about making plans for the future while maintaining balance in the present.
I’ve worked with students who tend to delay making choices about their potential pathways, and they usually tell me it’s because they want to keep their options open. The thing is, making choices now leads to better options later. The act of thinking, writing and doing a little bit of research is liberating. But at first, it may not feel that way. Resistance is real. The objective is to do the foundational work on yourself so you can successfully apply to colleges that match your needs.
The best advice I can give you is to keep it simple. Start at the beginning. Start with the obvious. Whatever you do, just start. Here's an example --
Goal: My goal is to go to college.
Lol, right? Not so fast – the very act of writing down this simplest of goals sets everything else into motion. Now that you’ve got your baseline established, it’s time to add some detail.
My goal is to go to a college that fits my needs, academically and financially.
Great! Now we know what questions to begin to ask. What kind of college experience fits your needs – academically?
I want to explore majors related to my interests.
Cool! What are your interests? What majors are you considering? Or if you don’t know, what kind of college experience will help you figure that out?
What are your financial needs?
In order to answer this one, you’ll want to do a deep dive into how to finance a college education. Definitely put on the “to do” list early in the process.
What are your career aspirations?
You may have a general sense of potential careers, or none at all. Depending on your response, you’ll know what you need to research.
I want the opportunity to study a range of subjects, such as psychology, communication and public policy.
Add more details by researching college websites. Click on links to academic majors, and informational videos.
I want to interact with students from different backgrounds who share my passion for social justice. I’m interested in project-based learning. It’s important that the college offers interdisciplinary majors and minors. I want access to internships so that I can explore different work environments.
Now that you’ve sketched out some of your goals, take a moment to consider your vision. The vision connects to the kind of experiences and vibe that you imagine for your future, in college and in life.
When I graduate from college, I want to be prepared to work in a field that excites me. I want to do meaningful work that makes a difference.
What’s the meta vision? In other words, what inspires you? What drives you?
I’m a natural mediator – someone who likes to bring diverse people and groups together. I like to solve problems through communication and outreach. I grew up feeling isolated, like an outsider. I’ve experienced a lot of insensitivity. I feel driven to connect to others, and to enlighten. That’s my higher purpose.
From here, you’ll finetune your goals and expand your vision. But for now, it’s a great way to start your Year of Living Courageously!