Perhaps, 20 years later, such a scene would seem peaceful or nostalgic even. But to the student still awake way past their bedtimes, it is simply suffering. In the midst of teenage angst and sleep deprivation, one can’t help questioning what is it all for?
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I first started high school,” Luis Mendez, alumnus 2016, said. “Looking back, I would have been a lot more serious about my planning for the future.”
Mendez was a well-rounded student who balanced Advanced Placement (AP) classes, after school clubs and a job at Pancheros. While he wasn’t sure what he was working toward in high school, he is now getting the idea during his first year at the Moberly Area Community College.
“I plan on looking for an internship or just a volunteering opportunity at a psychological clinic for therapy while I continue with my Social and Behavioral Sciences degree,” Mendez said. While his plans have evolved since his high school days, they are still subject to change. “Especially with how well my volunteer experience goes.”
Mendez’s current predicament is not unheard of, 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as undecided, and 75 percent of students change their major at least once before graduation.
Current junior, Audrey Milyo began high school with a similar situation to Mendez. Likewise, 15 percent of other high school students across the United States are unsure of their career plans, according to a Teens and Careers survey conducted in 2013 by Junior Achievement USA.
“Upon entering high school, I had absolutely no clue what my post-secondary plans would be except that I would go to college,” Milyo said. “The same stands true today, except I’d like to think I have a little more direction.”
According to a study by Joe Kotrlik and Betty Harrison, teachers have a significant impact over student career plans, even over that of counselors.
With the help of her engineering teachers and physics teacher, Milyo had discovered a potential career path in engineering.
“I plan on going to a college with a good engineering school and then seeing where it takes me,” Milyo said.
A survey conducted by YouthTruth in 2015 revealed that only 44.8 percent of students felt confident about their college and career plans. In order to counter this, RBHS counselors set up various events, including a career fair every other year and college visits to help students with the arduous task of career planning.
“Counselors present to students regarding this topic starting during their sophomore year,” Director of Counseling Betsy Jones said. “After the junior and senior presentations, we follow up with a session for parents.”
Jones believes counselors have the greatest influence on students’ career paths. In addition, counselors work with students individually as they plan for their senior year.
For the typical 87 percent of students that graduate and the 80 percent of them that attend college, counselors are vital to the application process.
However, students such as sophomore Louise Schul, who are unsure of their post-graduate paths, find these resources unhelpful.
“The counselors do a lot,” Schul said. “But it doesn’t help too much when you don’t know what you want to do.”
While counselors guide students through career exploration, sophomores use the career planning website Missouri Connections. Schul finds the website’s questionnaire style for career searching to be impersonal.
“Hands-on things like Career Center classes and internships help me more than a website or, like, a brochure,” Schul said. “So I try to do those things when I can.”
In truth, Schul and her fellow students have a long time before they need to know what they want to do. College majors generally do not have to be sealed until junior year, and career plans can change at essentially anytime. But as many students believe, it never hurts to be prepared.[quote]“Speaking with teachers who I was close with and my counselor definitely helped,” Mendez said. “It’s never too early to plan for your future. Get to know an instructor so you have someone with experience about college planning and being in college. Speak with your counselor about your options. Find internship or volunteer opportunities in the fields you’re interested in early on to help make your decision on a major.”[/quote]
Milyo, who attended the mandatory junior conference with her counselor this month, has an idea of her future planned out and has taken the first steps towards it. But she still has reservations.
“I’m nervous that if I try to do engineering, that I will not be fit for the task or maybe I just won’t like it,” Milyo said. “But at the same time I find peace in the fact that if I don’t like it or it doesn’t work out, I can try something else.”
As the school year draws towards an end, the approaching future forces juniors like Milyo to think more concisely about their post-graduate plans, while supporting the pressure of standardized testing and upping their GPA one last time.
Looking back, Mendez felt he would have done a few things differently.
“I would have definitely been a lot more talkative and outgoing and would’ve gotten to know more teachers,” Mendez said.
The future is a pressing topic for students, proven by the frequent topic of college applications, internships and ACTs.
Strangely enough, it is in thinking ahead that students often forget it’s only high school, and there are still years to go after graduation.
“I think that there is always room for my plans to change and that they are flexible,” Milyo said. “My plans are not definite. There’ll be trial and error, and I believe that it will take as many trials as it needs.”
Do you have college plans? Let us know in the comments below.