Q: My son is a junior in high school. He is very indecisive. He does well in math and science. He is also an introvert. He is not sure what he wants to do with this life or his career. I am nervous about writing a big check for college if he doesn’t know what he wants to do. How do we get beyond this?
A: Choosing a college is a major life decision. It is also a time of both anxiety and pride.
I think we place a lot of stress on young adults. How many of us really knew, with conviction, what career we wanted to pursue at that age? We often have a sense of what we like and dislike, which is helpful. But very few young adults know their exact career path with certainty. I work with 40-50 year olds who are still unsure if they made the best career choice.
I consulted Kathleen Hebden, College Counseling Services, former Guidance Director and School Counselor. Hebden currently runs a college consulting firm. Hebden advises, “Although attending college is about securing a job after graduation, it’s also an opportunity to self-reflect and get to know yourself…how and where you learn best, your personal strengths and weaknesses, the type of work environment that suits you, etc. Colleges provide internships and coursework to help students determine their career path. Furthermore, this generation will change careers (not just jobs) 5-6 times so it isn’t a deal breaker when a student has no idea yet what he/she wants to do. Encourage your son to consider colleges and universities that offer a variety of majors/minors and has a reputable career center. Every student needs to have a plan upon high school graduation. This plan can include vocational training, certificate programs, military service or a gap year. For a viable future in math and/or science, college is a must and there are many places, including state colleges and universities, that won’t break the bank if you do your research.”
Internships and coursework related to career interests are invaluable. If your son majors in engineering and then lands an engineering-related internship and hates it, that’s part of the learning process. Then, you both know that type of engineering is not an ideal choice for him in the long-term. Eliminating career paths is sometimes as important as considering different career paths.